The war is over, but at Fairhaven Plantation, Charlotte's struggle has just begun.
Following her father’s death, Charlotte Fraser returns to Fairhaven, her family’s rice plantation in the South Carolina Lowcountry. With no one else to rely upon, smart, independent Charlotte is determined to resume cultivating the superior strain of rice called Carolina Gold. But the war has left the plantation in ruins, her father’s former bondsmen are free, and workers and equipment are in short supply.
To make ends meet, Charlotte reluctantly agrees to tutor the two young daughters of her widowed neighbor and heir to Willowood Plantation, Nicholas Betancourt. Just as her friendship with Nick deepens, he embarks upon a quest to prove his claim to Willowood and sends Charlotte on a dangerous journey that uncovers a long-held family secret, and threatens everything she holds dear.
Inspired by the life of a 19th-century woman rice farmer, Carolina Gold pays tribute to the hauntingly beautiful Lowcountry and weaves together mystery, romance, and historical detail, bringing to life the story of one young woman’s struggle to restore her ruined world.
A native of west Tennessee, Dorothy Love makes her home in the Texas hill country with her husband and their two golden retrievers. An accomplished author, Dorothy made her debut in Christian fiction with the Hickory Ridge novels.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
A native of west Tennessee, Dorothy Love makes her home in the Texas hill country with her husband and their golden retriever. An award-winning author of numerous young adult novels, Dorothy made her adult debut with the Hickory Ridge novels. Facebook: dorothylovebooks Twitter: @WriterDorothy
Read an Excerpt
By Dorothy Love
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2013 Dorothy Love
All rights reserved.
Charleston, South Carolina
3 March 1868
In a quiet alcove off the hotel lobby, Charlotte Fraser perched on a worn horsehair chair, nursing a cup of lukewarm tea. A wind-driven freshet lashed the windows and roiled the bruise-colored sky, sending the pedestrians along Chalmers Street scurrying for shelter, jostling one another amid a sea of black umbrellas.
She glanced at the clock mounted on the wall above the polished mahogany reception desk and pressed a hand to her midsection to quell her nerves. An hour remained before her appointment with her father's lawyer. She had anticipated the meeting for weeks with equal measures of hope and dread, her happiness at the prospect of returning home to the river tempered by fear of what she would find waiting for her. In the war's crushing aftermath, Fortune had cast her powerful eye upon all of the Lowcountry and passed on by.
A black carriage shiny with rain executed a wide turn onto Meeting Street, the harness rattling as the conveyance halted beneath the porte cochere. The hotel door opened on a gust of wind and rain that guttered the lamps still burning against the afternoon gloom. A young man wearing a rain-splotched cape escorted his lady to the reception desk. He signed the register, then bent to his companion and whispered into her ear. An endearment perhaps. Or a secret.
"Every family has its secrets. And its regrets." Charlotte set down her cup. Such strange words from Papa, who had been widely respected for his forthright manner. At the time, she'd had a strong feeling he was trying to tell her something important. Now the memory pinged inside her head like a knife against glass, prickling her skin. But perhaps such talk was merely the product of the laudanum clouding his brain during his final hours.
For weeks following his funeral, Charlotte's natural optimism lay trapped beneath a cloak of sorrow and she could feel little but the jagged edges of her grief. Now it had softened into something less painful. Acceptance, if not yet peace. And, as the indignities brought on by Reconstruction multiplied, gratitude that death had spared him yet another cruel irony. As former slaves wrestled with the implications of their freedom, their masters were mired in poverty that made their own futures just as uncertain.
Despite her personal hardships, Charlotte was relieved that slavery had ended. At twenty-three she was too young and too inexperienced to assume responsibility for the welfare of so many others. During long nights when sleep eluded her and her problems crowded in, she sometimes doubted whether she could look after herself.
When the clock chimed the three-quarter hour, she gathered her cloak, reticule, and umbrella and crossed the hotel lobby, the sound of her footfalls lost in the thick carpet.
The doorman, a stocky red-haired man of uncertain years, touched the brim of his hat. "Shall I find a carriage for you, Miss Fraser?"
"Thank you, but it isn't necessary. I'm going to my lawyer's office just down the street."
He peered through the leaded-glass door. "Rain's slacking off some, but the walk will feel like miles in this damp."
She fished a coin from her bag. "Will you see that my trunks are delivered to the steamship office right away?"
"Certainly." He pocketed the coin and held the door open for her. "Take care you don't get a chill, miss."
