Photo Credit: Jenny Loew
The unforgettable coming-of-age saga of one girl’s fight for her freedom, her country, and her heart…
1797: After a century of clarifying oppression, Ireland seethes on the brink of rebellion. It waits on one violent tremor—the execution of a seventeen-year-old girl. All Charlotte Dillon wants is to escape. When she slips her fate, she discovers her future lies in the hands of James Blair, a sugar planter with deep ties to her enemies.
Bound to James for seven years, Charlotte must find a way to conceal her true identity and crime, even as they set sail for the West Indies, even as they confront the limits of their endurance, even as they fall in love.
Meanwhile, an ocean away, a rebellion is unfolding and a mystery unraveling that threaten the tender sweetness growing between them. And when the fight comes to her, Charlotte finds herself torn between her cause and her heart.
Sweeping from Ireland's bleeding battlefields to St. Croix's burning sugarcane fields, Ground Sweet as Sugar is Book I in an epic saga of power, punishment, and undying love.
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When the workday finally, mercifully, comes to an end, Charlotte can’t contain a sob. Wiping a traitorous tear from her eye, she hands her hoe to Shea, then staggers back to the village. Blood rushes through her veins so that it feels like her skin can scarcely contain it. She peers at her poor hands. They’re plump as sausages, torn and oozing and bleeding. Dragging her thick tongue along her lips, they feel cracked. Her feet feel blistered and cracked. Her mind feels cracked. Now Charlotte knows what the strange something was on the men’s faces that morning—dread. One day she’s done it, and she hasn’t any idea how she survived. In truth, if it weren’t for the fact she can hear her heart beating in her ears, the young woman would feel like the walking dead.
As she nears her cabin, Charlotte spies James waiting on the veranda, the warm torch lamp lighting his anxious face. “I see you survived your first day of cane-holing.” His worried eyes scrutinize every inch of her.
“How do you feel?”
“Tight as a tick. If you poke me, I’ll pop.”
James covers his mouth, but a chuckle bursts out. “I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t laugh when you’re in this condition…” A full laugh sails out. “But you are amusing, and it does me good to see you so after the day you spent.”
“I’m glad I could amuse you,” Charlotte says flatly, eying the door. What she wouldn’t give for a soak in a cold tub. She thinks she must smell like a rotting horse, for that’s how she feels. Suddenly, she experiences a flicker of fear. “If I might ask, what will I be doing tomorrow?”
“Weeding and ratting.”
“Weeding. And ratting.”
“In another cane piece. Weeding the crop and hunting for rats. They do like to nibble on the young cane.”
“Hunting rats.” Charlotte quells a rebellious wail. “Oh, good. I was worried it was going to be something, oh, I don’t know”—she sighs—“delicate.”
James dons his hat and turns toward the path. “I wouldn’t insult you, Miss Dillane.”
“You may insult me all you like, Master Blair,” Charlotte calls after him, “if I may be allowed to do the same.”
The planter stops and turns back with a measuring expression on his face. “I shall remember that.”