A new dawn breaks, bringing hope and optimism to Coal Valley. As children play in the street, Abigail prepares for customers at her café. Further down the street Elizabeth arrives for her first horseback-riding lesson with Jack. The two poke fun at each other as Elizabeth attempts to ride for the first time. But their happiness is tempered when they see a mining executive escorting the new judge into Mr. Gowen’s office. While initially thrilled at the early departure of Judge Black, the arrival of Judge Parker, who appears to be a friend of the mining company, has the town on edge.
Hoping to counter the mining company’s efforts is a new and talented prosecutor, Sam Madison. Sam is rumored to be one of the best lawyers around and he’s agreed to come to coal valley to fight for the widows. But hopes are quickly dashed when Sam’s coach arrives and a young woman steps down. It turns out that Sam is short for Samantha. Samantha tries to assure the townsfolk that the she is more than capable of prosecuting the case, but as she enters the judge’s chambers, only to find him chatting with Mr. Gowen, it becomes clear that this trial will be no thing short of an uphill climb.
Facing his own uphill battle is forensic investigator Bill Avery. In the days leading up to the trial, Bill’s budding relationship with Abigail has soured. Still unaware that she found his wedding ring and pictures of his family, Bill tries to talk to Abigail. Her cold response about the pictures and ring force his hand. Bill explains he was married, but a few years ago both his wife and son passed away. Bill tells Abigail that he thought he’d never have feelings for another woman until he met her. Touched by his story, Abigail apologizes for the misunderstanding and agrees to take the afternoon off for a date.
While Abigail heads off with Bill, Elizabeth and Rosemary agree to manage the café. The two rivals immediately butt heads and, while she’s definitely a stranger in the kitchen, Elizabeth refuses to cede anything to Rosemary. The situation is about to land squarely with Jack as he unwittingly walks in for lunch. Jack is immediately confronted with two meals, one from Rosemary and identical one from Elizabeth. Despite being burnt, Jack takes Elizabeth’s chicken fried steak and smiles and he attempts to chew. While Jack struggles to eat the meal, an urgent telegram arrives for Elizabeth. The note, from her father, says that her mother has taken ill and Elizabeth needs to return home as soon as possible. Sensing the severity of the situation Jack volunteers to escort Elizabeth back to Hamilton.
As Jack and Elizabeth prepare to leave for Hamilton, a coach arrives carrying a Mr. Sweeny. Mr. Sweeny was a mine inspector who investigated the Coal Valley mine and made a report on the unsafe conditions. He further asserts that a report from Mr. Gowen, saying the mine was safe, is nothing more than a forgery. Samantha had hoped for another witness to buttress Mr. Sweeny’s claims, but that didn’t pan out. Now the entire case rests on the testimony of Mr. Sweeny.
As Jack and Elizabeth arrive in Hamilton Jack gets his first glimpse at the opulent life Elizabeth left behind. The chauffeur driven car arrives at the mansion and Elizabeth’s younger sister Julie bounds out of the foyer. Following Julie is Elizabeth’s older sister Viola and her father William. It’s clear that Jack is out of his element and his discomfort grows when Julie invites him to attend the family’s dinner party the next evening. Jack tries to politely excuse himself from the event but Elizabeth insists and he relents.
Before dinner Jack decides to head into the city to catch up with his younger brother while Elizabeth catches up with her family. Elizabeth’s mother Grace has come down with a weak heart and is suffering fainting spells. Elizabeth also learns that her elder sister Viola is planning to wed a British aristocrat. Conflict begins to arise in Elizabeth as she feels pangs of guilt for leaving her family.
Elizabeth’s spirits are brightened when a childhood friend, Charles Kensington, arrives at the Thatcher mansion. Strikingly handsome, Charles now works for Elizabeth’s father and is clearly moved at the sight of his childhood friend. Meanwhile, in Hamilton, Jack finds his younger brother at a tavern. While it has been a long time since the two have seen each other Jack, with a little help from his fellow Mounties, has been keeping tabs on his mischievous younger brother.
Back in Coal Valley, the courtroom is packed for the opening of the trial. Samantha delivers a damning opening statement but it seems to fall on deaf ears of the judge. The defense holds to its position that the mine was safe and that Noah Stanton caused the disaster. It’s then that Samantha calls Mr. Sweeny to the stand, certain he will vindicate Noah. But on the witness stand Mr. Sweeny recants his earlier statements and places blame for the disaster at the feet of Noah Stanton. It turns out that Mr. Sweeny left the Bureau of Mines to start his own business. Unfortunately Mr. Sweeny’s business had been slow to get off the ground and a bribe from the mining company was more than enough to convince him to change his testimony. Mr. Sweeny’s actions send shockwaves through the court and force Judge Parker to recess the proceedings.