She threw her cloak over her stiff crepe mourning dress, stepped from beneath the hotel's protective awning, and hurried down the street, rain thumping onto the stretched silk of her umbrella. Meeting Street hummed with carriages and drays, freight wagons and pedestrians headed in a dozen different directions. A buggy carrying a dark-skinned woman in a pink-plumed hat raced past, the wheels splashing dirty water onto the sidewalk. At the corner of Meeting and Broad, a Yankee officer stood chatting with two burly Negro men smoking cheroots. Charlotte picked her way along the slick cobblestones, past the remnants of burned-out buildings and the rubble of crumbled chimneys, feeling estranged from a city she knew like the back of her hand.
As long as Papa was alive, she'd felt connected to every street and lane, every shop and church spire, every secret garden beckoning from the narrow shadowed alleys. Now everything had been upended. Nobody was where they were supposed to be and she was floating, adrift in a strange new world with no one to guide her.
She dodged a group of noisy boys emerging from a bookshop and gathered her skirts to avoid the dirty water splashing from the wheels of another passing carriage. Beneath the sheltering awning of a confectioner's shop, two women watched her progress along the street, their faces drawn into identical disapproving frowns. No doubt they thought it inappropriate for a young woman to walk on the street unescorted. She lifted her chin and met the older women's gazes as she passed. If they knew the purpose of her visit to the lawyer, perhaps they'd be even further scandalized.
At the law office, she made her way up the steps and rang the bell.
Mr. Crowley, a wizened man with a bulbous nose and a fringe of white hair, opened the door. "Miss Fraser. Right on time, I see. Do come in."
She left her dripping umbrella in the brass stand in the anteroom, crossed the bare wooden floor, and took the seat he indicated. She folded her hands in her lap and waited while he settled himself and thumbed through the pile of documents littering his desk.
Through the window she watched people and conveyances making their way along the street, ghostlike in the oyster-colored light of the waning afternoon. Down the block a lantern struggled against the gloom, casting a shining path on the rain-varnished cobblestones. Music from a partially opened window across the street filtered into the chilly office. Somebody practicing Chopin.
She felt a prick of loss. According to their neighbors, the Federals had destroyed her piano on one of their wartime raids up the Waccamaw River. Probably everything else as well. Since the war's end, the difficulties of travel and her father's prolonged illness had prevented her from learning firsthand whether anything was left of Fairhaven Plantation.
"Well, Mr. Crowley?" Charlotte consulted the ornate wall clock behind his desk. Captain Arthur's steamship, Resolute, traveled from Charleston to Georgetown only on Wednesdays and Saturdays. She meant to be aboard for tomorrow morning's departure. If she could ever get an answer from the lawyer. "What about my father's will?"
Without looking up, he raised one finger. Wait.
She tamped down her growing impatience. Waiting was about all she had been able to do since Papa's death. That and worrying about how she would make her way in the world alone. Now that the war was lost and all the bondsmen were free, the rice trade that had provided her with a comfortable life was in danger of disappearing altogether. She was trained for nothing else.
At last Mr. Crowley looked up, wire spectacles sliding down his nose. "The will has been entered into the record and duly recognized by the court." He paged through a file, a frown creasing his forehead.
"I'd feel much better if your father had provided a copy of the grant to his barony." He studied her over the top of his spectacles. "You're certain he left no other papers behind?"
"No, none." She felt a jolt of panic. "Does that pose a problem?"
"I hope not. There's a new law on the books that provides for testimony regarding lost wills and deeds and such, but if you've never seen such a document, then you can hardly swear to its existence in court."
"No, I suppose not."
"Now that the Yankees have taken over, they can seize whatever they want in the name of Reconstruction." He snorted. "Reconstruction, my eye. Theft is more like it." He leaned forward, both palms pressed to his desk, and blew out a long breath. "Lacking proof of your father's grant just makes it that much easier for them. Frankly I'm surprised he left no record behind. He seemed like a man who left little to chance. But I suppose we all have our shortcomings."
Charlotte toyed with the clasp on her reticule. As a small child she had thought Papa the perfect embodiment of wisdom, intelligence, and prudence. A man without shortcomings. Only occasionally had she glimpsed moments in which he seemed lost to time and place, standing apart and alone, an unreadable expression in his dark eyes. She still revered him as the finest man in Carolina, the only man in the world in whom she had absolute faith and confidence. Learning of such a grave oversight had come as a shock.
She met the lawyer's calm gaze. "I don't know why the Yankees would want my land now. According to everything I've heard, they just about destroyed every plantation on the Waccamaw—and the Pee Dee too."
"Exactly. And sentiment aside, I can't fathom what a lovely young woman such as yourself would want with such a ruin."
"You've seen it, then? You've been to Fairhaven?"
