When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family. Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master's illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin.
Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk.
Born Kathleen Doepker, I was privileged as a child to be raised in Annaheim, Saskatchewan, a hamlet on the plains of Canada. Although we lived in a small, tightly knit Roman Catholic community, I was fortunate to have parents who were open to other religions and cultures. Since television was not a luxury our household could afford, books were the windows that expanded my world.
Soon after Sister Colette, my first grade teacher, introduced me to Dick, Jane, and Sally, I began to read on my own. I was a fanciful child and became so influenced by books that while I was reading Five Little Peppers And How They Grew I ate only cold boiled potatoes (the truth is this lasted only for a day) as I suffered with them through their hardships. After reading Anne Of Green Gables I was convinced that I, too, was adopted, until my mother told me to stop the foolishness and to look in the mirror. I had her nose. She was right. I limped desperately during Red Shoes For Nancy until my sister, Judy, told me to cut it out, people would think that something was wrong with me. Wanting to more closely experience Helen Keller’s tribulations, at every opportunity I walked with closed eyes until I solidly whacked my head on a doorframe. Enid Blynton’s Famous Five series had me looking for adventure around every corner, and when in class Rudyard Kipling’s, Kim, was read aloud, I couldn’t wait to leave for far-off lands.
Throughout my high school years Simon Lizee, a poet of merit, was our principal. He taught us literature and it was he who encouraged me to write.
Upon graduating from high school, as I saw it then, I had four choices. I could marry (no), become a secretary (no), become a teacher (no) become a nurse (yes). After I graduated from nursing school, I left for Montreal and there worked on staff at the Royal Vic Hospital. Eventually I married and came down to the United States. Throughout, I read voraciously and I wrote, often sending my work back to Mr. Lizee in Saskatchewan, who took the time to continue to instruct me.
It wasn’t until after I gave birth to my daughter, Erin, that I finally worked up enough courage to submit a short story to Myrna Blyth, who, I believe at that time was an editor at Family Circle. She sent back a lovely rejection note, telling me that this story was not one that she could use, but could I send others. I took that note to mean that she did not like my writing, but was being kind, and I foolishly submitted nothing further.
In time, I divorced and remarried, relocated to Manhattan, and there worked as an Ad Executive for a graphics company. I did not stop reading, nor writing, and over the next years took various classes in creative writing.
After four years in the city, we decided to try life on a small farm in New Jersey. When our collection of animals grew to include twenty-five Cashmere goats, two horses, three dogs, and two cats, we knew that it was time to relocate to a larger farm in rural Virginia. There we found twenty-seven acres and a large brick house, circa 1830, that once served as a stagecoach stop. But with the move came a glitch. For the first year my husband’s transfer didn’t happen as planned, and although he joined me every weekend, I was left on the new farm to manage on my own. It was an exciting yet frightening time, and I began to journal the experience. I joined a writers' group, and the Piedmont Literary Society, and when I met Eleanor Dolan, a gifted poet, she generously agreed to mentor me in my writing.
In the following years, Charles and I established an herb farm, a tearoom, and a gift shop that we filled to the barn rafters with work from local artisans. As we restored our old plantation home, I began to research the history of our home and the land that surrounded it. Then I discovered the notation ‘Negro Hill’ on an old map. Unable to determine the story of its origin, local historians suggested that