When Major Gryffth Hockaday is called to the front lines of the Civil War, his new bride is left to care for her husband’s three-hundred-acre farm and infant son. Placidia, a mere teenager herself living far from her family and completely unprepared to run a farm or raise a child, must endure the darkest days of the war on her own. By the time Major Hockaday returns two years later, Placidia is bound for jail, accused of having borne a child in his absence and murdering it. What really transpired in the two years he was away?
A love story, a story of racial divide, and a story of the South as it fell in the war, The Second Mrs. Hockaday reveals how this generation—and the next—began to see their world anew.
Based on true events, Rivers's epistolary historical novel is a stirring Civil War era version of The Scarlet Letter. Placidia Fincher is 17 when she marries Confederate Major Gryffth Hockaday in April 1863, after knowing him for just a handful of hours. Two days after their wedding, Gryffth is called to fight again, and he doesn't return from the war to his South Carolina farm for nearly two years. When he does, he discovers that during his absence, his wife had carried another man's child, who was born and died of mysterious causes right before Gryffth's return. To protect the innocent parties close to her, Placidia refuses to give up any information about the incident, even after a heartbroken Gryffth orders a court hearing for infanticide. She bears all of the weight of this secret, until her diary falls into the wrong hands. Told through gripping, suspenseful letters, court documents, and diary entries, Rivers's story spans three decades to show the rippling effects of buried secrets, when the Hockadays and future generations must learn to overcome the damage this secret and the war have done to all the families involved.