"No, but all I've done since the war ended is work with the other rice planters, and the story is the same all over. I'm sure it's no surprise to you that the Yankees and the freed slaves have stolen everything. Right down to the linens off the beds at Mrs. Allston's place."
"Yes, I heard about that. Papa said it was a blessing Governor Allston passed on before that sad day came. Chicora Wood meant so much to him."
Mr. Crowley nodded. "I can't imagine that your plantation has fared any better."
She swallowed the knot in her throat. In his last months, Papa had spoken of little else but the bewildering loss that had stunned the entire Confederacy. Following General Lee's surrender, everyone hoped the worst was over. No one realized that the future under Yankee occupation would become a tragedy all its own.
Mr. Crowley leaned back in his chair, causing it to squeak. "While I was looking into your father's will, Gabriel Titus over at the bank told me you'd applied for credit."
"That's right. To buy rice seeds. And whatever else I need to make Fairhaven profitable again."
He shook his head. "Forgive me, Miss Fraser, but if an experienced planter like Ben Allston can't make a go of it, what makes you think you can?"
"Because I have no choice. The plantation and our summer cottage on Pawley's Island are all I have left in the world."
"You'd be better off to sell both of them and get yourself a nice little room here in town. Or better yet, find yourself a stable gentleman and settle down."
Charlotte bit back a tart reply. More than a quarter million Southern men had been lost to the war, and many who survived had come home maimed in body or spirit or both, missing limbs and their fortunes. Just who in the world did Mr. Crowley think she could marry? "Mr. Titus told me that no one is interested in paying a fair price for Fairhaven or for Pelican Cottage. It would be quite impossible to sell even if I wanted to."
"Did Titus lend you the money?"
"He agreed to a mortgage on Fairhaven. Out of respect for my father."
"And what happens if you can't repay the loan?"
"I have a year before it comes due. And I expect to earn a bit of money writing articles for the New York Enterprise."
"My word." He inclined his head, and his thick spectacles caught the light. "I had no idea you harbored journalistic ambitions. Or that you had the training for such an undertaking."
"I'm not formally trained, but I can write a clear sentence and I know the Lowcountry as well as anyone."
"Good gravy, woman. You think Yankees care about anything that goes on down here? They did all they could to destroy us."
"The editor, Mr. Sawyer, seems to think his readers will be interested. I sent an inquiry last month and he has just replied, offering to pay ten dollars for each article. If I can write one a month, I'll at least earn enough to keep the taxes paid. And if my rice crop comes in, I can repay the bank loan too."
"If, if, if." The lawyer sighed and glanced out the rain-smudged window. "I know how much that property means to you, but as your attorney and as your father's friend, I still say the city life is more suitable for a young lady. Charleston is coming to life again. Folks are starting to rebuild. My wife tells me the St. Cecelia Society is already planning to hold two balls next year. But you surely know that."
"I've had neither time nor inclination to pay attention to the social scene of late."
"Still, going to a dance sounds more proper than wading around knee-deep in that foul-smelling muck, praying for rice to sprout."
"I suppose." As a young girl attending Madame Giraud's boarding school, she'd loved the noise and gaiety of Charleston. Race Week, picnics at White Point, lectures and plays and dances provided welcome diversions from the monotony of lectures and recitations. Yet even then she had longed for quiet days in the country, trailing after Papa and learning everything he could teach her about the cultivation of rice. They loved all the same things—books, music, dogs and horses, and growing the special kind of rice called Carolina Gold. Even if she had money to burn, Charleston society held little appeal for her now. She wanted only to go home to Fairhaven, to pick up the pieces of her shattered world. To make it whole again.
Mr. Crowley leaned forward, his piercing gaze holding hers. "You're still a young woman. You ought to find a suitable husband."
"Thank you for your advice." She opened her reticule and slid a check across the desk. "This should cover your fee."
"Now you're offended, and I didn't mean anything by it. I hate to see you get your hopes up only to be disappointed when you find out how bad things are up on the river." He picked up the check and handed it back to her. "Your father was a good friend and I'm mourning him too. I'm not about to take money from his only daughter at a time like this."
"I ... thank you. I'm sure it will be put to good use." She rose. "I must go. I'm booked aboard the Resolute. I should check to see that my things have been delivered to the pier."
"I see. And what if the news here today had been different? What if I hadn't been able to find your father's will?"
"I'd have gone anyway, for one last ride around the fields. Lettice Hadley wrote last week that she and Mr. Hadley have returned to Alder Hill. She's invited me to go riding with her as soon as I'm settled."
"I'm glad of that. But the way I hear it, Charles Hadley is in a bad way and has been ever since the war. It isn't likely he'll be of much help."
