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When Sarah Talton's father suddenly passes away in the summer of 1860, she is left with a teenaged sister to care for, and the family farm and slaves to oversee. Determined to keep their land out of the hands of opportunists, she embraces her father's iron will and hardhearted demeanor. But when she falls in love with a French merchant who speaks no English, and is given charge of a runaway slave who brings them both together, Sarah begins to question the values and beliefs instilled by her father and upheld by her Winston, North Carolina community. When the Civil War looms, and community leaders clamor for blood and obedience, Sarah finds herself traveling a road that will lead either to her ruin or to her freedom.