Meet Raphe Broussard from Valerie Fraser Luesse’s Under the Bayou Moon

Welcome to Novel PASTimes! We are pleased you stopped by today.

Bonjour. 

You’re French?

Cajun. My ancestors were French Canadians.

Tell us something about where you live.

It’s a small cabin on Bayou Teche—not the main channel but a little tributary. Our town is called Bernadette, after St. Bernadette’s Catholic Church, which was here before I was. My family has lived in Louisiana for generations. Mamou—my grandmother—used to say the cypress trees were watching over the Teche during Bible times. I don’t know if that’s true. I just know they’re beautiful, especially early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the sunlight is softer. That, mon ami, is a sight that will shake your soul.

Is there anything special about your name? Why do you think you were given that name?

My name is Raphael Broussard. I’m named after my great-grandfather, but only Mamou called me Raphael. To everybody else, I’ve always been Raphe—probably suits me better. I never thought too much about it until she—Juliet—asked me. There are many things I never thought about before Juliet came here.

Do you have an occupation? What do you like or dislike about your work?

I am a fisherman. But it’s hard now to make a living on the water, especially since I took in my nephew. He’s just a child, and children need so many things. I would never want him to do without because I couldn’t provide. My father taught me his skills as a mechanic before—well—before he was taken from us. So I travel to Morgan City to repair the big shrimpers. The money’s good. But it’s lonely work. The docks are loud, and the boats are hot. Can’t smell anything but fuel and fish. Makes me long for the peace and quiet of the bayou.

Who are the special people in your life?

There’s my nephew, Remy. He’s a good boy, but his parents put their selfish desires ahead of their own flesh and blood—the worst kind of betrayal. I worry that Remy will carry those scars with him all through his life. It’s up to me to see that he heals, but sometimes I don’t know if I can. What do I know of fatherhood? My sister Kitty gives me all the help she can, but she’s got a family of her own now, so I try not to call on her unless I’ve got no choice. Kitty and me, we grew up with a houseful of brothers and sisters. Now there’s just the two of us. I have friends here, most of them from the bayou but one who isn’t. His name is Heywood Thornberry and he works the oil rigs. He turned up in Bernadette a while back, looking for somebody to show him the ways of the Teche and the Atchafalaya so he could fish and take his pictures. Heywood loves that camera of his. We’re more like brothers than friends. And then there’s Juliet. But I can’t talk about her.

What is your heart’s deepest desire?

To find my missing piece. To feel whole again. To make a life with—well—I’ve said enough.

What are you most afraid of?

Finding what I’m missing and losing it again.

Do you believe the legend of the white alligator? Is it real?

That’s for you to decide. And it’s for me decide. You either see the alligator or you don’t. But this much I can tell you: Destroy it and you’ll destroy yourself.

Thanks for joining us today!


Valerie Fraser Luesse is the bestselling author of Missing Isaac, Almost Home, and
The Key to Everything, as well as an award-winning magazine writer best known for
her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently senior travel
editor. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse
received the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society for
her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana. A
graduate of Auburn University and Baylor University, she lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband Dave.

Meet Emily Hodge from David Armstrong’s new novel, The Rising Place.

NPT: Welcome to Novel PASTimes, Emily. We’re so happy you could join us today.

EH: Thank you. It’s a true pleasure to be here.

NPT: Before we get started, I just have to say that you are such a strong, spiritual woman. Where did your deep faith in God come from?

EH: I was always blessed with a strong faith in God—particularly in His love for us. It’s something I’ve never questioned.

NPT: Was this faith instilled in you from your parents, growing up?

EH: No, not really. I was raised Catholic because my father was Catholic. My mother was Methodist, though, so they never went to church together. In later life I became a Methodist.

NPT: Why was that?

EH: That’s something I’d rather not talk about. I don’t think it matters which religion you identify with. All that really matters is our faith in God and our love for and forgiveness of other people.

NPT: Fair enough. Okay, then, let’s change subjects. You just mentioned “love for other people.” You had such an amazing and abiding love for Harry Devening, but he never loved you back. This is such an enigma to me. How could you—

EH: Sorry, I don’t mean to cut you off, but I believe Harry did love me. He just never knew how to show it, or maybe how to even feel it.

