At almost seventeen Faith Boswell knows little about the world beyond the lodging house in Ballarat owned by her widowed mother. The mining town of Ballarat in 1860 is populated by those seeking to get rich by finding gold, so their residents are mostly miners on their way to the diggings with high hopes of finding this highly treasured substance. Sadly, Faith’s Ma is not the easiest person to get along with and Faith often wonders just why her mother is so bitter.
Things start to change unexpectedly one day when a stranger appears at the door of their home—a gentleman who mysteriously seems to know a lot about Faith’s Ma, her past life, plus Faith herself. Faith fears that her mother has been lying to her all her life. From that day Faith’s life takes a turn, perhaps for the better. One long-term lodger is a widow who unexpectedly presents Faith with an unusual birthday gift. This gift causes uproar which plays a large part in Faith’s life from them onwards.
Because Faith knows little about life outside of her sheltered existence, she is unable to fathom if handsome Walter Finch, son of the nearby store owners, has real feelings for her or is simply being kind. Faith is soon to find out just how willing he is to help her as she sets out on a new and scary phase in her life.