DEBORAH Tyler’s husband, Samuel, is overdue. A travelling wheelwright, Samuel left the couple’s small orchard in Utah Territory months earlier intending to return by the start of December at the latest. It’s now well into the new year, however, with the savage Rocky Mountains winter at its most severe, and there’s still no sign of him reappearing, nor so much as a single letter relayed home to explain his prolonged absence.
In 1888 life on the Wild West frontier is difficult at the best of times for any woman, let alone one born into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The federal authorities are outraged by the practice among some male Mormons of taking “plural” wives and welcome any opportunity to bring the weight of the law down on communities such as the Tylers’.
As Deborah – who sews exquisite leather gloves in her scarce free time – waits and worries, a man on horseback does materialise, but it’s not Samuel. Rather, the new arrival is a stranger running from a posse of deputies as he seeks help to reach a remote property deep within the snow-bound valley on which he will be hidden safely from prosecution as a polygamist.
Deborah knows the penalty for assisting will be high if she’s caught yet tiny, tightly knit Junction’s custom of providing hospitality won’t allow her to contemplate turning this fellow church member back out into a snowstorm with night approaching.
Deborah’s circumstances are further complicated the following day when a second man emerges from the gloom – this time a sheriff tracking the original rider.
With the future of her brothers-in-law, sister and nephew in jeopardy she must decide how to respond to an emergency that, if handled incorrectly, could see the family group at best turned off its land and at worst executed as criminals.