Synopsis from Goodreads
The year is 1739. Eliza Lucas is sixteen years old when her father leaves her in charge of their family’s three plantations in rural South Carolina and then proceeds to bleed the estates dry in pursuit of his military ambitions. Tensions with the British, and with the Spanish in Florida, just a short way down the coast, are rising, and slaves are starting to become restless. Her mother wants nothing more than for their South Carolina endeavor to fail so they can go back to England. Soon her family is in danger of losing everything. Upon hearing how much the French pay for indigo dye, Eliza believes it’s the key to their salvation. But everyone tells her it’s impossible, and no one will share the secret to making it. Thwarted at nearly every turn, even by her own family, Eliza finds that her only allies are an aging horticulturalist, an older and married gentleman lawyer, and a slave with whom she strikes a dangerous deal: teach her the intricate thousand-year-old secret process of making indigo dye and in return — against the laws of the day — she will teach the slaves to read. So begins an incredible story of love, dangerous and hidden friendships, ambition, betrayal, and sacrifice.
When I realized Eliza Lucas was a real person I knew I had to read this book. I love reading books about people I’ve never heard of that did something extraordinary, or at least extraordinary for the time period they were alive. What Eliza did in 1739 would not be that remarkable today, but putting a 16 year old girl (GASP!) in charge of three plantations was definitely remarkable in 1739 and almost unbelievable to be honest.
Eliza was a prolific letter writer and she actually kept copies of all of her letters in a “letter-book”. These letter-books still exist and according to Wikipedia is “one of the most complete collections of writing from 18th century America and provides a valuable glimpse into the life of an elite colonial woman living during this time period.” I’m very intrigued by Eliza Lucas and I would love read her letter collection someday.
This is the first book I have read by this author. I discovered that the author typically writes successful contemporary romance novels and I felt that this book leaned a little bit too much in that direction for me. I personally would have preferred less information about Eliza’s romantic inclinations and even more information about how she ran the plantations, the obstacles she faced being a young female with responsibility for so much during that time period, and the struggles with learning how to grow and process indigo. I do enjoy a good romance now and then, and I understand that this was fiction, but in a book like this I would have loved even more detail about how she actually accomplished everything!
I liked this book a lot, but I have to admit that I felt like it was a little long, sometimes repetitive, and I did get a little bored from time to time. However, I sincerely appreciate the introduction to a very interesting historical figure and that made it worth the read 100%.
Published October 3rd 2017 by Blackstone Publishing
My rating – 4 out of 5
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