The indefatigable Price (Beauty from Ashes, 1995, etc. etc.), returning to her beloved South with another pre-Civil War tale, provides shadings of complexity on a subject that tends to be portrayed in strictly black-and-white terms: the reactions of Southerners, both transplanted and born-and-bred, to an institution that literally divided the country. Well-bred Bostonian Abigail Banes has plenty of romantic illusions about what life will be like when she marries the much older Eli Allyn, who owns a rice plantation in coastal Georgia. And to a certain extent, those illusions come true: Eli dotes on her, buys her everything she could dream of, and provides her with two loyal, kind-hearted servants who cater to her every whim. But what Abigail really craves--companionship--seems beyond her husband's abilities to provide. When Eli dies unexpectedly while attempting to purchase slaves, his new overseer, Thaddeus Greene, comes to Abby's immediate rescue, helping her understand, for the first time, the inner-workings of the plantation and the responsibilities she now faces as the owner of not only the property but the hundreds of black men and women who keep it operating. Although Thaddeus works as an overseer, his true feelings about slavery cause him constant anguish; and after a visit to Boston, where her also-widowed mother has become an avid abolitionist, Abby is forced to make some critical decisions concerning her livelihood. In the end, Abby and Thad both find peace of mind in living true to their deepest beliefs; in the process they also find what each has been seeking without really knowing it: a love that will sustain them through their darkest hours. Formulaic period romance, yes, but Price's saving grace, once again, is her thorough historical research and her insistence on blending a strong dose of real grit with the obligatory melodrama.