About the Author
Eugenia Price's beloved novels of the antebellum South showcase her gift of touching the past, as if with a wand, to make it live again. And the men and women in these books, many of whom really lived along the Georgia-Florida shores, capture our hearts with their struggle, their courage, and their spirit.
Read an Excerpt
On the night of September 3, 1853, spirited Abigail Banes sat on the buggy seat beside the man she had just promised to marry and hugged herself with joy and anticipation. The well-shaped, aristocratic hands of her future husband, Eli Edward Allyn, were reining the horse in front of the Banes family's Mount Vernon Street house on Boston's Beacon Hill. Abby had been courted by Eli Edward Allyn for exactly one year today. On September 3, 1852, he had escorted her to their first dance in celebration of her birthday and, since that night, all of life had been transformed and would never, never be the same again.
She would always miss her beloved late father, Gerald Banes, but now and forever, she would have Eli and his coastal rice plantation in Georgia and no other young woman could ask for more. It worried Eli that he was so much older than she, but as his wife, Abby planned to be blissfully happy. Her enduring girlhood dream, heightened by the many romantic novels she'd read, was about to come true. She and Eli were getting married before the end of the year so he could start learning all about rice culture on his recently purchased plantation. And not only was he going to take her to the Georgia coast for a honeymoon, but they were going there to live together for always. Abby had so romanticized the area, she'd even thought of writing a novel about it herself--about life lived under spreading magnolia trees laden with ivory blossoms, where lovers could meander along flower-lined paths through lush gardens, tended, as would be her every wish, by smiling, singing, contented dusky-skinned slaves.
As though they were so close he could already read her thoughts, Elionce more began to ask his questions, all of which she'd answered a dozen times. "Are you absolutely sure, Abigail, that you won't be bothered as a Northerner to live among slaves?"
"How many times, dear sir, do I have to reassure you? I know some Bostonians feel strongly about the evil of slavery, but I also know my handsome husband's kind and generous heart. Eli, you simply are not capable of being a cruel slave owner! Besides, I just won't think about it. My blessed father didn't approve of slavery, but Mother assures me that it's quite possible to put it out of my mind and just be grateful to God for you. You know how that elegant woman respects and admires you, don't you? To my mother's normally critical eye, you can do no wrong. She'll be so pleased that we're going to be married. I'm sure it will make her feel she's done a superb job of raising me and she can now boast about God's goodness in giving her only daughter a well-to-do, handsome husband, the owner of a prosperous rice plantation." She was silent a minute. "Eli? You've never asked my exact age. Has Mother ever told you how old I am?"
"Why, yes, my dear, and that's another thing that worries me a little. I know you're twenty-four today and I had my forty-sixth birthday six months ago."
"I was afraid she'd told you her 'very tiny, righteous white lie' as she calls it."
"A lie, Abby?"
"I'm not actually twenty-four today. I'm twenty-six.. But Mother insists on telling everyone I'm still twenty-four."
Eli didn't laugh often, but he laughed now. "Well, good, I say! That makes you only twenty years younger than I!"
"What difference could age possibly make? And I'm glad you laughed when I told you about Mother's tiny, righteous lie."
"Never worry your lovely head about your mother and me," he said. "I think I rather understand the lady. When things aren't exactly as she wants them to be, she simply re-creates them."
"I--I love your laugh, Eli, but I also love you for seeing through Mother. She's really very sweet and good in her heart. But you're exactly right about her. My wonderful father used to whisper that now and then Mother rather enjoyed playing God. You've made me see that's when she's--re-creating as you say."
"Are you at all concerned that your mother will change her mind at the last minute and decide to move to Darien, Georgia, with us, Abby?"
"No!" She snapped out the word. "No, she wouldn't dream of moving to such a small town after a lifetime in Boston. Nearby Savannah maybe, but never Darien! Would she?"
"How would I possibly know that?"
"Because you know so much about everything. It truly amazes me that a man could be so gloriously handsome and attractive as you and still be so wise about all of life. Does being so wise make me seem young and foolish, Eli?"
He laughed again. "I'm not that wise, my sweet Abby, and you'll find out for yourself as soon as you see me, a Northern businessman all my life, trying to learn how to run anything so foreign as a coastal rice plantation. My lawyer has given up trying to change my mind, but he's convinced I'll fail as the master of a rice plantation--says it's much more difficult than growing cotton."
"Oh, I know. You told me what he said, but he's dead wrong. Your slaves will adore you, and since slaves come with the property you've bought, they must already know all about planting and shelling rice--or whatever you do with it."
She'd made him laugh again. "You plant it, my dear Abby, but I'm not so sure about the shelling part!"
"Oh, you will be. You're going to be sure about everything and don't you dare ask your other question again. It's all worn out. I won't miss Boston social life. I really don't like it nearly enough to suit Mother and I plan to be so happy living with you in our manor house that I'll probably forget there ever was such a thing as a theater performance or a concert once we're alone together. And I know that someday we'll have a splendid manor house, so you don't have to remind me again that we'll have to be content in a smaller house in Darien for a few years. We'll be together, I'll be Mrs. Eli Edward Allyn, and, for the first time, my life will lack absolutely nothing!"
Still holding the reins, he turned toward her on the buggy seat. "Abby, are you sure? Are you truly, truly sure? What if I fail? What if I'm just not cut out to operate a rice plantation? What if I grow old too fast in the trying? What if you don't find any friends you're at home with in that strange little town of Darien, Georgia?"
"Hush, Eli! Don't say another word. Just help me down out of this buggy and take me in the house so you can kiss me."
What People are Saying About This
Eugenia Price has made history comne to life through the lives of her characters. She has a rare talent, and we consider her to be one of our country's greatest authors.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I've had this book for a number of years (in fact, I found I had 2 copies of it!) but have just gotten around to reading it. I met Eugenia Price when I was in 8th grade, after my class read the St. Simons trilogy. I've been a fan of hers ever since. This is the last book she wrote before passing away; it is obviously meant to be continued. The main characters are fictitious, but many of the supporting characters are not. As always, the book is well researched. It takes place in Darien in the late 1850s, in the time leading up to the Civil War. Abby is from the North but inherits her husband's rice plantation and slaves when he dies. She tries to come to terms with her discomfort at owning slaves and the possibility that freeing them might not be as easy as she thought. She also falls in love with her handsome overseer. They are waiting for the proper time to marry, the beginning of the Civil War, and the answer to what to do with their slaves.