The year is 1934. With the country in the stranglehold of drought and economic depression, Ella Barron runs her Texas boardinghouse with an efficiency that ensures her life will be kept in balance. Between chores of cooking and cleaning for her residents, she cares for her ten-year-old son, Solly, a sweet but challenging child whose misunderstood behavior finds Ella on the receiving end of pity, derision, and suspicion.
When David Rainwater arrives at the house looking for lodging, he comes recommended by a trusted friend as "a man of impeccable character." But Ella senses that admitting Mr. Rainwater will bring about unsettling changes.
However, times are hard, and in order to make ends meet, Ella's house must remain one hundred percent occupied. So Mr. Rainwater moves into her house...and impacts her life in ways Ella could never have foreseen.
The changes are echoed by the turbulence beyond the house walls. Friends and neighbors who've thus far maintained a tenuous grip on their meager livelihoods now face foreclosure and financial ruin. In an effort to save their families from homelessness and hunger, farmers and cattlemen are forced to make choices that come with heartrending consequences.
The climate of desperation creates a fertile atmosphere for racial tensions and social unrest. Conrad Ellis -- privileged and spoiled and Ella's nemesis since childhood -- steps into this arena of teeming hostility to exact his vengeance and demonstrate the extent of his blind hatred and unlimited cruelty. He and his gang of hoodlums come to embody the rule of law, and no one in Gilead, Texas, is safe. Particularly Ella and Solly.
In this hotbed of uncertainty, Ella finds Mr. Rainwater a calming presence. She is moved by the kindness he shows other boarders, Solly...and Ella herself. Slowly, she begins to rely on his soft-spokenness, his restraint, and the steely resolve of his convictions.
And on the hottest, most violent night of the summer, those principles will be put to the ultimate test.
From acclaimed bestselling author Sandra Brown comes a powerfully moving novel celebrating the largess and foresight of a great bygone generation. It tells a story that bears witness to a bittersweet truth: that love is worth whatever price one must pay for it.