Please join me in welcoming Valerie Fraser Luesse to the blog today to share some fave scenes & a playlist from her new novel, Under the Bayou Moon!
UNDER THE BAYOU MOON
GENRE: Inspirational Historical/Southern Fiction
RELEASE DATE: August 3, 2021
Restless with the familiarity of her Alabama home, Ellie Fields accepts a teaching job in a tiny Louisiana town deep in bayou country. Though rightfully suspicious of outsiders, who have threatened both their language and their culture, most of the people in tiny Bernadette, Louisiana, come to appreciate the young and idealistic schoolteacher as a boon to the town. She’s soon teaching just about everyone–and coming up against opposition from both the school board and a politician with ulterior motives.
Acclimating to a whole new world, Ellie meets a lonely but intriguing Cajun fisherman named Raphe who introduces her to the legendary white alligator that haunts these waters. Raphe and Ellie have barely found their way to each other when a huge bounty is offered for the elusive gator, bringing about a shocking turn of events that will test their love and their will to right a terrible wrong.
A master of the Southern novel, Valerie Fraser Luesse invites you to enter the sultry swamps of Louisiana in a story that illuminates the struggle for the heart and soul of the bayou.
five favorite scenes from under the bayou moon
by Valerie Fraser Luesse, author of Under the Bayou Moon
Ellie Fields Arrives in New Orleans
On her way to a new teaching position in tiny Bernadette, Louisiana, young Alabama schoolteacher Ellie Fields allows herself a stopover in New Orleans, which she has never seen before. I put my own experience with the French Quarter into Ellie’s response:
. . . she marveled at the plaster walls in shades of yellow, burnt orange, red, and forest green, with weathered old shutters hanging just enough askew to show they’d lived a life. Scrolled black wrought iron framed upper balconies where hanging baskets bursting with ferns, begonias, and periwinkle spilled sweet potato vine all the way down to the sidewalk. Mysterious garden gates, tucked into alleyways, conjured notions of romantic assignations in the hidden courtyards that lay beyond.
Raphe Broussard Takes Ellie Home in a Pirogue
After their first supper together, Raphe and Ellie have an unusually honest exchange for two people who just met. First Raphe tells her how he lost his family and then asks why she left hers to come to Louisiana:
(Ellie) “Because I was tired of everybody telling me who I was and what I was supposed to be. . . . Because I couldn’t breathe in Alabama anymore. What about you? Are you happy in Louisiana?”
He looked up at the silvery sky as he thought about it. “No,” he finally said, looking back at Ellie, “but I’m home.”
I love writing for men of few words. I write characters like Raphe with one finger on the delete key.
Ellie Attends Her First Saturday Night Dance in Bernadette
She is surprised to learn that Raphe is a fine fiddle player—and not so surprised so see that Heywood can expertly work the dance floor:
Heywood seemed blissfully unattached, as if he could twirl in and out of your life as easily as he could spin first one woman and then another around the dance floor. Whoever he held in his arms at the moment, always at just the slightest distance . . . had his undivided attention and unabashed admiration, but his interest ended with the music as he shifted his attention from one partner to the next, never looking back.
My dad says Heywood is his favorite character. He calls him “ole Heywood.”
Ellie Enlightens the New School Superintendent
Newly appointed Boone Strahan, son of crooked senator “Big Roy” Strahan is just his father’s pawn, but Ellie senses a good heart in Boone and tries to reach him about the injustice of punishing Cajun children who slip back into their native French at school:
“ . . . how can we sleep at night when we’ve made innocent children so afraid of school that they stop eating and sleeping and they cry all the way to class? How do fear and shame help us in the great march forward? How have fear and shame ever helped any child?”
Boone looked up at Ellie. She had struck a nerve. “Fear and shame can cripple a child,” he said.
I first wrote Boone as a loyal puppet to his father. But he was boring that way. The more heart I gave him, the more important he became to the story.
Raphe Shows Ellie and Heywood Thornberry the Legendary White Alligator
Stories about the white gator with sapphire eyes abound in the bayou, but no one has actually seen it—except Raphe. On a nighttime boat ride, he takes Heywood and Ellie deep into the swamp, to the alligator’s hiding place:
[Raphe] pulled [Ellie] toward him until she sat in front of him on the seat of the boat, shaking. He put his arms around her and held her against him as Heywood peered into the night, hoping, no doubt, for one more glimpse of the most extraordinary vision they would ever share together, fleeting but undeniably real. The three of them were joined now and always would be. Without uttering a sound, they all knew it.
I can’t remember when I first stumbled onto a picture of the leucistic alligator, which has blue eyes and almost no pigment. But the minute I saw it, I knew I had to put it in a story.
Here’s a little music to take you to the bayou . . .
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.
Revell is offering a print copy of Under the Bayou Moon to THREE of my readers! (Us only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? What makes you want to read Under the Bayou Moon by Valerie Fraser Luesse?