You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Lena Nelson Dooley is an award-winning author with more than 650,000 books in print. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers—where she received the Mentor of the Year award in 2006—DFW Ready Writers, and Christian Authors Network. She lives in Hurst, Texas, with her husband of over 45 years.
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A girl who’s been lied to her whole life…
On her eighteenth birthday, Margaret Lenora Caine finds a chest hidden in the attic containing proof that she was adopted. The daughter of wealthy merchants in Seattle, she feels betrayed both by her real parents and by the ones who raised her.
Maggie longs for a place where she belongs. But her mother’s constant criticism and reminders that she doesn’t fit the mold of a young woman of their social standing have already created tension in their home. With the discovery of the family secret, all sense of her identity is lost.
When Maggie asks to visit her grandmother in Arkansas, her father agrees on the condition that she take her Aunt Georgia as a chaperone and his young partner, Charles Stanton, as protection on the journey. Will she discover who she really is and, more importantly, what truly matters most in life?
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (October 4, 2011)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Seattle, Washington Territory
Margaret Lenora Caine sat in the library of their mansion on Beacon Hill. Because of the view of Puget Sound, which she loved, she had the brocade draperies pulled back to let the early September sunshine bathe the room with warmth. Basking in the bright light, Maggie concentrated on the sketch pad balanced on her lap. After leaning back to get the full effect of the drawing, she reached a finger to smudge the shadows between the folds of the skirt. With a neckline that revealed the shoulders, but still maintained complete modesty, this dress was her best design so far, one she planned to have Mrs. Murdock create in that dreamy, shimmery green material that came in the last shipment from China. Maggie knew silk was usually a summer fabric, but with it woven into a heavier brocade satin, it would be just right for her eighteenth birthday party. And with a few changes to the design, she could have another dress created as well.
Once again she leaned forward and drew a furbelow around the hem, shading it carefully to show depth. The added weight of the extra fabric would help the skirt maintain its shape, providing a pleasing silhouette at any ball. She pictured herself wearing the beautiful green dress, whirling in the arms of her partner, whoever he was. Maybe someone like Charles Stanton, since she’d admired him for several years, and he was so handsome.
“Margaret, what are you doing?”
The harsh question broke Maggie’s concentration. The charcoal in her hand slipped, slashing an ugly smear across the sketch. She glanced at her mother standing in the doorway, her arms crossed over her bosom. Maggie heaved a sigh loud enough to reach the entrance, and her mother’s eyebrows arched so quickly Maggie wanted to laugh . . . almost, but she didn’t dare add to whatever was bothering Mother now. Her stomach began to churn, a thoroughly uncomfortable sensation. Lately, everything she did put Mother in a bad mood. She searched her mind for whatever could have set her off this time. She came up with nothing, so she pasted a smile across her face.
“I’m sketching.” She tried for a firm tone but wasn’t sure it came across that way.
“You don’t have time for that right now.” Florence Caine hurried across the Persian wool carpet and stared down at her. “We have too much to do before your party.”
Of course her mother was right, but Maggie thought she could take a few minutes to get the new design on paper while it was fresh in her mind. She glanced toward the mantel clock. Oh, no. Her few minutes had turned into over two hours. She’d lost herself in drawing designs again. No wonder Mother was exasperated. She jumped up from the burgundy wing-back chair. “I didn’t realize it was so late. I’m sorry, Mother.”
Florence Caine took the sketch pad from her hand and studied the drawing with a critical eye. “That’s a different design.”
Maggie couldn’t tell if she liked the dress or not, but it didn’t matter. Designing was in Maggie’s blood. Her grandmother was a dressmaker who came up with her own designs instead of using those in Godey’s Lady’s Book or Harper’s Bazar. And, according to Mother’s sister, she never even looked at a Butterick pattern. Aunt Georgia had told her often enough about all the society women who wouldn’t let anyone but Agatha Carter make their clothing. They
knew they wouldn’t be meeting anyone else wearing the exact same thing when they attended social events in Little Rock, Arkansas. Not for the first time, Maggie wished she could talk to her grandmother at least once.
