A daring young woman sails to Scotland during the American Civil War to sell her family’s last crop of cotton and save them from starvation, facing danger and romance along the way.
Ranney (Scotsman of My Dreams, 2015, etc.) returns with the third novel in her MacIain series, set in the Victorian era. New Yorker Rose O’Sullivan is an avowed abolitionist forced to spend two years living with her sister and brother-in-law on their Southern plantation. When her brother-in-law, Bruce MacIain, rides off to fight for the Confederacy, it falls to Rose to keep the plantation’s inhabitants from starving. She works in the fields alongside enslaved laborers to bring in one final crop of cotton, then sails to Scotland to try to sell the cotton to her brother-in-law’s distant cousin, handsome mill owner Duncan MacIain. She convinces him to buy the cotton for the empty looms at MacIain Mill in Glasgow, but first they have to retrieve it from warehouses in Charleston. That means enduring a storm at sea, evading spies in the Bahamas, and sneaking past the blockade the Union has set up to prevent supply ships from reaching the Confederacy. Rose has misrepresented herself to the Scottish MacIains as Bruce’s widow, but Duncan predictably forgives her for lying. The book’s main weakness lies in Duncan’s hypocrisy. He decries slavery and hopes the Confederacy will lose the war but feels only a small twinge about buying cotton grown under a system of slavery. Rose, at least, is swallowing her scruples to help her sister and her niece, but Duncan sleeps a little too well for one going against his own beliefs.
Overall, though, the novel is a great swashbuckling read. The complex political issues of the time give the plot momentum and the characters much room for growth, and the prose is fluid and well-paced.