A former slave with a highly developed sense of justice risks everything to serve it.
In April 1840, Benjamin January, a Paris-trained physician and music teacher, leaves his family in New Orleans (Cold Bayou, 2018,etc.) to try to rescue Selina Bellinger, a former student of his. Selina ran away with a scoundrel named Seth Javel, who took her to the Republic of Texas and sold her as a slave. January follows, pretending to be the slave valet of his friend Hannibal Sefton, whose ownership will protect him. Accompanying them is tough Kentuckian Abishag Shaw, who terrorizes Javel into revealing the name of Selina’s purchaser, a slave trader who thinks nothing of giving prospective buyers a chance to try out the young women he sells. One of his slaves secretly tells January that Selina was sold to a rancher named Gideon Pollack. They hope to buy Selina back, but before meeting Pollack, they run into Valentina Taggart, a woman they know who turns out to be married to Pollack’s neighbor and knows that January is no slave. Valentina, a wild and stunning young woman who agreed to marry Vin Taggart even though she knew her land was her main attraction, agrees to help, but her freedom to act is hampered by the presence of her husband’s hateful mother and aunt. When Pollack, who denies having bought Selina, is badly wounded in a duel, January uses his medical skills to save him. Rescuing Selina, he sends her on the dangerous trip back to New Orleans while he and Hannibal stay to help Valentina, who’s been accused of murdering her husband. The success of January’s mission requires him to use Hannibal as a frontman to cut through the lies and political intrigue raging in a divided Texas, where land is everything and murder an easy way to improve fortunes.
A riveting exploration of a little-known period of Texas history intensified by gut-wrenching depictions of people’s enduring inhumanity.