Hester Wyatt was born as a slave, because her father, originally a free man, sold himself into slavery to be with her mother. When she was born, her mother severed part of her finger to make her more easy to identify, and Hester was found and taken in by her aunt Katherine, who taught her to read and write and raised her as her own. Now she lives in her dead aunt’s house, a valuable member of Michigan’s Underground Railroad. One night, she’s asked to hide a badly injured man. She discovers that he is “the Black Daniel”, one of the most wanted members of the Underground Railroad. To hide him could put her in danger, and yet she doesn’t hesitate.
“The Black Daniel” is actually Galen Vachon, a member of one of the free black families in New Orleans. He doesn’t deal well with being hurt and having to stay hidden during his convalescence, and Hester finds him rude and deeply disagreeable at first. She also refuses to believe him when he claims to have been betrayed by someone in her little town. As Vachon recovers, his mood improves, not to mention his behaviour towards Hester. He’s amused by her primness and innocence and her steadfast faithfulness to her fiancee, even though she admits their relationship is purely platonic. When he leaves, having recovered enough, Hester doesn’t think she’ll ever see him again.
She’s wrong, of course. Galen, unable to forget the formidable little woman who tended him at his lowest, buys a big house in Whittaker, the town Hester lives in, and proceeds to try to win her heart. His quest is made easier by the fact that her platonic fiancee returns from England already married and seemingly madly in love with his young bride. He keeps lavishing Hester with gifts and attention, while trying to root out who the traitor in the area is. More on my blog.