All about Joelle from Beth White’s A Reluctant Belle

Name:           Joelle Daughtry

Parents:       Jonathan and Penelope Daughtry. Both my parents are deceased. Mama died as a result of injuries inflicted by renegade Union soldiers during the War Between the States. Papa was killed in a fall from the cupola of the Big House. He was not in his right mind.

Siblings:       My elder sister Selah (my best friend) married the Yankee Pinkerton agent Levi Riggins, who turned out to be a nice man after all. My younger sister Aurora, raised by my grandparents in Memphis, has come home to help run the hotel and try to turn me into a belle.

Places lived:           I spent most of my life at Ithaca Plantation, Tupelo Mississippi. Briefly, after my mother’s death near the end of the War, I lived with my grandparents in Memphis.

Jobs:             Anonymous op-ed columnist for The Tupelo Journal; publicist and co-manager of Daughtry House Resort Hotel.

Friends:       Besides my sister Selah, who has always been my closest companion, I’ve come to love and appreciate my former slave, Charmion Vincent.

Enemies:     Schuyler Beaumont. Just—I have no words for the emotions Schuyler brings out in me.

Dating, marriage: Gil Reese has been pestering me to marry him for over a year, though I’ve known him longer than that. I do not want to be a minister’s wife. Besides, he has fallen in love with my face, but he has no idea who I really am.

Children:     I think I might want children someday. I enjoy teaching. But having children would involve getting married, and I’d have to give up my independence (see the above question). No, on second thought….

What person do you most admire?    I truly admire my sister Selah. She doesn’t let circumstances control her, but she prays and seeks wise counsel before she takes action. That is a tricky balance that I’m still trying to negotiate.

Overall outlook on life:  I believe God put each of us on earth for a purpose. Sometimes I think I know what that purpose is; sometimes I feel like I’m looking at the world through a confused fog. Ultimately, though, I trust God to give me direction and courage at the time it’s needed.

Do you like yourself?      What an odd and fascinating question! Why does it matter whether I like myself? I’m stuck with this façade that others consider beautiful, when I know I’m just as weak and sinful as anyone else on the inside. And every time I open up to communicate, I wind up feeling like a giant freak! On the other hand, I appreciate that I was given a good mind and sisters who love me. They may laugh at my “giant vocabulary,” but they accept my tendency to daydream and make sure I get enough to eat.

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life?  I suppose I’d like to look “normal” for one day. People stare at me because I’m extremely tall, and I hatethat! And I would love to have the ability to talk to other people at a party without getting tongue-tied.

How are you viewed by others?          You know, I think people are entirely too aware of what others think. That’s one of the things I’m most impatient with myself about. Why should I assume that people are looking at me with anything but indifference? It’s just that I hate being laughed at. Schuyler laughs at me, which is the main reason he gets under my skin. And I’ve heard people talk behind my back, saying that I’m “stuck up” about my looks. What if they knew how terrified I am of talking in crowds—of producing those “what language is she speaking” looks???

Physical appearance:      Oh, dear. Here we go. A couple of inches shy of six feet tall. Curly red-blonde hair, fair skin that flushes easily under embarrassment, tendency to dress in whatever is most comfortable and closest to hand. Big feet and large hands.

Eyes:             Bright blue.

Hair:             Strawberry. Generally worn in a messy knot on top of my head.

Voice:            Soprano, but a bit throaty. I like to sing.

How would you describe yourself?    Quiet, introverted, creative. I like to read, write, sing, paint and play the piano. I don’t much like people in general.

Fears:            Crowds.

What people like best about you:       I have a strong sense of justice, and I try not to judge people on first meeting. I’m a loyal friend.

Interests and favorites:

Food, drink:           I’m very fond of cat-head biscuits with fig preserves.

Books:          Oh, mercy. Mrs. Alcott’s work is so much fun! I also love Jane Austen’s comedies. But honestly, I’ve hardly met a book I didn’t like in some respect.

Best way to spend a weekend: In the cupola. With a book and a cup of tea. Alone.

What would a  great gift for you be? A book!

What makes you angry?            There is much injustice in the world, especially here in the South, where freedpeople are struggling to negotiate their new lives. There is growing bitterness and violence. It makes me both angry and scared.

When are you happy?     I’m happy when I’m reading, and when I’m teaching someone to read. And when I’m hearing a fine pianist like my brother-in-law.

What makes you sad?     I’m sad when people who call themselves Christians fail to see past skin color, when they hold themselves aloof and fail to show love in tangible ways. What iswrongwith people???

What makes you laugh?             Oddly enough, Schuyler Beaumont—as maddening as he is—is one person who never fails to make me laugh. For a shallow person, he is wickedly brilliant, and his sense of humor so absurdly droll. I can make obscure references to classical literature and ancient history and mythology, and he gets it every time.

Hopes and dreams:         I dream of moving my Negro school to a bigger, more central location and drawing students from all over the state of Mississippi. I want to train teachers who can bring education into all corners of the South. Don’t tell anyone, but I’d also like to write and publish a novel one day.

What’s the worst thing you have ever done to someone and why?    I got my favorite teacher dismissed from the boarding school Selah and I attended. I blurted out to a classmate that this teacher had been teaching us scientific facts about the human brain—facts that contradicted accepted social beliefs about the races.

Greatest success:  I’m proud of the fact that I’ve published several scholarly articles in our local newspaper, even if no one knows it was me.

Biggest trauma:    The day my mother died. During the War, Selah and I were forced to hide under the porch for hours, listening to the ransacking of our house and the violation of our mother and two house slaves. Mama didn’t survive the attack.

What do you care about most in the world?           I love my two sisters and my cousin ThomasAnne with an indescribable depth of devotion. I would do anything to protect them and provide for them.

Do you have a secret?     My identity as T. M. Hanson is a closely-guarded secret—although, I suppose it’s bound to come out at some point…

Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you:    It involves Schuyler and a bullfrog and the Ithaca bath house, and I’d just as soon not talk about it.

Beth White’s day job is teaching music at an inner-city high school in historic Mobile, Alabama. A native Mississippian, she writes historical romance with a Southern drawl and is the author of The Pelican BrideThe Creole PrincessThe Magnolia Duchess, and A Rebel Heart. Her novels have won the American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award, the RT Book Club Reviewers’ Choice Award, and the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award. Learn more at www.bethwhite.net.

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