Cordelia Barlow is a bright, energetic girl growing up on a plantation in Middle Tennessee. Losing her mother before the age of two, Cordelia seeks affections and approval from her nursemaid, Mammy Cilla. Her father, Judge Absalmon Barlow, is often away from the plantation, leaving the rearing of his daughter to his aging sister, Eugenia. Cordelia spends her youth playing with the slave children on the plantation, something her aunt tries to discourage. When her father brings home a new mother, life as Cordelia knows it will forever change. She is sent away to a boarding school in Nashville, Tennessee, where she spends the next seven years. At the age of 18, she is summoned home by her stepmother. Her father has suddenly died, and the home that she grew up in has been sold. It is then that Cordelia learns she can no longer depend on the arms of her mammy, Cilla, to make things all right. A faded name on a tattered scrap of paper will take Cordelia to the doorstep of her mother’s sister, Willow Ashby, in Columbia, Tennessee, at the onset of the Civil War. From there, the reader will follow Cordelia through the years of the war and the occupation of Columbia by the Yankees. As she learns the true meaning of love, she will also learn the answer to a family secret buried with her mother.