The Mannings of South Carolina are ruled by family patriarch Elizabeth. Older brother John holds the family’s Lowland rice plantation and Joseph ekes out his livelihood in the acreage he’s given in hills of the “Upcountry”. While the colonies chafe at English rule without representation, Carolina itself is rife with tension between the Lowlanders of Charles Town and residents of the Upcountry who feel they don’t receive equal support and protection of the government as outlaws are allowed to roam the countryside unpunished. Frustrated, the more radical of them have formed their own *police* force, the Regulators. Joseph’s younger son Andrew (Drew) is an ardent supporter of the movement, but his political leanings set him at odds with both his City cousins and the woman he was betrothed to at a young age, the cold-blooded self-centered and oh-so-haughty Joanna Templeton.
Drew knows that Joanna is the wrong woman for him, but is unwilling to dishonor his family by breaking the contract, let alone ticking off Joanna, but when he meets Laurel Boggs he decides she’s the woman for him. Laurel’s humble beginnings with her trashy family gets him disinherited as well as earning Joanna’s eternal hatred, but he and Laurel look forward to building their own plantation in the upcountry – that is until an act of revenge taken against Drew for his activities with the Regulators sets their life on unexpected paths.
Despite the appearances of the cover and the plot description, there’s a lot more to this than just a romance, and any sex in this is very tame. I found myself rather torn about this one, I really liked learning how divided Carolina was between the city folk and those of the upper country, along with the building tensions as some support independence and others remain loyal to the crown. Matriarch Elizabeth Manning was a lot of fun, especially with her schemes and plots to get her beloved grandson Drew and —- together. As for the relationship between Drew and Laurel and the subsequent love triangle? I liked it, but at times it seemed a bit forced and considering Drew can only end up with one woman in the end, it was fairly easy to guess that *something* was going to *happen* to bring it about. Drew also was a bit self-centered for most of the book, but that might be chalked up to his young age – I’ll withhold judgment until I read more in the sequel, The Drums of December, as war breaks out and further divides the Colonies and the Manning clan. 3.5/5 stars.