A small boat driven by a raging storm crashes into the floating dock of an exotic house set in the middle of a marsh. The boat’s occupant, a brutally beaten, barely alive young woman collapses into the arms of Kelley Bryant (40), a decorated former FBI agent. Clutched in her hand is the torn-off swatch of a police uniform.
The victim is Lauren Elliston (28), heiress to the estate of the Elliston family, descended from the planter aristocracy of antebellum Charleston and at the top of current Charleston society.
Raj, an unlicensed physician and Alexi (22), Bryant’s irrepressible daughter, home from Quantico (FBI Academy) for a surprise visit, encourage Kelley to re-enter criminal investigation and find Lauren’s attacker before her attacker can find her.
Running in counterpoint with the modern day criminal investigation is the story of Emily Elliston (b. 1835)
About 150 years earlier, Emily Elliston was born and raised on the same plantation and in the same city as Lauren. Like Lauren, she loved the theater and all the stage magic that made action and romance so enjoyable. A headstrong, capricious girl, she collided frequently with the strictures of antebellum society which allowed women very little freedom.
But since the founding of Charleston in 1670 the Southern Elite had depended upon slave labor to make their fortunes. There were, in fact, more slaves in Charleston in Emily’s time than there were whites. Emily’s best childhood friend was a slave girl named Janie who was sold off when Emily was only 8 years old. The conflict between North and South over the issue had been growing year by year and was about the erupt into War.
For Emily, however, there were other issues. Her parents violently opposed her desire to marry an actor, a man very much below her class. She defied them by meeting him after theater performances or by sneaking out at night to rendezvous with him in secret romantic places. Her other suitor, the one favored by her parents, was a bully whom she had hated since childhood.