Following the War Between the States, brothers-in-arms Hugh King and James Gibson combined their timber assets to create a successful company linked to antebellum lumbering. But during the decade that followed, King and Gibson Lumber’s direction became mired in the ambition of Hugh King’s mother-in-law, Evangeline Markiston, who embraced the tempo of the New South and covertly threatened the company’s meager assets with dreams of a lumber empire. A carnal romance between James Gibson’s eighteen-year-old son, Jack, and Eva’s sixteen-year-old granddaughter, Adel, exacerbated the strife, which ended seven years earlier with the murder of Hugh King and the execution of James Gibson for the crime. Gibson’s death left Eva in charge of the company and a guilt-ridden Jack disinherited.
In the intervening years, Eva has run King and Gibson Lumber into the ground, but what she lacks in business acumen, she makes up for in ruthlessness. Penny King is the only child of Hugh King and Eva’s daughter Clarissa. Ten years old when her father died, Penny never harbored doubt that justice was served with the execution of “Uncle” Jimmy. Now seventeen, the deaths behind her, she has promised herself to a young medical student, who pledged his troth in return. Shortly after his graduation from medical school, however, Mark Reed elopes with Penny’s sister, Adel.
The double betrayal is as inexplicable as it is devastating, but Penny soon finds herself the object of interest of the heir to Biloxi’s wealthiest importer, and she hastens into marriage with a seemingly agreeable young man. But Harold Noble harbors secrets that make him anything but agreeable. Additionally, her marriage comes with stipulations that could lead to boon or bust for her father’s company, stipulations driven by the ambitions and perverse lusts of a family whose influence stretches from Mississippi City to Mobile, and Penny is suddenly caught between her ruthless grandmother and her twisted in-laws in a plot fraught with jealousy, greed, and murder in a de facto prison of a house harboring an unshackled evil of its own.
Defeated and alone, Penny turns to an unlikely ally, the enemy of her enemy, a man with reasons of his own to untangle the twisted mystery threatening to crush Hugh King’s daughter.