An orphan raised in Valparaiso, Chile, by a Victorian spinster and her rigid brother, young, vivacious Eliza Sommers follows her lover to California during the Gold Rush of 1849. She enters a rough-and-tumble world whose newly arrived inhabitants are driven mad by gold fever. A society of single men and prostitutes among whom Eliza moves - with the help of her good friend and savior, the Chinese doctor Tao Chi'en - California opens the door to a new life of freedom and independence for the young Chilean. Her search for the elusive lover gradually turns into another kind of journey, and by the time she finally hears news of him, Eliza must decide who her true love really is.
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