Mathilda Hardwicke, a rebellious artist rejected by her family and New York society, heads west to Gold Rush California to make a new life for herself as a mail-order bride. When fate leaves her at the altar in Paradise Bar–a ramshackle gold camp full of ragtag miners–she’s sure she’s leaped out of the frying pan and into the fire.
But unbeknownst to Mattie, she has a protector. Sakote, a fierce Konkow warrior, is bound by honor to watch over the white woman. And though his tribe is threatened by the encroaching miners, he’s strangely drawn to Mattie, who delights in making pictures of him and whose destiny seems entwined with his.
When a tragedy at the camp forces Sakote to steal Mattie away, she finds herself in an unfamiliar Paradise of savage wonder, and she soon discovers a forbidden love more precious than gold.