By Dorothy Love
Thomas Nelson, 2013
The war is over, but at Fairhaven Plantation, Charlotte's struggle has just begun.
Following her father’s death, Charlotte Fraser returns to Fairhaven, her family’s rice plantation in the South Carolina Lowcountry. With no one else to rely upon, smart, independent Charlotte is determined to resume cultivating the superior strain of rice called Carolina Gold. But the war has left the plantation in ruins, her father’s former bondsmen are free, and workers and equipment are in short supply.
To make ends meet, Charlotte reluctantly agrees to tutor the two young daughters of her widowed neighbor and heir to Willowood Plantation, Nicholas Betancourt. Just as her friendship with Nick deepens, he embarks upon a quest to prove his claim to Willowood and sends Charlotte on a dangerous journey that uncovers a long-held family secret, and threatens everything she holds dear.
Carolina Gold by Dorothy Love is an interesting book from a historical perspective first of all. Dorothy drew inspiration from a collection of pieces that a female rice farmer named Elizabeth Allston Pringle wrote for the New York Sun in the years following the Civil War. This is the first book I've read that took place during the Reconstruction years, and Dorothy's extensive research is evident as she fleshes out this young woman's struggle to restore her ruined family plantation in the character of Charlotte Fraser.
Charlotte is a compelling character, easy to admire for her determination, courage, and ability to adapt to a difficult situation in spite of negativity from people like her cousin: "Anyone who tries to grow rice is a fool . . . wasting your beauty and youth on some vanished dream." I especially liked her compassion toward Daniel Graves, a young boy on his own and eager to learn. Nicholas Betancourt is an interesting character and good match for Charlotte, but he was absent for much of the book and therefore hard for me to connect with, much less feel the chemistry between them.
The outstanding part is Dorothy's depiction of people, places and events in South Carolina's Lowcountry, as well as the reality of a changed South where the old way of doing things is no more. "No one realized that the future under Yankee occupation would become a tragedy all its own." Reconstruction brought destruction of property, former slaves wrestled with the implications of freedom, and masters found themselves impoverished and facing an uncertain future. As a fan of southern fiction, I enjoyed hauntingly beautiful scenes like the Waccamaw River, cypress swamps, Pawley's Island, and once glorious plantations, all vividly drawn.
There's not a lot of action in this story, but its rich historical detail and glimpse into the South's struggles and a real woman's courage make it enjoyable. Carolina Gold is an eye-opener into a difficult period in southern history and a story that historical fans will enjoy. Recommended.
"Spiritual restoration often comes when we are able to move from desperation to delight, from fear to faith," shares Dorothy. "Charlotte hopes to restore her land and her way of life somehow, but her journey teaches her that the truer meaning of restoration lies in the acceptance of circumstances that can't be changed---taking joy not in what we long for, but in what has been provided for us."
A former journalist, free-lance writer and college professor, Dorothy Love explores the intersection of history and human relationships to create novels that speak to the hearts of women everywhere. She is the author of the acclaimed Hickory Ridge novels set in her native state of Tennessee.
After earning a masters degree and Ph.D, she authored dozens of magazine articles before breaking into book publishing with a number of award-winning novels for preteens and young adults. The Hickory Ridge series marked her adult fiction debut. Currently she is working on several stand-alone historical novels set in the South.
When she isn't busy writing or researching her next book, Love enjoys hiking, traveling, and hanging out with her husband Ron and their rambunctious golden retriever. The Loves make their home in the Texas hill country.
Visit Dorothy's website at Dorothylovebooks.com or the Litfuse Blog Tour to learn more.
Thanks to Litfuse Publicity for providing a review copy in exchange for my honest thoughts.