From the publisher’s web site:
After years abroad, Jasper Wainwright returns to Beaufort, South Carolina, home of his unruly youth. Slavery and Sea Island cotton have made this summer seat of plantation owners one of the wealthiest and most cultured cities in America . . . and also the most hotheaded, secessionist city in the South.
Jasper’s cousin, Henry Birch, wants him to marry his niece, Cara, a pianist and the prettiest girl in the county. Believing slavery doomed, Jasper has no desire to settle in the South again and so resists both Henry’s matchmaking and his growing fascination with Cara. Then anonymous letters in The Charleston Courier give Jasper an inkling that maybe the South could change.
Though his freed slave, Jim, who travels with him, is antsy to leave, Jasper lingers in Beaufort. Amid a whirl of parties, waltzes and duels, Cara is never far from his eyes or his thoughts. As cries for secession grow louder, Jasper works desperately to convince Beaufort planters that gradual emancipation and transition to a wage-based economy could avert the coming storm of war. Will Beaufort be another Pompeii, its civilization disappearing in a cataclysm it refuses to foresee?