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On the eve of her wedding to Clay Carpenter, MaryAnn Poole's world collapses when she is told, "That boy you're fixin' t'marry could be your half-brother." Fearing she might be pregnant, she leaves her parents' mansion to seek anonymity in Sacramento's harsh Riverfront District. She obtains work in a dismal mercantile on Front Street. The year is 1901, when women living alone are looked upon with suspicion.