What happens when you keep a secret? The answer forms the spine of Pamela Morsi's The Cotton Queen, a tale of a mother and daughter over the course of 40 years. Tragically widowed Babs Hoffman manages to rally and face the world on her own with her young daughter, until a horrific experience forces her into a series of choices that have long-reaching consequences. In prose as soft as a Southern river, The Cotton Queen traces the lives of women through the second half of the 20th century, and explores, with Morsi's trademark humanity and grace, the complexities of the mother-daughter bond. Barbara Samuel, who joins BookPage this month as romance columnist, writes novels from her native Colorado. Her latest book is Madame Mirabou's School of Love.