It's 1853. Fortune Plunkett, 16, has lost both parents but she's determined to carry on her father's dream--to lead his theater troupe, Plunkett's Players, to San Francisco, where appreciative audiences are rumored to throw bags of gold dust onto the stage. The thespians may know the theater, but they're greenhorns when it comes to pioneering. Then they are joined by charming young Jamie, whose talents include cooking, fixing broken axles, and reciting reams of Shakespeare on demand. A rivalry for Fortune grows between Jamie and Aaron, Fortune's hitherto unrequited love interest. Many twists and turns of the plot later (including fire, flood, and precipitous mountain passes), Fortune gets her man. Clichâ€šs are heaped upon clichâ€šs in this action-packed novel; it's panoramic in setting and rich in historical detail, but Fortune fails to come alive for readers. Her dialogue and inner musings are stiff compared to the heroine's in Coville's Jennifer Murdley's Toad (1992).