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Title: River Oaks Plantation
Author: B. J. Robinson
Rating: 5 stars
About the Book
Margaret Jane Turnrow first laid eyes on River Oaks Plantation amid lush foliage and oak trees dripping with Spanish moss when she returned from her honeymoon as a petite hazel-eyed fifteen-year-old bride to the antebellum mansion. She immediately fell in love with the house and grounds and beautifying the garden with plants. Her first task involved lining the oak drive with azaleas. Determined to have the best plantation gardens, she soon recreated formal ones designed from precious memories of France, Italy, and England she’d toured on her honeymoon. Before the Civil War, she imported plants, and gardening became her passion. During the war, it was her only one. The fertile Louisiana soil loved and nursed her plants as much as she did, and they grew like the cotton and sugarcane.
Pale as a magnolia blossom, she sparkled like the sun reflecting off Lake Pontchartrain when she flashed pearly white teeth with her camellia red smile. The war would change the shy woman-child as it ravaged through her life and took its toll on the home and family life she came to know and love with all of her heart.
Before the Civil War, dashing Danny Paul Turnrow stood six-foot-two-inches, as tall and elegant as the white-columned plantation home he’d purchased on the banks of the Mississippi River. He led a charmed life as a charismatic cotton baron known as one of the richest men on River Road. River Oaks boasted over thirty-five-hundred acres of fertile Louisiana soil, mostly planted in cotton with the exception of some sugarcane along the Mississippi River banks and his wife’s gardens.
He returned from the war a different man, as broken as the pillared splendor of the South. Surrounded by cypress swamps and sugarcane fields on the river’s end and white blankets of cotton edging the dirt roads, River Oaks Plantation still stood, but the grand life he’d led turned to one of backbreaking toil. He no longer stood so tall and proud with an aching back hunched over Louisiana cotton fields.
With the future uncertain, fear lurks in his heart and soul and clouds his mind. What will sustain his marriage through the loss? Can they defend what’s most precious to them and maintain River Oaks as a working plantation? The manor home is the only legacy he has left and the only life he has ever known. Will he lose it?
Years later, Amaryllis Camilla O’Brien is stranded alone with two dogs on the top floor of an antebellum plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana, as a deadly hurricane rips and roars through the city and raging floodwaters threaten to devour the old home. She discovers a yellowed diary. Will family secrets drown in the flood with her? Will the diary matter? She’s determined to save it and the dogs, or die trying. Has her grandmother left her a sinking ship?
Noah Gautreaux, the plantation manager, took vehicles to higher ground and is supposed to return, but will he make it in time to save Amaryllis and his pet girls? The old house withstood the floods of 1973, 1983, and 1993. He doesn’t think he has to worry about it floating off down the Mississippi River, but as excessive rain and wind continue to batter the area and the water continues to rise when the levee breaches, he realizes there’s a first time for everything and this could be it for the white-columned beauty of ages past. Will the plantation, the only woman he’s ever loved, and his pets drown or be blown away? Can he save what’s most precious to him? Will River Oaks ever be the same, or will Katrina destroy what the Civil War spared?
River Oaks Plantation by B. J. Robinson is two stories in one but expertly woven together by the author to make one wonderful story of love and hardship with love winning in the end. The story begins in 1856 when Margaret Turnrow, the fifteen year old bride of Danny Turnrow, sees her new home for the first time. She thinks it is the most beautiful house she has ever seen and immediately starts thinking of the formal gardens that she will plant and she plans to model them after the gardens she saw in Europe on her honeymoon. The Civil War brought many changes and heartaches to Margaret but she had her gardens to help her through the hard times.
The modern part of the story began when Margaret’s great, great granddaughter, Camilla O’Brien, arrived at River Oaks Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana, on August 29, 2005. Camilla spent many summers of her youth at the home and is overjoyed that her grandmother left the house to her and she plans to restore it to its former beauty. She had dressed to impress the manager of the plantation but when she met him she was soaked to the skin from the pouring rain. Camilla and Noah Gautreaux, the plantation manager, spent their childhood summers together but at their first meeting neither recognized the other. Soon Camilla and Noah were swept up into all the problems and dangers caused by Hurricane Katrina.
The author did an excellent job in the development of the story in the way that she interwove the story of the nineteenth century with the story of the twenty first century. I like the way the author included the diary of the great, great grandmother in the story. All the characters were so real that they seemed to came to life on the pages of the book and I felt as if I knew each one of them personally. All the action was so realistic that I was living it right along with the characters in the story especially the scenes that were taking place during Hurricane Katrina. Thanks to twenty-four/seven television coverage of Katina, I had lived through that part of the story and the author’s vivid descriptions brought the terror of Hurricane Katrina to life in the book. There were twists and turns in the plot and even a little suspense. Would Danny come home from the Civil War? Would River Oaks Plantation be destroyed by Hurricane Katrina? Would Camilla and Noah end up together?
I highly recommend this book to everyone that enjoys a great romantic story. This novel has two wonderful stories with one beginning in 1856 and the other beginning in 2005.
Thanks to the author, B. J. Robinson, for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
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This review was submitted by: Deanna Gottreu – please visit her website at www.buzzardsroostcrafts.com/blog