Even though the last book took place in the early 1900s, this one takes us all the way back to the Civil War. Amy Pierce is on her way to New Orleans to live with her mother's cousin, Angelica Fear, as well as Angelica's husband Simon Fear. Amy's own father was injured in the War, her mother went to be with him, and it's way too improper for a young woman to live on her own. She arrives and meet her cousins Hannah and Julia. Angelica also introduces her to Nellie, one of the servants.
Hannah is pretty much your spoiled little rich girl, while Julia isn't as pretty but much nicer. Angelica goes out of her way to give Hannah anything she wants and makes a big deal out of her at the same time ignoring her other daughter. Nellie talks an awful lot but seems pretty nice. Julia stops by that night and warns Amy to never open her door at night, no matter what she might hear. She explains that she once saw a servant disappear into a fog. Her parents told her it was just a dream, but the next day she found part of a bone in the hallway.
Angelica also offers to read Amy's fortune with her tarot cards. She explains that it's impossible for them to contact her parents but that she can use the cards to see what the future holds. When Amy attempts to hold the cards, each one flies up into the air and around her, which causes her to freak out and run away.
While hanging around outside, she hears a women crying out and finds their neighbor clinging to a terrace as a water moccasin tries to attack. Amy grabs a hoe and absolutely goes to town on the sucker, turning it to a pile of mush. The woman introduces herself as Mrs. Hathaway, and Amy briefly meets the woman's son David. He was injured in the war and wears both an eye patch and a sling.
Mrs. Hathaway invites Amy over for tea, and she winds up meeting David and blurting out that she thinks he shouldn't hide from his eye patch. They bond and get along really well, which makes it awkward when Angelica tells her to stay away. According to her, David escaped a Union prison by killing a guard and now has a taste for killing.
Cut to some big random dance. Hannah goes on and on about how handsome David is and how she should be the one going to the dance. Angelica even tells her daughter directly in front of Amy that she might actually be prettier than her older cousin. Amy previously gave Julia her old charm bracelet for luck, and Julia gives it back to her in the hopes of it bringing her luck that night.
Angelica spends some time with this rich and snotty girl named Chantal. Chantal has the hots for David and keeps whining about him dancing with this girl named Bernice. Angelica deliberately pushes Amy out of the conversation and goes on and on about how David and Chantal would be absolutely perfect together. David then comes over and asks Amy to dance, leaving them both speechless.
When David goes to get her a drink, a fire breaks out. Amy discovers the cause of the fire is poor Bernice as the woman rushes at her while literally on fire. Her hair and face actually begin melting away before Amy can get a blanket to smother the flames. David later comes to her and tells her that he was so worried when he couldn't find her, and they both admit that they are in love. Right as she gets home, something falls in front of her.
That “something” was poor Nellie. Her face gets obliterated by the pavement and to make things even worse, she actually lives for a few minutes before finally dying. And to make things even more worse, Amy discovers that Nellie fell out of her own bedroom window when she heads upstairs and finds the window shattered. Julia pretty bluntly tells everyone that she saw Nellie fall by her own window.
Amy and David begin sneaking off to see each other, but Angelica finds out about them. He unexpectedly needs to leave town for awhile and tells her to meet him in a certain spot on a certain day when he gets back. When she gets there, he never shows up. She does, however, have a vision of someone drowning Chantal and David being the one pushing her under the water.
When they all head to the beach the next day, Amy literally stumbles over the poor girl's dead body. Angelica tells her to take the kids and go, but when she turns around, she sees the woman dabbing a handkerchief in her blood and putting in her pocket. She then has a vision of Mrs. Hathaway dying and rushes to her house. Just as the woman is about to fall down the stairs, David comes out of nowhere and saves her. Amy tells them everything she saw and tells David that she loves him.
She also learns from Julia that Angelica keeps burning the letters that her mom sent and lying, saying that she never got any mail. Amy sees Angelica talking to David one night after he leaves and things get weird. Angelica gets all dark and shouts at him. She and David decided that they need to get away.
Before they can really do anything though, it's All Hallows Eve. Angelica claims that she had the servants take the kids for the day, so they could spend some time alone together. That really means that she wants to feed Amy to her undead minions or something like that. This random column of smoke suddenly appears that is filled with faces of dead people, and she pushes Amy at it while claiming that if only the poor teenage girl was evil like her then she wouldn't have to do this.
Amy starts to give in but then fights back. White flames appear out of nowhere and spread across her body. The flames keep moving and eventually cause Angelica to fall down the stairs and the smoke column to completely disappear. Amy runs to tell David what happened, but he simply grabs her and carries her back. It turns out that Angelica has the power to make him do anything she wants.
As he carries her, Amy keeps telling him who she is and how much she loves him, but he can only hear Angelica. That changes when Amy pulls out his family's ring, which he gave her as a promise of what they would have in the future. Instead of shooting Amy with the gun Angelica gives him, he turns it around and shoots Angelica. As she lies on the ground and wails, Amy and David leave.
The book then cuts to the two of them leaving town with Mrs. Hathaway. She asks if they really need to leave or if there is another solution, but they both tell her this is the only option. Amy wonders aloud about Julia and feels sorry for her, but David tells her that she needs to move on because the Fears have her now. Nice. Amy then pauses to look back and watches as the Fear Mansion grows smaller and smaller in the distance...
*So Julia is actually a nice kid born into the wrong family and clearly nothing like her mother or older sister. It totally makes sense for them to just leave her behind.
*Angelica tried to keep David and Amy apart because she had him “reserved” for Hannah. Yes, her daughter who isn't even old enough to go to dances but is somehow old enough to be with a guy old enough to fight in the war. Creepy. Also, Angelica made it clear that he was only a passing fad and that she would get rid of him as soon as Hannah grew tired of him.
*These books are so gruesome so far! Nellie literally has one eyeball pushed back into her skull, the other one is flapping in the breeze, and the skin on her face is either in flaps or scraped off.
*The Pierce women have magic in them, which is why the tarot cards worked for Amy. Angelica kind of makes it seem like they all use dark magic though...