by Jennifer Blake.
Fawcett paperback, 384 pages. 1977.
Persuaded by her friend, Marcus, to attend a quadroon masquerade ball so that he may win a bet, Catherine wears a turban and a mask. The place is New Orleans. While there, she meets the mysterious Rafael Navarro, who approaches her without knowing her true identity. Rafael and Marcus are enemies. It isn’t long before the two meet at a nearby spot well known as a dueling place. Marcus is wounded and taken for medical attention and Rafael whisks Catherine away. To her dismay, he takes her to a home that is unoccupied except for servants and there, he makes love to a confused and dismayed Catherine. When he realizes she had been untouched before, he asks her who she really is. Despite knowing he has compromised an innocent, young lady, he keeps her until morning and is with her in bed when her mother and Marcus barge in.
Catherine is in no hurry to decide how to handle things and Rafael takes the decision out of her hands. They are married and go away to his run down plantation (neglected while he was away), traveling by riverboat. The conditions there are poor indeed and Catherine has her hands full in more ways than one. With them is Rafael’s moody and unpleasant sister, Solange, whose close companion is exceedingly disruptive and influential. Then there is the problem of the other slaves who have been restless and, in other areas, have risen up and rebelled. The two have many problems besides not knowing how either feels towards each other.
I found it hard to decide if this should have two or three checks, for there are some things which bothered me in the telling of this story. These two certainly had enough adventure for several books! And Catherine was like a cat with nine lives. She kept jumping from one situation into another, often without pause. It is deep drama, with so much happening you can’t ever accuse the story of dragging! I liked it, but think Blake writes better now than she did in the beginning when this book was written.