Even the antebellum South’s suffocating, tangled webs of deceit could not shackle the insatiable human heart.
In 1859, Durksen (Durk) Hurst, aka Dark Horse, a visionary charlatan on the run, encounters a dozen hungry slaves stranded in the Mississippi wilds, led by Big Josh. Two desperate peoples in need of one another, they agree to build an egalitarian plantation, with Hurst acting as figurehead “master” to deceive the town. Big Josh is the group’s natural leader, but Durk’s ambitious schemes imperil the tenuous brotherhood’s survival.
On the adjacent property live the Frenches: Missus Marie Brussard French, a controlling matriarch who manipulates the region’s bankers and cotton brokers, and her frail, rebellious heir-apparent, Devereau. They “legally” adopt a child from New Orleans to carry on their legacy, but the child dies mysteriously. Now Cassandra-like Antoinette, the mother, has come for her son and gets more than she expected.
Durk “wins” a large tract of land from a Chickasaw chief, the actual deed holder. Seeing Durk as a threat, Missus French orders Devereau to kill him. But Devereau, strangely ambivalent about Durk, refuses, and the conflict between the Frenches comes to a searing boil. Devereau uncovers family secrets, threatening to expose the French’s own vulnerable façade.
Durk’s diatribe against the war causes the town to brand him a traitor, a deadly offense. The war blows the cotton market asunder, convincing Durk and Devereau they’re each losing everything to the other. Devereau makes a fatal move, while Durk risks his life to free Antoinette. All the conflicts reach a climax, leaving both mansions ablaze—and everyone’s destiny determined.
As the story’s myriad deceptions unravel, each startling plot twist and cathartic revelation shines a fresh light on what it means to be a man, a woman, free or enslaved—indeed, what it means to be human.
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