Seventeen year old Nell Lillington finds herself pregnant after an innocent flirtation is allowed, by her naiveté, to go too far. In the 1870s, the only respectable choice she has is to name the father and be promptly wed… but marriage is the last thing Nell wants for her life. She manages to disguise her condition for a while, but her secret is inevitably discovered and she is brought before her mother and stepfather (a man with political aspirations in their small town) and told she must name the man responsible and marry him at once. When Nell refuses, they must come up with a plan to keep her shameful fall from grace hidden, and quickly. Nell is hidden away from visitors under the guise of a lingering illness, unable to see her dear friend, Martin, or anyone else. Her stepfather, Hiram, eventually presents Nell with a choice: she will either be sent to the distant and isolated Prairie Haven Poor Farm, where she will give birth to her illegitimate child secretly and give it up for adoption, or, she can name the father and marry him.