With the news about people being able to converse across long distances with something called the telephone, someday she might talk to her that way. But Maggie wanted a face-to-face meeting. Knowing another dress designer would keep her from feeling like such a misfit. Mother kept reminding her that she didn’t really fit the mold of a young woman of their social standing in Seattle. At least, Daddy let her do what she wanted to. She didn’t know what she’d do without him to offset Mother’s insistence, which was becoming more and more harsh.
According to Aunt Georgia, the business Grandmother Carter started was still going strong, even though her grandmother had to be over sixty years old. Maggie planned to go visit her relatives in Arkansas, so she could tour the company. She hoped her journey would happen before she was too late to actually meet Agatha Carter. Her deepest desire was to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps, since she had inherited her talents.
The sound of ripping tore through her thoughts. Aghast, she turned to catch her mother decimating her sketch. She lunged toward the paper, trying to save it, but Mother held the sketch just out of her reach.
“What are you doing?” Tears clogged her throat, but she struggled to hide them.
Dribbling the tiny pieces into the ornate wastepaper basket beside the mahogany desk, her mother looked up at her. “Just throwing it away. You had already ruined it anyway.”
Anger sliced through Maggie’s heart, leaving a jagged trail of pain. She still wanted to keep the sketch. She could use it while she created another. Her plan was to ask her father to help her surprise Mother. The design would set off her mother’s tall stature and still youthful figure. She planned to ask him for a length of the special blue satin brocade that would bring out the color of Mother’s eyes. The dress would make Mother the envy of most of her friends when
the winter social season started in a couple of months. Now she’d have to begin the drawing all over again. So many hours of work and her dreams torn to shreds.
“Darling.” That syrupy tone Mother used when she was trying to make a point grated on Maggie’s nerves. “When are you going to grow up and forget about your little pictures of dresses?” Little pictures of dresses? The words almost shredded the rest of Maggie’s control. She gripped her hands into fists and twisted them inside the folds of her full skirt.
They’d had this discussion too many times already. She gritted her teeth, but it didn’t help. In a few days she would be eighteen, old enough to make decisions for herself—whether her mother agreed or not.
She stood as tall as her tiny frame would allow her. “Those aren’t just ‘little drawings,’ Mother. I am going to be a dress designer.” The icy disdain shooting from her mother’s eyes made Maggie cringe inside, but she stood her ground.
“Margaret Lenora Caine, I am tired of these conversations. You will not become a working girl.” Mother huffed out a very unladylike deep breath. “You don’t need to. Your father has worked hard to provide a very good living for the three of us. I will not listen to any more of this nonsense.”
Maggie had heard that phrase often enough, and she never liked it. Mother swept from the room as if she had the answer to everything, but she didn’t. Not for Maggie. And her sketches were not nonsense.
She tried to remember the last time she pleased her mother. Had she ever really?
Her hair was too curly and hard to tame into a proper style. And the hue was too red. Maggie wouldn’t stay out of the sun to prevent freckles from dotting her face. She could come up with a long list of her mother’s complaints if she wanted to take the time. She wasn’t that interested in what was going on among the elite in Seattle. She
had more things to think about than how to catch a husband. Maggie wanted to get married someday. But first she would follow her dream. Become the woman she was created to be. That meant being a dress designer, taking delight in making other women look their best. If it wasn’t for Grandmother Carter, Maggie would think she had been born into the wrong family.
The enticing aroma of gingerbread called her toward the kitchen. Spending time with Mrs. Jorgensen was just what she needed right now. Since she didn’t have any grandparents living close by, their cook and housekeeper substituted quite well in Maggie’s mind. She pushed open the door, wrinkling her nose and sniffing like the bunny in the back garden while she headed across the brick floor toward the cabinet where her older friend worked. “What is that
Mrs. Jorgensen turned with a warm smile. “As if you didn’t already know. You’ve eaten enough of my gingerbread, for sure.”
Pushing white tendrils from her forehead, the woman quickly sliced the spicy concoction and placed a large piece on a saucer while Maggie retrieved the butter from the ice box. Maggie slathered a thick coating on and watched it melt into the hot, brown bread. “Here’s something to drink.” Mrs. Jorgensen set a glass of cold milk on the work table in the middle of the large room.
