Bitchery reader Donna writes in with enough details that someone will pull the title and author out of thin air within moments, I bet:
It is (more than likely) a Zebra book from 1988 to 1993. Took place in the South on (I think) a cotton plantation. Hero is bastard son of the rich plantation owner. Rich plantation owner let him live in the slave area and be raised. Once old enough, the Hero became the overseer of the plantation. But rich plantation owner has another “legal” son who is a few years younger than the Hero. Of course, he is the villian.
Okay, rich plantation owner dies, leaving legitimate son the owner. Of course, both the bastard hero and the legitimate son hate each other (as it always goes in these stories). Okay, legitimate son is about to marry and they are having a party at the main house – celebrating engagement. I do remember the heroine was being given away by her older sister and older sister’s husband because parents were dead.
But before the party, I remember this scene. Legitimate son is taking heroine around in a wagon and showing her the vast plantation. They come upon the bastard Hero. Of course, he is shirtless and sweaty and she cant’ take her eyes off of him. And I remember a slave being bitten by a cotton mouth snake and running and screaming toward the bastard Hero. He, of course, saves her by cutting the snake (which was still attached) to her back ankle. Then he explains that they are normally poisonous snakes, but the slave has such rough and thick skin on the back of her ankle – and by having that it prevents the poision from hurting her, etc.
Okay, that scene with the snake bite really has nothing to do with the plot, but it always stuck out in my mind.
Okay, at the party – Ballroom too hot (I guess) so heroine goes out for fresh air and runs into bastard overseer. But she has no idea who he is. He (wanting to take her virginity in order to spoil her for his brother) almost successfully seduces her. But legitimate brother comes out and discovers them just in time.
Heroine marries legitimate son. Even though bastard hero didn’t take her virginity, the villain legitimate son still thinks she is “used” and “dirty” because he touched her. So, of course, he abuses her (beating her with a riding crop) for the few years they are married.
Then something happens and he disappears and she thinks he is dead.
Meanwhile, Hero bastard son has become wealthy somehow. And (for reasons that escape me) he kidnaps the Heroine’s sister, her husband, and their children. I guess he is using it as a ploy to get the heroine.
I don’t remember what transpires, but he gets heroine in his mansion (she doesn’t realize it is the shirtless overseer that she has been secretly dreaming about for years). Apparently he looks different, so she doesn’t recognize him.
Anyway, I do remember she makes him vow that he will not touch her. So in one scene he takes his riding crop and trails it up her leg and inner thigh. She reminds him that he isn’t supposed to touch her. Then he counters, “I’m not touching you, the riding crop is.” She angrily pushes it away, not willing to play his little game. And, of course, the riding crop brings back terrible memories of her husband beating her with his.
At this point, she still doesn’t know they are half brothers.
Blah blah blah, they fall in love. But the villain (legitimate son) husband isn’t dead. He comes back somehow. Okay, I guess they kill him. I don’t remember.
Does any of this ring a bell with any other bitches?
Half brothers, riding crops, and hot ballrooms? That’s a giant saga of holy crap right there. Anyone know it?