Williams (The Unplowed Sky, 1994, etc.) serves up a nicely blended soufflÇ of sentiment, Populist politics, and romance: a sweetly evocative, if unrealistic, western novel set in Oklahoma Territory in 1900. For Ed Morland, station agent for magnate Adam Benedict's railroad, the frontier town of Bountiful is his last hope to regain sobriety and his daughter's respect. For Lesley Morland, Bountiful is an opportunity for a permanent home and friends she won't have to leave each time her father's drunken sprees lead to unemployment. As Benedict turns Bountiful into the hub of his railroad by providing cheap land and cheap credit to prospective settlers, the deserted town becomes a thriving community whose life revolves around the train depot and its vital telegraph. Then Ed is killed trying to prevent a robbery, and Lesley assumes his position as station agent and almost immediately adopts three orphans. When Lesley chooses wagon driver Jim Kelly over Benedict, her spurned suitor turns from benevolent dictator to robber baron, threatening to destroy Bountiful by rerouting the railroad, at the same time endangering Lesley's financial independence. Lesley and Jim then lead a plethora of minor characters in a cooperative effort to preserve their community, an effort that reflects the Populist beliefs of its inhabitants. Bountiful is saved, the villain reformed, and all ends happily--as well as typically for Williams, whose latest effort revives many of her stock characters: stalwart heroine and kindly but weak older man; villain and supportive hero. Lesley also embodies Williams's favorite theme: a woman alone taking responsibility for her own well-being and winning financial security for herself and one or more helpless individuals, usually children. A nostalgic if historically accurate evocation of yesteryear, with poignant scenes of hardship and struggle. The author's Manichean characterizations may be a little too pat, but her fans won't be disappointed.