In the spring of 1836, eighteen-year-old Chenoa Sandoval escapes the suffocating Mt. Saint Dominic Convent in Boston and sails around the tip of South America to the wild land of her birth, Carmel, Alta California. Chenoa is determined to honor the memory of Padre Tomas, Mission San Carlos Borromeo's last executor, who was also her adopted father. She will teach the Indian children born the years she was in the convent. Only her guardian, Don Sebastian Viandante, stands in her way.