Twenty-six-year-old Daniel Rawlings has an enviable ancestry as a twelfth-generation American and a fifth-generation Californian. A Stanford Law School graduate, his position as County Administrator in Yolo County, California, and his commission as a National Guard JAG officer, provides what would seem to be an excellent career and a fulfilling professional life. His frequent nightmares, however, are a constant reminder of the tragic loss of his new bride two years earlier in a skiing accident. Finding an outlet for his personal tragedy by writing the "Great American Novel," Rawlings is unaware that his life is about to further disassemble and the choices rendered will place him in harm's way, much as it did the pioneer ancestors about whom he writes.
When United States Senator Malcolm Turner responds to an invitation to meet with John Henry Franklin, a wealthy industrialist and financial legend, a conspiracy of national consequence is born. Headed by Franklin, a consortium of US businessmen and Mexican government officials is financially involved in illegal immigration, seeking to obtain a cheap workforce and avoid federally mandated labor laws. Franklin is aware that western Americans have become increasingly agitated with Washington over federal usurpation of state and individual rights. Seizing on this western fervor, Franklin directs Jean Wolff, a mercenary in his employ, to provide funding for California militia units to inflame the public, igniting the impetus for a referendum to secede from the Union. Following a solid "yes" vote-effected by poll and election rigging-a date is set for implementation.
Nicole Bentley, an FBI agent from San Francisco, draws Daniel Rawlings into an investigation of election related murders. Aided by Nicole's gentle urging and a blossoming romance, and by his newly-published and highly successful chronicle of Rumsey Valley pioneers, Rawlings comes to an understanding—enhanced by his election to the California legislature—of his responsibility to his ancestor's American dream.
The FBI's investigation results in a dangerous discovery that plunge Rawlings and Bentley into direct conflict with the secessionists. A mountain chase, more assassinations, and conflicts between the fledgling Republic of California and the United States government ensue. Will anyone be able to put the pieces back together again, or will the fabric of the United States Constitution remain irreparably torn? [from publisher web site]