Rich and powerful Pemberton impregnates a poor young girl, kills her father, and he and his new bride Serena make the girl's life miserable. In 1830 the expanse of undeveloped land in N. Carolina seems a good place for Pemberton to add to his coffers. A shrewd businessman who uses to his flunkies who suffer greatly losing countless limbs cutting down trees, building roads, and following the boss mans harshly spoken instructions to the letter. He and his new bride Serena have plans to build clear the raw undeveloped land adding a railroad and then relaxing from the profits.
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In addition to savvy business skills Pemberton has recently closed his father's estate. He knows that Serena attended finishing school and will make a properer wife. The newlyweds share a partnership in business as well, and Serena is free to speak her mind to the workers, and does so in unfriendly tones looking down on them. She is haughty, firm, and even wears pants. Something not common for women during those times. He learns from the women married to loggers working his land that Serena has secrets in her background that others regard with scowls and whispers. Pemberton can't get Serena to speak about anything from her childhood years spent in Colorado, but he knows something haunts her.
Prior to Serena's arrival to N. Carolina, Pemberton impregnates a logger's teenage daughter. When the man approaches Pemberton to seek the rich mans intentions, Pemberton kills him in cold blood. Serena takes it all in and sends the girl who is now fatherless on her way, daring her to try and make trouble. She makes sure young Rachel understands that she nor her unborn child have a dime coming from the pregnancy.
After Rachel gives birth to a son she has other means of making a living and asks for her old job back from Pemberton as a cook for the men. Serena allows it but says that the young girl is not to go near the food meant for the big house.
When Serena gets pregnant and loses her husbands child her hate for Rachel and her son Jacob grows. Rachel develops a relationship with Joel a young logger she attended school with. He hates the Pemberton's and how they treat people vowing to leave the area as soon as possible.
Rachel decides to take her chances and leave as well witht he help of the kind sheriff who also hates Pemberton. He arrested him when he stabbed Rachel's father and the judge signed for Pemberton's release within an hour. Money and power won and the sheriff hasn't forgotten that a kind man was killed and disgarded. he A widow no longer able to work looks after Jacob while Rachel works hard six days each week. Widow Alberdine is murdered by one of Pemberton's hench men Mr. Galloway. They are looking for Rachel and her baby.
Serena is determined to find and kill both Serena and the baby, because her husband is grieving the loss of their unborn child. Serena will not be able to carry a pregnancy to term and will do anything to keep Rachel from having something that she doesn't.
Serena mixes rat poision in Pemberton's food so she can take off with money. She moves to Brazil and lives well. In the end Serena treats Pemberton as badly as they treated everyone else.
Best part of story, including ending:
I hated the arrogance displayed by Pemberton and Serena.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was the kitchen scene when Rachel looked Serena in the eye letting her know she wasn't scared.
Opinion about the main character:
I disliked Serena's bullying a great deal.