NPT: I’m confused here. Harry never answered any of your love letters to him. In the end, he even returned all of them to you, unopened. Don’t you consider that “unrequited love?”

EH: I can certainly understand why you would think that, but don’t you recall that precious letter Harry wrote to our little boy, shortly before his birth? Surely, you could see the love Harry expressed for both our child and me in the words he wrote?

NPT: I don’t mean to offend you by this, “Miss Emily,” if I may call you that, but….

EH: Sure, that’s what I was called in later life.

NPT: Author Stephen Chbosky wrote: “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Do you think, perhaps, this applies to Harry?

EH: Possibly. Yes, possibly so. Actually, I’ve thought that before, several times. I never met Harry’s parents or his two older sisters, but from what Harry told me about his childhood, I don’t think there was a great deal of love in their home.

NTP: When was that? When did Harry tell you this?

EH: When I boarded a train from Hamilton, Mississippi to go visit Harry in Gary, Indiana, toward the end of the book. We spent four, wonderful days together.

NPT: And…?

EH: And then I took another train back to Hamilton.

NPT: So, why didn’t you stay up in Indiana with Harry?

EH: Harry begged me to stay with him, to start all over, try to make it work between us. He claimed he always loved me; he was just afraid to show it, even admit it. He also said it was the greatest mistake of his life—not returning my love. By then, though, my love for Harry was gone—only a memory—sort of like a distant dream I had had, once when I was young. Plus, my friend Wilma Watson was engaged in a great struggle for justice and civil rights, down in Hamilton. Wilma was my best friend. I had to go home to help her.

NPT: Miss Emily Hodge, you are such an intriguing and enigmatic character. I wish I had more time to visit with you. I’m just glad your lawyer found your letters and shared them with the world. Otherwise, we would have never known your beautiful story.

EH: Thanks. I’m glad David did, too.

NPT: Before we close, I do have one more question, though: Who was that “gray-haired stranger” in the Prologue who attended your service and placed a yellow rose on the top of your child’s grave? Was it Harry Devening or Streete Wilder?

EH: How do you know it wasn’t Will Bacon? After all, he loved me, too.

NPT: Point well made. I guess readers will just have to decide for themselves who that was. Speaking of readers, is there any thought or message you’d like to leave with them?

EH: Yes. Always live in the rhapsody of your own music. I did, and that’s what I’m most proud of.

NPT: Thank you so much for visiting with us, today, Emily Hodge.

EH: You’re welcome. And thank you.

About the Book:

The Rising Place is based on an interesting premise: What if you found a box of love letters, written during World War II by an old maid who had just died—would you read them? And what if you did and discovered an incredible story about unrequited love, betrayal, and murder that happened in a small, Southern town over seventy years ago? After a young attorney moves to Hamilton, Mississippi to practice law, one of his first cases is to draft a will for Emily Hodge. “Miss Emily” is a 75-year-old recluse who is shunned by Hamilton society, but the lawyer is intrigued by her and doesn’t understand why this charming lady lives such a solitary and seemingly forgotten life. When Emily later dies, the lawyer goes to her hospital room to retrieve her few possessions and bequeath them as she directed, and he finds an old sewing box full of letters in the back of one of her nightstand drawers. He takes the letters back to his law office and reads them, and he soon discovers why Emily Hodge lived and died alone, though definitely not forgotten by those whose lives she touched.

About the Author:

David Armstrong was born and raised in Natchez, Mississippi. He is an attorney, former mayor, and former candidate for the U.S. Congress. The Rising Place is David’s second novel. His third novel, The Third Gift, will be released this summer. David has also written four screenplays. He is the father of two grown sons and lives in Columbus, Mississippi, where he is the COO for the city of Columbus. His website iswww.therisingplace.com, and his novel is available on Amazon, as is the DVD of the film that was based on his book.

Meet Aurora from A Reckless Love by Beth White

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 BrideThe Creole PrincessThe 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.