When Lavinia, an orphaned seven-year-old Irish immigrant is sold to Tall Oaks plantation as an indentured servant, she must learn how to straddle the two worlds she occupies. Adopted into the loving embrace of the black slaves who work at the Big House, Lavinia is unaware of how her white skin affects her position. However, when she grows older and is noticed by the opium-addicted lady of the house, Miss Martha, her status changes, and she is sent to the home of Miss Martha's sister in Williamsburg to be educated as a proper white woman. Lavinia retains her loyalties to her black family and when she marries the new master of Tall Oaks, Marshall, these loyalties are tested. Marshall reveals himself to be a hateful and violent master, abusing both Lavinia and the black slaves on the plantation. Lavinia, who slowly looses her will to stand up to Marshall, must once again find her courage in order to save her Big House family from his destructive grasp.
Lavinia's story offers a unique perspective into the world of early 19th century plantation life. Grissom does not shy away from many of the harsh realities of that time but does a wonderful job of infusing the engaging story with emotional and strong characters.