Set against the opulent background of the Golden Era of the antebellum South, this novel explores the culture and history of early 19th century Natchez, Mississippi. The story features three people: the beautiful daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, and the two men who desire to possess... read more
Carina, the daughter of wealthy plantation owner, Thomas Blanchett, lives in the sumptious antebellum mansion Camellia Hill. Carina is just eighteen years old, and her father's pride and joy. Two young men arrive to visit the Blanchetts. They are Joshua Prewitt, son of family friends who are... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
Carina, the daughter of wealthy plantation owner, Thomas Blanchett, lives in the sumptious antebellum mansion Camellia Hill. Carina is just eighteen years old, and her father's pride and joy. Two young men arrive to visit the Blanchetts. They are Joshua Prewitt, son of family friends who are enormously wealthy, and William Porter, Joshua's friend at school.William has no money, and few prospects. The two young men stay with the Blanchetts for a week, being entertained at balls and parties given to introduce them to the neighboring planters.
Carina finds herself attracted to William, who obviously feels the same. They share tender moments alone and William asks permission to court Carina. Carina's mother adamently forbids William to see Carina. She is furious that a man with no money or land would think that he could court her daughter. Carina is crushed. but must accede to her family's wishes.
In the spring, the Blanchetts travel to Natchez to visit with the Prewitts at their family home Easton Hall. William happens to be there, preparing to leave for Europe the next day to prepare for Joshua's Grand Tour. William and Carina manage to share some secret moments alone when they both declare their love again.
The Blanchetts return to Camellia Hill, busy with planting season and the routines of plantation life. Two weeks later they receive the sad news that William's ship has sunk in a storm with all hands lost. Carina collapses with grief and has to be carried into the house. She spends the next week staring at the walls of her room, refusing to eat, consumed with grief at her loss. She finally manages to go forward with her life, even though her sadness is profound.
Joshua, too is mourning the loss of his friend. He visits Carina often and they talk about Willilam together, which seems to help them both with their grief.
After some months Joshua asks Carina to marry him. He does not love her, but thinks that she would be a suitably young and submissive wife who he could mold to his satisfaction. Carina is confused that his proposal is without romance or tenderness, but consents because she is afraid otherwise she will end up wed to an aging planter of her parents' choosing.
The wedding is the most fabulous event that has been seen in the area in years. No expense has been spared to entertain and awe the guests. Joshua and Carina leave that evening to journey to Easton Hall, where they will live. Joshua has spent a fabulous sum of money to renovate a suite for Carina in the upper rooms of the mansion. She waits there, nervous, clothed in her lace covered gown. But Joshua never enters the room, and she finally falls asleep with exhaustion.
The next morning, the newlyweds breakfast with the Prewitts, who welcome Carina with open arms. Joshua rushes away on business, which leaves his mother aghast at his leaving his new bride alone.
Joshua returns late at night, drunk and dishevelled. He attempts to deflower Carina but is unable to consummate the marriage and staggers into his office to spend the night.
Carina is even more confused, and wonders if there is something wrong with her. Things go on in this way until Joshua violently deflowers Carina manually, holding her down forcefully as she struggles. Devastated by these events, Carina tries to hide the evidence of his violence on her body.Her maid is the only person to see the bruises on her tender flesh. After this episode, Carina withdraws from Joshua as much as possible. He tries on two more occasions to consummate the marriage, but fails.
Joshua decides to allow Carina to have her colt Pomme brought to Easton Hall. He plans to keep her quiet and compliant by giving her little gifts and favors. Pebo, a slave on Camellia Hill, brings the colt over and spends the night. The next day Carina enters the stable only to find Joshua and Pebo half naked wrapped in each other's arms.
When she runs away in shock, Joshua catches her and violently subdues her, telling her that he will have her put away if she tells his secret. She knows at last that this will never be a real marriage, but a sham to cover up Joshua's true desires.
Carina realizes that her only choice is to play the devoted wife. Divorce is out of the question for her since she has no fortune of her own, and her parents would never take back a daughter who was so disgraced.She accommodates herself to the fact that she will never know happiness and spends a lot of her time in charitable work among the poor and sick of Natchez. Her relationship with Joshua is so strained they can barely stand the sight of one another.
Carina goes to Camellia Hill for a week to see her parents and old friends. She is relieved to be away from Joshua and relaxes and begins to enjoy herself.
