Although I have not been a fan of series set in the West Indies previously, I am a fan of Lisa T. Bergren’s novel “Keturah”, book one in the Sugar Baron’s Daughters series. I found the description of life in the lush tropical islands to be probably true, but not at all what I envisioned living in the tropics would be.
Keturah is reeling after being released from an abusive marriage by the death of her husband. She returns to the family manor to be with her sisters, Verity and Selah. Upon word reaching them of their father’s death on a sugar plantation on Nevis in the West Indies, Keturah is determined to travel there to try salvaging the plantation that seems to be in trouble. She might not go to that length if their manor home in England was safe. But her father sold off land that could have been profitable for them in order to provide more funds for the plantation. Not to be left out, Verity and Selah vow to travel with her. A long-time friend, Gray, promises their uncle to keep a watch on the girls, which he will have to do quietly, as Keturah has vowed to bow to no man ever again.
Upon landing in the West Indies, the girls and Gray find that their respective plantations are direly in need of restoration. Although abhorring the practice of keeping slaves, it is necessary for the economic welfare of the islands. Also, the other plantation owners and their overseers do not cotton to a refined lady, or any lady or woman taking up the reins of a plantation and being kind and generous to the slaves (Keturah calls them “her people”). She is thwarted at every turn and vows that she will succeed.
I found the living conditions described on Nevis were sharply divided among those who had money and status and those who did not. Treatment of the slaves was abominable and usually left to the mercy of the overseers, who could be kind or not, mostly not.
Because I found that I truly learned something from this historical novel, I am bound to read the following novels as soon as they are published. I was very impressed that Ms. Bergren really studied her history in regards to this series. I am eagerly awaiting her new novels.