NPT: Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.
AURORA: Thank you! I’m always happy to talk. About anything.
NPT: All right. Then let’s start with your beautiful name. Why do you think you were given that name? Does it mean anything special?
AURORA: Well, in mythology, Aurora was the goddess of the dawn, announcing the arrival of the sun. My sisters tease me by calling me the “Princess of Rainbows” because I’m a bit of an optimist. All right, I’m a lot of an optimist. They also call me “Pete,” for unknown reasons. Maybe it’s easier to pronounce than Aurora.
NPT: Tell us something about where you live.
AURORA: I live on the outskirts of Tupelo, Mississippi, at Daughtry House Hotel, which I own with my two sisters. Daughtry House was once our family plantation, Ithaca, until the War Between the States took both our parents, leaving us floundering for a way to support ourselves. Turning the Big House into a hotel was my oldest sister Selah’s idea. We hired former slaves to help renovate and staff the place, and it has been a thrilling enterprise. Some of our neighbors still think we’re crazy—in fact, we’ve fought off attacks by local and out-of-state racists.
NPT: Tell us how you view your sisters. We’ve interviewed them both, with mixed results. Selah was unforthcoming, even cryptic. Joelle was a bit more communicative, though we got the impression she’s uncomfortable with attention.
AURORA: Both those assessments are accurate. Selah is used to being in charge, and can come across as bossy and protective. She recently got married to a Pinkerton agent named Levi Riggins, whom I absolutely adore. Our middle sister, Joelle, is now engaged to our business partner, Schuyler Beaumont. I don’t like to brag, but my sisters can thank me for facilitating their romances. Neither one is very socially adept. I, on the other hand, was reared by my grandmother to be a gentlewoman and hostess, as my mother was before the war destroyed everything.
NPT: I imagine social skills come in useful in the running of a hotel.
AURORA: Indeed they do. But I’m not just a giddy belle. Growing up in a a doctor’s household in Memphis, a city under Union occupation, prepared me for the hard cold realities of life. Some people don’t take me nearly seriously enough.
NPT: That is an intriguing remark. Are you thinking of some particular person who treats you lightly?
AURORA: Well, there is a certain federal lawman who has come to Tupelo to assist in the trial of local Klan terrorists. Deputy Marshal Sager seems to be under the impression that I’m some fragile Southern flower who can’t defend or think for herself. I’m working on disabusing him of that notion.
NPT: Oh really?
AURORA: Yes. It’s not his fault. Once he gets to know me better, he’ll realize how much he needs a steady feminine influence in his life. Like I told him—brains and creativity, not hardware!
NPT: It sounds like a fairly combustible situation. What do you expect the future will hold for you and the Deputy Marshal?
AURORA: Zane seems to worry about some bad man he crossed during the war coming after me. And he can’t believe I can overlook a minor physical deformity like a missing eye covered by a very intriguing patch. But I know a hero when I see one. And I believe God has got miraculous things in store for both Zane and me. Mark my words.
NPT: Miss Aurora, you seem to be a young lady of remarkable courage and faith. Either that, or you are in for a very rude awakening. Or possibly both. Thanks for allowing us to get know you a little better, and we wish you and Deputy Marshal Sager all the best.
AURORA: Wait a minute, what did you mean by—
NPT: I’m sorry, but we’re out of time. Perhaps you’ll stop by and let us know how things turn out. If you survive.
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 Bride, The Creole Princess, The Magnolia Duchess, and A Rebel Heart, and A Reluctant Belle. 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.