Beth White has a love triangle, assassinations, and the upheaval
that occurred during the Reconstruction Era in the US. Readers
are transported to the time period. Through the character’s
banter and dialogue, White is able to lighten the somber and
Showing the injustice, the story delves into how freed slaves
struggled to negotiate their new lives. Those that supported
them in the white community had to face bitterness, resentment,
and even violence as the KKK came into prominence. These acts
of aggression included secretive gatherings, church burnings,
and beatings. The heroine, Joelle Daughtry, wants to help
the freed slaves by teaching them to read and write, standing
up to those in the town and her church, who want to restrict
their education. She also, using a male pen name, writes her
opinions about slavery, building schools for slaves, and voting.
The other piece of the story has the hero, Schuyler, readjusting
his views after his father, a moderate Southerner, running
for political office, is assassinated. Wanting to find out
who is behind this he enlists the help of Joelle's brother-in-law,
Levi Riggins, who is a Pinkerton agent, joins up with the
local Ku Klux Klan even though he considers them abhorrent,
and takes over the candidacy of his late father.
“I wanted to write how some white planters geared up
the fear factor by claiming armed free slaves would rise up
and take over the Southern economy and property. Being educated
would give them the thoughts to do it. This is how the KKK
started, and then intimidation kicked in with more and more
violence. They saw the freed slaves as non-functioning human
beings who are terrible citizens. Joelle thought the direct
opposite that education would give the freed slaves the tools
needed. The central spine of the book is the tension of those
opposing agendas. This is why I put in the book quote, that
if Joelle taught the freed slaves to read and write ‘they
may participate in and contribute to society that has, for
the bulk of their lives, demanded everything of them and returned
The love triangle is between Joelle, Schuyler, and Reverend
Gil, who recently asked Joelle to marry him. She accepted
on impulse and soon after regrets her decision. He expects
Joelle to lose her independence and be the typical Southern
Belle, staying at home to do women’s chores, with her
duties to serve him as his wife. She starts to see him as
weak and not aligned with her views. On the other hand, Joelle
and Schuyler feel an attraction to each other, but do not
act on it in the beginning, in part because they like to push
each other’s buttons.
Joelle is independent, intelligent, and compassionate, while
Schuyler has a tenderness and a happy go lucky attitude before
his dad died. Together they fight injustice to help others.
White noted, “I wanted to show how Schuyler grows from
a privileged boy to a responsible adult with mature morals,
ideals, and a sense of right/wrong.”
The author describes Joelle as “an introvert and a dreamer.
She has a rigid moral center, and as a middle child, she sometimes
feels hopeless and low. She never likes to go back on her
Any fan of historical fiction will find this story engrossing.
The humor was a pleasurable break from the intense storyline.