Maggie hopped up on a tall stool and took a sip, swinging her legs as she had when she was a little girl. Mother would have something else to complain about if she saw her. That’s not ladylike and is most unbecoming. The oft-spoken words rang through Maggie’s mind. But Mother hardly ever came into the kitchen. Mrs. Jorgensen met with
Mother in her sitting room to plan the meals and the day’s work schedule.
“This is the only place in the house where I can just be myself.” Maggie took a bite and let the spices dance along her tongue, savoring the sting of spices mixed with the sweetness of molasses.
“Ja.” The grandmotherly woman patted Maggie’s shoulder. “So tell me what’s bothering you, kära.”
Tears sprang to Maggie’s eyes. “Why doesn’t Mother understand me? She doesn’t even try.”
She licked a drip of butter that started down her finger, then took another bite of the warm gingerbread. Heat from the cook stove made the enormous kitchen feel warm and cozy, instead of the cold formality of most of the house.
Mrs. Jorgensen folded a tea towel into a thick square, then went to the oven and removed another pan of the dessert. “What’s the bee in her bonnet this time?”
Maggie loved to hear the Scandinavian woman’s quaint sayings. “She won’t consider letting me continue to design dresses.”
Maggie sipped her milk, not even being careful not to leave a white mustache on her upper lip. “I’ve drawn them for our seamstress to use for the last five years. As many of them have been for Mother as for me. And she’s enjoyed the way other women exclaimed over the exclusive creations she wore. I don’t understand why she doesn’t want me to continue to develop my artistic abilities.”
“Your father is a very wealthy man, for sure.” The cook’s nod punctuated her statement. “Your dear mother just wants what is best for you.”
“Why does she get to decide what’s best for me?” Maggie felt like stomping her foot, but she refrained. That would be like a child having a tantrum. She would not stoop that far now that she was no longer a child. “Soon I’ll be eighteen. Plenty old enough to make my own decisions.”
“Yah, and you sure have the temper to match all that glorious red hair, älskling.” She clicked her tongue. “Such a waste of energy.” After enjoying the love expressed in Mrs. Jorgensen’s endearment, Maggie slid from the stool and gathered her plate and glass to carry them to the sink. “You’re probably right. I’ll just have to talk to Daddy.”
The door to the hallway swung open. “Talk to me about what?” Her tall father strode into the room,
filling it with a sense of power.
“About my becoming a dress designer.”
A flit of pain crossed his face before he smiled. “A dress designer?” Maggie fisted her hands on her waist. “We’ve discussed this before. I want to go to Arkansas and see about learning more at The House of Agatha Carter.”
Her father came over and gathered her into a loving embrace. “I said I’d think about letting you go. There are many details that would have to be ironed out first. But I didn’t say you couldn’t go.”
Maggie leaned her cheek against his chest, breathing in his familiar spicy scent laced with the fragrance of pipe tobacco. “I know. But Mother won’t let me. Just you wait and see.”
He grasped her by the shoulders and held her away from him. “Maggie, my Maggie, you’ve always been so impatient. I said I’d talk to her when the time is right. You’ll just have to trust me on this.” His eyes bored into hers, and his lips tipped up at the ends. She threw her arms around his waist. “Oh, I do trust you, Daddy.”
“Then be patient.” He kissed the top of her head, probably disturbing the style she’d worked so hard on this morning.
Mrs. Jorgensen stopped slicing the gingerbread and held the knife in front of her. “I thought you weren’t going to be home for lunch, Mr. Caine.”
“I’m not. I’ve only come by to pick up my beautiful wife. We’ll be dining with some friends at the Arlington House hotel downtown.” He gave Maggie another hug and left, presumably to find her mother.
“Would you be wanting another piece of gingerbread, kära?”
Maggie shook her head. “I don’t want to ruin my lunch. I have some things I need to do. Can I come back to eat a little later?” She hoped her father could prevail against Mother’s stubborn stance on the question of a trip to Arkansas.
Mrs. Jorgensen waved her out the door. “You’re probably not very hungry after that gingerbread.”
