Jake Underwood is in North Carolina from New Hampshire, to try to get into the prestigious School of The Arts. Then he meets Amber Law, a Surry county native and all-around good girl who only wants to fall in love and get married. Jake is good looking and different, a Yankee among the local Rebels - and one of those 'rebels', Ridgley Stokes, nephew of the county sheriff - hates Jake on sight. It's that Yankee versus Rebel thing.
Jake and Amber start dating, and it isn't long before she learns that there is something dark about the new boy in town: he has an extremely nasty temper. His jealous knows no bounds. Ridge is also jealous, but he's not the type to hit a woman. Jake has no compunctions about doing so. He's even jealous of actors, singers, and other men that Amber has no chance of ever meeting.
Amber can't seem to please Jake. He becomes angry over the slightest situation, whether it is Amber growing tired, of wanting to be around her girlfriends, or even wearing makeup or a certain type of clothing. She finally leaves him after a particularly vicious beating, and word gets around that Jake did it. Ridge catches Jake in the parking lot of a local honkytonk and punches him out, and before you know it, Jake has put a knife between Ridge's ribs.
Jake receives seven years for attempted murder, is released after five, and returns to Surry county thinking he's going to be with Amber for the rest of their lives. He finds out that she's now married to Ridge, and the knowledge messes up his head really badly. Nothing is going Jake's way - he can't get a good job, he's homeless, he's still got an anger problem, and the woman he worshiped from afar the past five years is now another man's wife. Armed with a gun, he storms into the house where Amber and Ridge are living...and all hell breaks loose.