It’s May 1653. When young Frederica (Freddy) O’Brennan and her sister Aileen trust a stranger on an empty beach in western Ireland, they inadvertently place themselves in the crosshairs of Cromwell’s notorious Reign of Terror. Freddy awakens in the crammed hold of a slave ship bound for Barbados. She and Aileen endure the gruesome voyage only to be wrenched apart when purchased at auction by sugar plantation owners from different islands. Freddy is left alone to face the brutal realities of life as a female Irish slave on a seventeenth century Barbados plantation. As she struggles to survive the ordeal, Freddy’s harrowing experiences paint an intimate, compelling portrait of 1650s Irish and African slavery in the Caribbean.
Freddy O’Brennan is a high-spirited fourteen-year-old Irish beauty whose full name is Frederica. Freddy’s mam, a typical 1600s Irish Catholic mother, worries about her daughter’s tomboy ways as well as her boyish nickname. The inimitable Freddy is much closer to her father. She has Da’s black, curly hair, bright green almond-eyes, and rosy complexion.
Freddy also has his warm, unruly nature.
On the family farm in County Kilkenny, Ireland, she works the fields alongside Da. Then she dons boy’s breeches for wild rides through the countryside on her beloved horse, Firewind – a gift from her father. The lanky, muscular Freddy spends most of her free time with Firewind, a handsome Gypsy Cob.
When big trouble comes, Freddy’s strength, intelligence, and courage serve her well. She and her younger sister Aileen are spirited away to a filthy slave ship and ultimately sold into slavery in Barbados. This is 1653 Ireland, where Cromwell’s notorious Reign of Terror is in full force.
Sold to the highest bidder, separated from her sister, and far from her beloved homeland, Freddy must face life as a female Irish slave on a seventeenth century Barbados sugar plantation. Amidst the island’s treacherous beauty, she must bear her drunken English Master using her as not only a kitchen drudge but his own personal sex slave and, later, a breeding slave.
A heartsick Freddy is forced to dig deep inside herself to protect her young spirit from being broken. She struggles to survive rape, degradation, beatings, and the harrowing spectacle of her Irish countrymen being flogged and starved to death. Her impulsive, hot-tempered ways could get her tortured and killed. When angered, she is fearless. Freddy must learn to control herself as she never has before.
She also learns to lean on her powerful friendships with fellow slaves – especially the Native American kitchen slave with whom she works long hours in the plantation cookhouse. The two women risk severe punishment by sneaking supplies to the suffering field slaves.
Eventually Freddy braves much more serious threats for the sake of love and loyal friendship.
In her heart she struggles with intense anger and bitterness about being stolen from her loving family. It is her biggest secret. Freddy is horrified by the murderous rage that boils inside her. Deeply ashamed, she cannot bring herself to tell anyone about her violent temper – except God and a priest friend.
Freddy hates slavery, injustice, and prejudice. She loves her children, Ireland, Firewind, freedom, her family, her friends, her African mate, and the Church. Her greatest fear is that her children will be taken from her. Freddy also fears her own capacity for violence. She does not want to become a hateful person.
Freddy develops into the fiercest sort of protective mother. In the end, it is for her sons Laurie and Kofi that she summons the strength to maintain her sanity and her wits. Determined to keep her family together, she joins forces with two friends to navigate a choking gauntlet of greed, corruption, duplicity, and bloody violence.