Foster creates a fictional “advance guard” of Mormons going west in 1844 to blaze the trail for the rest of the faithful. Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, hires Jeff Curtis, a non-believing ex-army officer, to lead the wagon train. Because of the persecution of church members, and the fact that Utah is still part of Mexico, he cautions Curtis to keep the expedition secret. Weather, disease, snakebite, and a Mexican spy in their midst are only a few of the trials the pioneers endure. Curtis begins to fall in love with an English convert, but can there be any future for a Gentile man and a Mormon woman? And will the first wave of pioneers make it to Utah?
The author uses real events as a base for the story, and it does enlighten the reader about what the Mormon trail was like. But I didn’t find the characters very memorable. There were some plot anomalies, like a pair of suddenly-orphaned children getting over their grief with unbelievable speed. Interestingly, Foster does not mention the 500-lb. gorilla of polygamy, even though the practice was a major reason for Gentile persecutions of Church members.