Carina returns home and sees a strange horse tied in front of the mansion. William, who was thought dead, walks out the door just as she is alighting from the carriage. Carina passes out from the shock of his reappearance and is carried into the house. She is confined to her bed for a day to recover, and finds out that William's ship didn't sink, but was taken by pirates who kept him prisoner for all these years.He is devastated to find that his beloved Carina has married his best friend, but tries to handle it like a gentleman. Carina and William have to pretend that they are not still in love to avoid exposure. William opens a law office in Natchez and is becoming successful when Carina decides that she will have love in her life after all and goes to visit him. She tells him that Joshua is not a true husband to her and declares her love for him. William can't resist Carina and carries her up to his bed. They satiate themselves with each other, beginning an affair that lasts a few months.
Joshua learns that Carina has been visiting William and forbids her to leave Easton Hall. William sneaks into the back kitchen once or twice so they can meet in secret. A few weeks later Carina realizes that she is pregnant. She is joyous to be carrying William's child, but cannot tell him the news. Joshua finally notices her condition and is furious, but decides to use her and the child to make himself seem stable and prosperous and enhance his business standing.He forces Carina to write William and tell him that she is pregnant with Joshua's child and can never see him again.
Carina and Mother Prewitt are alone in the house when a terrible storm turns into a devastating tornado. The two women and all of the servants shelter in the cellar of Easton Hall. When the monstrous twister subsides, they leave the cellar to find Easton Hall completely destroyed. Carina cares for Mother Prewitt who is shattered by the destruction of her home and consumed with fear for her husband and son. They had gone to the riverport of Natchez-under-the-Hill to inspect some cargo and she fears they were caught in the storm. William has survived the storm and frantically searches for Carina. They find each other amidst the wreckage of the once-beautiful Natchez. William cares for the women and servants and takes them to safety.
William insists Carina and Mother Prewitt leave Natchez to return to Camellia Hill before the pestilence that he knows will occur after this terrible disaster begins. He stays in Natchez to help with rescue efforts and assisting his neighbors in rebuilding their lives.
One week after the disaster it is learned that Joshua and his father were killed in the tornado. Carina and her child will receive a huge fortune from Joshua's estate.
William visits Carina at Camellia Hill where he returns her colt Pomme who he rescued from a damaged stable. Carina finally tells him that the child she carries is his.William is delighted by the news. He returns to Natchez to continue the reconstructon efforts.
William and Carina are married in a quiet ceremony at Camellia Hill two weeks later. One month after that Carina gives birth to Tommy, whose headful of red hair matches Carina's own. Carina and William move into a small cottage on the property and stay there with their child for a few months. They spend happy hours with their son and each other.
William must return to Natchez to continue helping his neighbors. Mother Prewitt moves into a small house in town. Two weeks later William brings the unhappy news to Carina that Mother Prewitt has passed away peacefully.
William is frustrated because he cannot acknowledge that Tommy is his own son. To do so would label the boy a bastard. He searches for a solution to the dilemma and approaches Carina with a dream of his. He is fascinated with the westward migration taking place in the land and wants to join it. He and Carina agree to take Tommy and set off for the western lands to start a homestead. Carina is ready to stand by William in his venture, and William can live in a place where he can call Tommy his son, a place where a man is measured not by his wealth, but by his character.
““Your name suits you so well. Did you know that Carina means “beloved” in the Spanish language? You are meant to be my beloved one. I knew that from the day I entered the door at Camellia Hill and our eyes met. Although you were upstairs peering at me over a rail, your face reflected a purity and intelligence that enthralled me in that instant. My soul has cried out to call you my beloved. May I?””William Porter
Chapter 1: Visitors at Camellia Hall
Chapter 2 Carina and William
Chapter 3: Easton Hall
Chapter 4: Lost at Sea
Chapter 5: Mary's Mission
Chapter 6: The Betrothal
Chapter 7: The Wedding
Chapter 8: Carina at Easton Hall
Chapter 9: Pebo
Chapter 10: A Bitter Winter
Chapter 11: Playing at Deception
Chapter 12: Mary and Pebo
Chapter 13: Return to Camellia Hill
Chapter 14: Thrown Back by the Sea
Chapter 15: Carina's Dilemma
Chapter 16: Found Out
Chapter 17: Trapped
Chapter 18: Confrontation
Chapter 19: Freedom
Chapter 20: Joshua Makes Plans
Chapter 21: The Whirlwind
Chapter 22: A Shattered World
Chapter 23: The Beginning
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