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"Come on, boy. Your dad needs you."
Daniel looked up from his exam in disbelief, certain his father would never pull him out of this test. But a grim-faced Joe Manzetti stood in the doorway of the classroom, trails of perspiration streaking through the soot on his face. Being summoned to fix the aging equipment at the steel mill was a regular occurrence for Daniel, but it wasn't going to happen today.
"I'll be there in an hour," Daniel said as he glanced around the classroom, noting the glares of resentment among the other students competing for the same scholarship. They all had the advantage of decent schools and private tutors, while Daniel's only knowledge of engineering came from tinkering with the equipment in the steel mills of Baltimore's east end.
"There's been an accident and your dad is trapped," Manzetti said. "You need to come right away." The blood drained from Daniel's face. Everyone at the steel mill knew what this test meant to him and would not have summoned him for anything short of a life-and-death catastrophe. He threw his pencil down and shot up from his seat, not even glancing at the proctor as he bolted from the room.
"It was a boiler explosion," Manzetti told him as they left the school and ran across Currior Street. "They've put out the fire, but your dad was trapped by the tank that got blown off its base. He's still pinned beneath it."
Daniel broke out into a sweat. There would have been tons of steam if the boiler tank had been blown out of its brick encasement, and his father's entire body would have been scalded. "How badly was he burned?"
"It's not good, boy. We can't get the canister off him until the fire tubes are disabled. The boiler was mangled in the blast, so we need to do some quick work before the pressure makes it blow again."
And that was why they'd summoned Daniel. Anyone could operate those boilers under normal circumstances, but when the equipment broke down they relied on Daniel to figure out what was to be done. He was only nineteen years old, but he'd always had a knack for tinkering with machines to make them work better or do something different.
His legs were trembling after sprinting the two miles to the mill, a stitch clawed at his side, and his lungs were barely able to fill, but the workers parted as he and Manzetti entered the boiler room. Clouds of steam and soot still hung in the air, bricks were strewn everywhere, and on the concrete floor, crumpled beneath a massive copper boiler, Daniel's father lay sprawled like a broken doll.
His father's eyelids flickered. "Fire tubes still attached," the words rasped from his father's throat. "Be careful, lad."
Daniel glanced at the twisted fire tubes and the ruined boiler. Soldering the tubes closed would work, but it would take hours. He had to think of another way to disengage the tubes before they could lift the boiler from his father, or there would be another explosion.
"I need a sledgehammer and a steel pin," Daniel said. "Get a couple of valve clamps and some leather gloves," he added, his gaze fixed on the white-hot fire tubes. A wave of murmurs passed through the workers who circled the site of the accident, but a few of them ran to get the tools. There was no time to explain the unconventional solution that was taking shape in his head. He wasn't even sure it would work, but trying to disable those fire tubes directly would be suicide. "And I'll need a lot of water ... just in case." Stupid to worry about it, since he and his father would both be killed instantly if this didn't work.
The men brought the equipment to him, and the assembled workers began pulling back to a safe distance. A tremor ran through his father. "You know what you're doing, laddie?"
Daniel didn't meet his father's eyes, just placed the steel pin against the first of the mangled fire tubes, the heat so fierce it penetrated his thick leather gloves. "Yup," he said with more confidence than he felt. "Just like pricking the crust on one of Mom's pies to let the steam out," he said as he positioned the sledgehammer atop the pin. The first whack did nothing other than send a shrill ping through the air. Neither did the second, but the third blow pierced the pipe, and the escaping steam sent out a high-pitched whistle. Daniel reared away from the burning steam. "Clamp down the safety valve," he yelled over the noise. Two workers moved in, arm muscles bulging as they wrenched the equipment into place. It took a minute, but the pipe lost pressure, and the whistle lowered in pitch and then fell silent. The fire tube was disabled.
A smattering of applause came from behind him, but Daniel didn't tear his gaze from the ruined mass of the boiler. There was still one more pipe to disable. Sweat rolled into his eyes and he brushed it away with a grimy forearm before he set the next pin into place.
