A Rebel Heart
by Beth White brings to light the Reconstruction Era with
a gripping story. It is a valuable tale of love and forgiveness
between the characters and as a nation. Readers will be sympathetic
not to the brutal plantation slave owner, but to those who
became collateral damage. White shows that during this time
period nothing is black and, but much more is grey. Three
sisters, Selah, Joelle, and Aurora Daughtry try to save their
Mississippi home after the Civil War. With the help of a Yankee,
Levi Riggins, a retired Union officer, now a Pinkerton agent,
they agree to convert the plantation to a hotel.
White noted, “I thought to make the main heroine an
improvised Southern belle who grew up on a plantation and
now years after the war’s end has a lot to lose. I wanted
to add tension to the story by making the hero a retired Union
Officer who served in Mississippi. I also had the southern
family depend on their freed slaves to help them survive.”
An early scene has drunk Union soldiers beating and raping
a Southern woman, the mother of the Daughtery daughters. White
has readers realize that many Southerners also suffered during
and after the Civil War. She presents both sides of the story,
the rebel father who is prejudiced and resents how his way
of life has been destroyed, the daughters, Selah, Joelle,
and Aurora, who want a roof over their head and food in their
stomachs, and the freed slaves who attempt to use their skills
to make a living.
The ruthless scene was based on the memoirs of Benjamin Grierson.
When I read about him I knew I had to write in this scene.
He commanded a cavalry brigade, raiding many Confederate railroad
and military facilities throughout Mississippi. Grant used
this to divert attention while he took Vicksburg. Throughout
the memoir he wrote what his men did, some of it was very
The mystery comes into play with Levi’s investigation
into several train robberies and explosions. He wears two
hats in this story. Someone seeking the perpetrators who have
slipped away near the plantation, and a hotel management agent.
His cover allows him to remain close to Selah, able to investigate
the plantation and his initial suspicions of her while pursuing
his attraction to her. The Southern and Northern gap is bridged
with the chemistry that exists between the Union officer,
Levi, and the Southern belle, Selah. She agrees to his plan
to develop the run-down estate into a glamorous hotel, completely
unaware that Levi only proposed the idea as a way to keep
his cover as he continues to search for the robbers.
The author wrote Selah “as the oldest of three sisters,
who is determined, courageous, independent, lady-like, cultured,
and tender. I think practical is her middle name. She is a
woman of her era so she is bound by certain cultural aspects.
For example, she was at a southern boarding school where she
took on Abolitionist views. But when her father found out
and told her to come home she did not argue. As she grew into
womanhood she chose to remain unmarried because she did not
want to be bound by social morals, and never wanted to surrender
her autonomy to another person. She figured out how to succeed
without compromising her own moral values and personal integrity.
I hope readers have some sympathy for her since she lost almost
“I wrote her counterpart Levi to be
courageous, brave, chivalrous, protective, and moralistic.
He fought in the Union army to abolish slavery. But he has
another side, a romanticist. This comes out in his appreciation
of music, able to play classical music on the piano.”
Readers will learn about the exploration of
the economic and social devastation in the south. Each character
had a different way of trying to rebuild their society and
life, striving to create a better future with the help of
a Yankee no less. With a plot full of action and intrigue
and many likeable characters, this novel becomes a must read.