It is 1857 and Tilmon Goodwyn wields absolute power over his island plantation but hardly makes a profit because of his profligate spending and gambling. He secures financial benefits from his wealthy widowed mother, but when she trifles with an opportunistic artist, Tilmon meets head-on with a threat to his inheritance. Tilmon’s wife Georgiana, an orphan raised by an abolitionist, has married well because of her exceptional beauty. To secure her husband’s devotion, she vows to give him many sons, though her babies die. During her eighth pregnancy, she can no longer ignore signs that her husband has a base and shocking secret. Violence breeds in Westfall’s closet, and as a result the one servant Tilmon trusts dies suddenly. Tilmon buries his man but not the suspicions that linger. He credits himself with the benevolent care of his family and slaves, but little does he know of the venom hidden in their acts of obedience.