New Orleans native Mademoiselle Francesca Dumas is a quadroon, a particular caste of African American women who are sought by wealthy white men. At age eighteen in the second year of the American Civil War, she is the concubine of New Orleans banker, Joachim Buisson, and leads a sheltered life of elegant gowns, lace, and lavish balls—until a bullet shatters her dream world.
While awaiting the arrival of the Union Navy among a throng gathered atop a Mississippi River levee April 25, 1862, Francesca’s lover is shot dead by her side. Rain-soaked and blood-stained Francesca vows revenge. Francesca’s passionate desire for retribution drives her into a new life as a woman sleuth. Playing detective to solve a murder mystery is far from the role of a woman in 1862 New Orleans—especially, a woman who perceives herself to be African American but appears to be white.
According to young and vivacious Francesca, “There are many rules in New Orleans about sex—written and unwritten. The rules apply to everyone—except white men.”
While miscegenation existed all over the South, arranged unions between white men and women of color existed in antebellum New Orleans society by contract in a recognized extralegal system called plaçage. Race, caste, and class are significant matters in Francesca’s life. The grieving Francesca is evicted from Joachim’s house by his parents who refuse to honor the lovers’ plaçage (concubinage) contract.
As Francesca struggles to make a principled choice between another plaçage arrangement and independence, another acquaintance is murdered and her best friend, Emily, is kidnapped.
Can rookie detective Francesca’s passion, determination, and wit overcome a kidnapper and three-time murderer?