Maggie went into the library to retrieve her sketch pad, then headed upstairs to her bedroom. She wanted to get the drawing on paper again before she forgot any of the details. She pulled her lacy panels back from the side window and scooted a chair close. With a few deft strokes, she had the main lines of the dress on the thick paper. Then she started filling it in. As each line appeared on the drawing, she felt an echoing movement in her spirit. Deep inside,
she danced through the design as it took shape, much faster than the first time. She was so glad she could recall every detail.
While she drew, her thoughts returned to Grandmother Carter. Everyone said she took after her grandmother . . . everyone except Mother. Why isn’t she happy about my talent?
Maggie wandered through her memories, trying to recapture how it was when she was a little girl. She remembered Mother playing with her when they lived in the smaller, but comfortable house in Oregon City. They didn’t have servants then, but the three of them laughed and enjoyed life together. Then for some reason, her mother had started talking to her father every chance she got about moving to a larger place. Now that Maggie looked back on those memories, she realized that her mother seemed almost frantic to get away from where they lived, as if something were wrong with the town. Maggie never understood why.
She couldn’t have been more than five years old, but some of the events stood out. The hurry to leave town. The long trip. For quite a while after that, she missed playing with her friends. And she didn’t make new ones when they arrived. No other small children lived in the neighborhood. Even when she started school, she stayed to herself. She had been shy as a young girl.
After they moved to Seattle and her father bought one of the empty buildings and opened Caine Emporium, Mother changed. She became more distant, almost cold. She was no longer the laughing woman. If Maggie didn’t know better, she’d think something made Mother bitter. Maybe that was one reason she wanted to design this special dress. To brighten her mother’s life. Bring back the woman who sometimes flashed through her memory at odd times, making her long for the warmth she had luxuriated in as a small child. Finally, the drawing met her approval. Just in time to eat lunch. Maybe this afternoon she could finish the other sketch with the changes to make the dress more appropriate for her mother than herself.
Once again the kitchen welcomed her, and she enjoyed eating there with Mrs. Jorgensen. If Mother had been home, they would have had the meal in the formal dining room, complete with china, crystal, and silver. Such a fuss for an ordinary day.
“Margaret.” Her mother’s voice rose from the foyer below. “I’m home.”
Looking at the names of people she’d placed on the invitation list, Maggie finished writing Charles Stanton’s name and put the pen down. “Coming, Mother.”
She rushed out of her room and stood at the top of the staircase. “Did you want me?”
“Yes, dear. I thought we could get some shopping done this afternoon.” Her mother still wore her gloves and cape.
“Is it cold?”
Mother nodded. “It’s a bit nippy, so wear something warm.” “I’ll get my things.” Maggie hurried back to her room and gathered a light jacket, a handbag, and her gloves. When she arrived in the foyer, Mother stood tapping her foot
impatiently. “I had hoped we could buy most of the things we’ll need today.”
Maggie bit her tongue to keep from reminding her that she wasn’t the one who had frittered away so much of the day. If Mother wanted to go shopping, why didn’t they do it earlier? She could have gone along for the lunch with Daddy. But evidently Mother preferred spending time with Daddy instead of her. She took a deep breath and followed her mother to the coach sitting in front of the house. Mrs. Jorgensen’s son, who was their driver, stood beside the open
door, ready to assist them into the conveyance.
“Erik, please take us by the Emporium.” Mother took hold of his hand as she stepped up into the vehicle.
Maggie followed suit. “Why are we going to the store? Are we going to shop there?”
The door snapped shut, and Erik climbed into the driver’s seat. “I forgot to get money from your father when we were at lunch.” Mother settled her skirts as the coach lurched forward. “I believe your father is signing papers with young Charles Stanton this afternoon. It will be nice to see him again. Did you add him to your guest list?”
Maggie nodded, a faint blush coloring her cheeks. She hadn’t seen Charles since she was about sixteen, but she still remembered the girlish secret infatuation she’d had when she was younger. He’d been so handsome, and kind too. Would he be changed since he’d graduated from university? She would soon find out. She settled back into the carriage seat, suddenly looking forward to the afternoon’s events.
The book arrived pretty late so I haven't had a time to read it yet but I've heard some wonderful things about this book and I plan on getting to it this week. At that time I will add my review to this post and I will make a separate post that is only the review! :-)