"Want you to know ... proud of you, boy," his father said.
Daniel kept his eyes fastened on the fire tube. He wished his father wouldn't talk like that, like this might be the end. "Yeah, okay," he said, keeping his gaze steady on the task before him. He struck the first blow at the remaining fire tube. It was a good, solid blow, as was the second. On the third blow the high-pitched whine began.
An instant later the pressure burst in the tube and shot the pin free and straight into Daniel's face. He was hurled backward and crashed to the ground, blood pouring from a cut across his brow. The roars of approval from the men signaled he had succeeded in disabling the fire tube.
Daniel grinned as he pushed into a sitting position, barely able to see through the sting of blood in his eyes. A dozen men were pushing bricks out of the way, lifting the copper boiler up a few feet. He couldn't see his dad because of the cluster of workers surrounding him.
Then a worker with a soot-stained face walked over and squatted down to look directly at Daniel. A hand clamped him on the shoulder. "I'm sorry, boy. Your dad is dead."
* * *
This is probably the prettiest place I've ever seen, Daniel thought as his gaze drifted past the cemetery walls to roam over the tree-shaded lawn and a church that looked like a medieval castle. Clara's father was the minister of this church, which was the only reason Daniel's father could be buried in a nice neighborhood like Bolton Hill. Daniel didn't know how much it cost to bury a person, but he gathered it was expensive, and he should be grateful that Reverend Endicott was letting his father be put to rest in such a fancy place for free.
Daniel turned his head so he could see Clara from his one good eye. She was standing on the other side of his father's grave, and her heart-shaped face winced every time she looked at him. Daniel cursed the patch covering his bad eye. He might end up being blind in that eye, but the swelling was still so bad the doctor had not been able to get a good look at it yet. Anyway, he knew his face looked horrible and it bothered Clara. She was only sixteen, and this sort of thing really ripped her up.
As they lowered his father's casket into the freshly dug hole, Daniel tightened his arm around his mother's narrow shoulders and wished her weeping would stop. He and his mother shared the same black hair and gray eyes, but that was where the resemblance ended. For three days his mother had done nothing but alternate between despondent stares and gut-wrenching sobs, whereas Daniel had been too busy taking care of the girls to let grief catch up to him. At least he could sometimes cheer up his sisters, but he had been a complete failure at trying to ease his mother's hollow-eyed pain. He would have to figure out what to do about that, although all he could concentrate on now was how badly he wanted to see Clara. Guilt tore at his insides for even thinking such a thing, but just for a blessed few hours he needed to be with Clara.
When the ceremony came to an end, people began to wander away from the grave site. If he didn't catch Clara, she would go back to her father's house and he wouldn't see her again for another week. Clara was his best friend, but running off to see her when his family needed him was shameful.
And the real reason he wanted to see her was even worse.
The day before the accident, Clara sent him a message saying she was learning a piece by Frederic Chopin, the Polish composer they both idolized. If it weren't for their mutual love of Chopin, Daniel would never have met a person like Clara Endicott. He lived in Baltimore's grubby east side, while she came from the privileged world of Bolton Hill, an enclave of manicured lawns, clean air, and old money. They came from entirely different worlds, but they bought music at the same shop in Merchant's Square. Every Tuesday a shipment of sheet music arrived from Paris, and he always raced to the store after his shift to see if there was anything by Chopin he didn't already have. Five years ago, just after his fourteenth birthday, he had arrived at the shop to learn that an entire batch of newly delivered Chopin scores had been sold to a young lady. He finagled Clara's name out of the clerk and paid a call to her house that very evening.
It didn't seem odd to him, seeking out a fellow enthusiast of the great Chopin. What could be more natural than wanting to meet someone else who shared his immense passion for the composer? It wasn't until he saw Clara's house, an imposing mansion set back an acre from the street, that he realized he was stepping into a very different world. Nevertheless, he straightened his shoulders, knocked on the door, and asked to see Miss Clara Endicott. He was surprised to see that Clara was merely a girl, not even twelve years old. She was a skinny little thing with hair like spun gold and wearing a frilly dress so white it made his eyes hurt just to look at it. Still, she adored Chopin, so that meant there must be something worthwhile underneath all those ridiculous hair ribbons.
