A Mississippi plantation. A southern belle. A Union officer. The turmoil of the Civil War rips a country asunder as lives are transformed.
Alice Caldwell is young and in love in the midst of the raging war that disrupts her world. She hopes to soon be married when the Civil War destroys her plans, and her beau leaves to fight.
Bert Russell, a Union officer, invades her life when his wounded men are moved to Whitworth College in Brookhaven, Mississippi, and he turns it into a hospital for his soldiers. When there is not enough room for his men and the Confederate soldiers, he confiscates Cotton Grove Plantation, Alice’s home, as a hospital for his remaining men and encamps on her front lawn.
Is this novel part of a series? Tell us about the series.
Yes, this is the first-stand alone novel in the series of three historical battlefield romance novels to be published this year. THE OFFICER and the BELLE is a brand-new release. GOOD-BYE MY LOVE is scheduled for release in the fall and COME BACK TO ME will release this winter. They are all historical romance novels set in Mississippi.
tTIP: Were you good in English as a student? Did you enjoy reading and writing back then?
TIP: How do you get inspiration for your stories, plots, and characters?
B.J.: I am inspired through life experiences and nature. For instance, for THE BELLE AND THE OFFICER, I drew inspiration from the fact that my father, Edbert Russell, was born and reared in Brookhaven, Mississippi, so I decided to use his name for the hero. There were Civil War battles that took place in small towns that you won’t read much about in books. My father’s brother actually owned a cotton farm years later, and I picked cotton when he provided me with a smaller sack. He paid me twenty-five cents a bag, and I soon played out, so I didn’t make much, but I can say I’ve had the experience of picking cotton. I think I earned a dollar. Remembering this, made me want to set a novel in the small Mississippi town where their college became a hospital during the war. Until I conducted the research for this book, I had never heard about Whitworth College in Brookhaven, Mississippi.
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Excerpt From THE BELLE AND THE OFFICER:
A tall, slim officer with dark hair and brooding blue eyes barreled in the front door followed by his raging sea of men in blue. She stood to the side and looked on as the kindly old doctor tried to speak on the wounded soldier’s behalf. “Please don’t cause any problems here. We have sick, wounded, and dying men.”
“No, I don’t mean it’s good that you have sick and dying men. I mean I’m glad I’ve discovered a nearby hospital for my own injured men. As we speak Brookhaven is being captured. I’m Colonel Edbert Russell, and I’m confiscating this hospital for the Union.”
“You can’t do that. What about our soldiers?”
“I won’t turn them out. They can all heal together.” He turned and noticed her. “Nurse?”
“I assist the doctor.”
“Then please help me by preparing beds for about fifty more soldiers. I have men by the wagonload, but sadly some are beyond our help.”
Alice gasped. “I don’t know if we have fifty beds. The hospital is nearly filled with so many nearby battles surrounding us.”
“Make room. My men need and deserve help just as much as yours.”
“I’ll do what I can.” Alice strode off to see how many beds were available and wondered what he’d do if she had to report there weren’t enough. Russell. His last name is Russell. There are Russells in Mississippi, but he’s dressed in Union blue, and he’s on the wrong side. Must not be any relation to our Russells. She gave his name no more thought as she found bedding for the beds they had available and made them. She sighed. Now, she’d have to inform Colonel Russell that the hospital lacked at least twenty beds. Alice didn’t look forward to how he’d receive the information.
As blue-coated soldiers toted others into the hospital and asked where to place them, she sought out Mr. Russell. He stood in the hall speaking with the doctor and turned when he saw her approach. “Yes?”
“I’m sorry, but we don’t have fifty beds.”
“How many do you have?”
“What do you propose I do with the other twenty or so men? They all need help.” He sighed and rubbed a hand along his jawline as if in deep thought. “Is there another place that can serve as a makeshift hospital?”
“Not that I know of.” Alice twisted her hands in front of her and noticed the fire in his cobalt blue eyes and the way his blue uniform brought them out and made them an even deeper blue. She shook her head. What was she doing thinking about a pair of blue eyes? She loved a man with hazel ones. At a time like this with so many men desperately needing her help, she shouldn’t be thinking about anyone’s.
Colonel Russell stepped to the window and gazed across the street. “What’s that looming white building?”
Alice’s heart turned cold with fear. “That’s someone’s home.”