Carolina Adams clung to the distant dream of America's westward expansion with the railroad as a promise for a bright future. But she finds life at Oakbridge, the family plantation, nearly unbearable. Confronted by overwhelming tragedies and injustices, as well as the loss of her first true love, Carolina struggles through her broken dreams to find a hope beyond.
After breaking his wedding engagement with Virginia, Carolina's older sister, James Baldwin immerses himself in work for the B&O Railroad, the other passion in his life besides Carolina. But as he helps to build the line west to Cumberland, unforeseen forces work to keep him and Carolina apart forever.
Desperate to escape the painful situation at home, Carolina moves to Baltimore and becomes a nanny to Victoria, a little girl whose mother has died. When the child's future becomes entwined with Carolina's through a shocking business proposal from Victoria's dark and brooding father, Carolina must choose between her own aspirations for love and the fate of an innocent child.