Moments later, with the aftershocks of Mr. Sweeny’s testimony still rippling through the courtroom, Samantha unsuccessfully requests a mistrial. The motion is denied and she is ordered to give her closing arguments. As Samantha speaks a young woman enters the courtroom. The woman, it turns out, is Clara Stanton, the widow of Abigail’s son Peter. On the witness stand Clara presents a copy of the original mine safety report that clearly states the mine had a faulty ventilation system. Clara’s damning testimony abruptly changes the momentum of the trial. Faced with the new information, Judge Parker has no choice but to side with the widows. Judge Parker further rules that the company will be fined to the maximum amount allowed and those funds will be divided amongst the widows. He also rules that the mine will be closed immediately and permanently.
In Abigail’s café the townsfolk gather to celebrate their victory. The mood is joyous until Florence arrives. Always the pessimist, Florence reminds everyone that with the mine closed, the town is without work and a without future. That is until a stranger, who only recently arrived in Coal Valley, enters the café. The man introduces himself as Leland “Lee” Coulter. With the mine closed, Lee believes Coal Valley’s future is timber. He then announces that he’s opening a sawmill and will be hiring lost of men to help build it and run it. The only thing Lee needs is someone to show him where he can set up shop. As if on cue, Rosemary leaps to her feet and offers her services. The two hop on Lee’s motorcycle and ride off into Coal Valley.
Back in Hamilton, Elizabeth and her sisters are shopping for new gowns while Jack and his brother are chatting in the saloon. Jack’s brother reveals that he’s had a few run-ins with the law and even landed in jail. As they talk another man confronts the younger Thornton about an unpaid debt. The confrontation escalates and soon, the two brothers are tossed into the street and at the feet of the Thatcher sisters, who were enjoying their shopping trip. An embarrassed Jack introduces Tom to the ladies. Julie in particular is quite taken by the younger Thornton. Jack tells Elizabeth he’s looking forward to the evening dinner party and the ladies excuse themselves.
Later that evening at the Thatcher mansion the guests have all gathered for the dinner party. While Jack is clearly doing his best, it’s clear that he is not of their ilk. Unfortunately for Jack, the highlight of the evening is the witty banter from Elizabeth’s outspoken aunt Agatha. It also become blatantly obvious that Charles is the Thatcher family’s preferred suitor for Elizabeth. As the guests move to the parlor Elizabeth and Charles favor everyone with a piano duet. Jack looks on as William Thatcher approaches him. Despite his attempts to assure Mr. Thatcher that he and Elizabeth’s feelings are genuine, Mr. Thatcher makes it perfectly clear that Charles, not Jack, is the one he intends Elizabeth to marry.
As the evening comes to an end, Elizabeth tells Charles she will likely be heading back to Coal Valley in a few days. William interrupts her and says she won’t be leaving until her mother is well again. Jack then approaches and thanks Mr. and Mrs. Thatcher for the evening. He then says he will be returning to Coal Valley in the morning. The news comes as a shock to Elizabeth. It’s clear that Mr. Thatcher’s message has been received and Jack intends to back off.
As the sun rises onto the mountains above Coal Valley mayor Ramsey and townsfolk gather at the water tower. With the mine now closed, the mayor cast around for suggestions to rename Coal Valley. Now, standing in front of the water tower, mayor Ramsey pulls a cord to reveal Coal Valley’s new name, Hope Valley. On his way to the gathering Lee bumps into Bill Avery, causing Bill to drop a suspicious parcel that appears to be filled with money. Lee notices the parcel but seems to feel it is best to exchanges pleasantries and move on. For his part, Bill hurriedly scuttles off into the street with the parcel tucked under his coat.
In Hamilton, Jack and Tom enter the cavernous train station. With his prospects for a relationship with Elizabeth dimmed, Jack tries in vain to convince his brother to come with him to Hope Valley. Tom can sense that all is not well with Jack and he also knows moving to Coal Valley is out of the question. The two men part and Jack waits alone in the station. At the Thatcher Mansion Elizabeth talks with her aunt Agatha. Elizabeth’s feelings of guilt are now compounded with worries that Jack doesn’t understand why she must stay in Hamilton with her family. But wise words from Agatha convince Elizabeth that her dreams are worth following. Agatha also senses how much Elizabeth cares for Jack and suggests she tell him how she feels.
So as Jack’s train prepares to leave, Elizabeth bursts into the station, calling his name. She runs to him saying they didn’t have the chance to say a proper good bye. She apologizes for whatever went wrong at the dinner party, but she doesn’t want him to leave on a sour note. Jack insists he just needs to get back to town. Before letting him go Elizabeth tells Jack to leave with this. She then leans forward and tenderly kisses his cheek.