Carrying a lovely jeweled cross stolen from an Acapulco church, Samantha Allen travels from New Bedford, Massachusetts, to Hawaii in 1882. The cross was taken from two thieves by her father shortly before his whaling vessel sank. A survivor of that voyage brought it to his captain's widow who hid it for three years until her own murder by the thieves who were unsuccessful in their search for the cross. Fifteen-year-old Samantha earns a living teaching in a local seminary while the news of her mother's death makes its slow way to Hawaii. Invited to live in the Hawaiian home of her Uncle Absalom, Samantha is unprepared for the well-educated and cultured family presided over by a part-Hawaiian aunt. Romance and terror intermingle in the new life as the now eighteen-year-old girl attempts to fulfil her parents' pledge to return the cross to its original owner. Despite the contrivance of the plot and the artificiality of the dialogue, the expert knowledge of Hawaiian background and history is felt throughout the book.