"Mrs. Hadley says the Magills are returning to Richmond Hill even though it's in shambles too. She says the bank is holding the Magill sons responsible for an enormous debt their father incurred buying slaves, and they owe money to the Georgetown stores as well."
"I wouldn't know about that, but you'd best stay away from John Magill's boys. The whole family has a bad reputation among the Negroes."
"Yes. Papa often said he was the worst plantation owner in the entire Lowcountry. One cannot starve workers half to death. It's not right, and it's bad business as well."
"True enough. It's no wonder they hated him." He paused to polish his spectacles. "From what I hear, there's still some occasional unrest on the river. I'd hate for you to get caught up in it."
"I imagine most of the Magills' bondsmen are gone by now or working in Georgetown."
"Just the same, you stay away from Richmond Hill." He escorted her to the door and retrieved her umbrella. "For what it's worth, I hope you succeed in restoring Fairhaven. I enjoyed many happy visits there in the old days."
"I intend to do my best."
"Please call on me anytime you're in Charleston. I want to know how you're getting on."
"You're very kind. But I don't expect I'll make the trip too often. I'm not much of a sailor, and sixty miles is a very long way by land." She drew on her gloves. "I intend to live simply, Mr. Crowley."
"There's nothing simple about growing rice."
"That's true. I meant that I'm sure I'll find everything I need in Georgetown and will have little need to travel to Charleston."
He held the door open for her. "It's damp out there. I'd lend you my carriage for the ride to the pier. If I had one."
Excerpted from Carolina Gold by Dorothy Love. Copyright © 2013 Dorothy Love. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Carolina Gold by Dorothy Love is the perfect mix of mystery, love, and self discovery. Charlotte is trying to put together a life she once had while struggling to make ends meet. Nicholas is in need of some help with his children so suddenly their prospects meet. Both needing each other more than they can ever imagine. While Charlotte and Nicholas are struggling with the day to day their hearts are working overtime as well. It just goes to show that even when life is at its murkiest love will conquer all and be a guiding light. It is so beautifully written that I feel I am in South Carolina along with Charlotte and Nicholas.
Dorothy Love is one of my favorite authors. However, this book was a huge disappointment to me. The story did not flow well, and the characters were not developed at all. I found it hard to read without skimming pages..thats never good. Hopefully, her next book will be more like her writing style that I am accustomed to.
You DO realize that the whole point of a review is to input ones opinion on a book? If you don't like people giving away what happens in the book or inputing their opinion (as i'm sure you've done on a number of occasions) then DON'T READ THEM! You may hate people who are followig the unspoken rules of reviews, but you can bet i hate idiots even more- and based on previous experiences, you DEFINITELY classify as a major dumbass.
What was it like for those families who had owned rice plantations in South Carolina once the War was over? Did any return or try to restore their homes? Dorothy Love, in Carolina Gold, tells of a story found in a female planter’s diary. The book is fiction, but based on this true story of a woman who returns alone to her family home to try to restore it. The geography was well-researched for the book, the characters and struggles well-developed. So well done that I felt I could just step right in there and walk next to the Waccamaw River with her. I think anyone who enjoys romance, or Southern history, would enjoy reading this book. I have added both the book and the author to my list of favorites.
Loved the book. Didn't want to put it down. Loved that it was based in South Carolina my home. Really would recommend this book to others.
Enjoyed the book, easy read with lots of history
I have enjoyed every book I've read by Dorothy Love, but I think this one is my favorite. All her heroines are strong and courageous women, but I loved the tender streak in Charlotte Fraser. Having lost both parents, she tries valiantly to replant/rebuild her family's rice plantation during the Reconstruction period, supplementing her budget with freelance writing and teaching the two daughters of a widowed neighbor. Nicholas Betantcourt is a doctor recovering his balance from the horrors he saw in the Civil War, and a captivating character himself. Grab a pitcher of iced tea, and prepare to be transported to the Low Country in this tale inspired by the life of Elizabeth Pringle (1845-1921). The ending to this story was one of the most satisfying I've read in a long time!
She nods, gives a weak smile, and pokes his bellyl
Living in the Charleston SC area helped to influence my purchase fo this book. While the story starts out slowly, the pace soon quickens and the reader is drawn in. A lovely postbellum novel, my only dissatisfaction is with the ending. I felt things were wrapped up too quickly. I go the sense that the author became bored and was ready to be finished writing the novel. All in all, not a bad way to spend an afternoon.
I try to cut clap trap
Will you can take her
I love this book. It was a page turner from the start to the finish. If you like a love story, an adventure and a mystery, then you will love this book. I would recommend it to everyone.
Very interesting and entertaining with lots of history.