Kate O'Neal is convicted of theft for castrating her employer's son and transported to Australia in 1793. Alone, afraid and only fifteen, Kate becomes Lieutenant Kendrick's mistress to avoid the fate of a common whore. When Kendrick gambles away all he owns, Kate's only option is to become mistress to Captain Spencer, who indulges her wish to manage a store. Two children and five years later, Spencer shocks her with an abrupt farewell and sails for England. With the help of her "family"of friends, both convict and free, Kate battles a hostile community of merchants bent on driving what they consider "a female convict meddler" out of their business. Bert Rowley, an emancipist and colonial merchant, helps Kate by supplying her store. They fall in love and plan to marry, until Kendrick resurfaces, determined to take control of Kate and her fortune.