"Hello, my name is Daniel Tremain. I hear you like Frederic Chopin, and I think we should meet."
"You like Chopin, too?" The joy that lit her face was as though Santa Claus had stepped onto her front porch.
From that day on, they had been inseparable. Over the next five years Daniel spent every moment he was not at the steel mill beside Clara as they worked through the various Chopin ballades, études, and sonatas. Before meeting Clara, the only piano Daniel had access to was the out-of-tune upright in the public school. He was entirely self-taught, but Clara had the benefit of private lessons and had helped him improve his technique. Even better, Clara had access to the instruments in the Music Conservatory across the street from her father's church, and Daniel became proficient on the cello, as well.
He looked across the stretch of cemetery to see Clara being pulled by her brother, Clyde, toward a waiting carriage. Daniel gritted his teeth in frustration. He needed to see Clara, and her brother could be so irritating. Ever since he became friends with Clara, Daniel had been hearing about Clyde's accomplishments. Clyde went to Harvard, Clyde won an award from the Smithsonian ... on and on it went. Clyde had the best education money could buy, while Daniel was stuck shoveling coal into a furnace.
Daniel sprinted across the lawn toward Clara, reaching her just before she stepped up into the carriage. "Clara, wait!"
She whirled around. Her face was a mask of concern and her lower lip was trembling. "Daniel, I'm so sorry about your father," she said as she laid a hand on his arm.
"Never mind that. I need to speak with you."
And he didn't need an audience. He tugged Clara a few feet away, but like a watchdog, Clyde's eyes narrowed and he raised his chin. "Not too far, Tremain," he warned.
Daniel threw an annoyed glare at Clara's brother. It should not be a surprise that Clara's family was starting to become suspicious of him. For years he had been hanging around their house so much they had practically accepted him into their family, but Clara was starting to come of age. He pulled her a few feet away from the carriage.
"Do you have sheet music for the nocturne?" he asked in a low voice. He ought to be roasted alive for even thinking about music at a time like this, but for the life of him, he just wanted to get his hands on that Chopin nocturne so he could forget about steel mills and funerals and his mother's shattered face. Music could do that, create a magical oasis where nothing else mattered except hearing the next line of the score.
Clara looked hesitant. "I've got it, but my father is hosting a political conference all week. They will be using the Music Conservatory for meeting rooms, so we won't be able to play."
Being shut away from music for another week was unacceptable. This had been the worst few days of his life and he needed to escape. Daniel glanced over his shoulder. His mother was waiting for him with that desperate look of anxiety. In another moment she was going to break down again.
"Meet me at the Music Conservatory tonight," he whispered to Clara. "I'll figure out a way to get us in and we can play there."
Clara looked as though he'd asked her to set a house on fire. "We can't break into the Conservatory. It's against the law!" But the way she bit her lip and clasped her hands let him know that she wanted to do it, even if she couldn't muster the courage.
"Don't be such a rule follower," he said. "Meet me at midnight outside the Conservatory. And don't forget the sheet music."
Without a backward glance, he dashed back to his mother, knowing Clara would not let him down. His mother's thin frame stood before him, and along with her came years of responsibilities. Even if he was lucky enough to someday have another shot at a college scholarship, there was no way he could leave his family without income. He'd have to figure out how to pay the crushing weight of bills that would accumulate quickly now that his father was dead, and do his best to support what was left of his family. For a while he had dreamed of a chance for college and a better future, but that was over. Now his life was going to be lived inside the stark brick walls of a steel mill.
But for a few hours tonight, he would escape into a magical world of music, and that was enough to keep him going for now.
* * *
Clara clutched the sheet music to her chest, her eyes fastened on the ground before her feet as she scurried toward the Music Conservatory at the top of the hill. The glow from the moon made it easy to see as she cut through the backyards of her neighborhood. She hated to admit it, but she was still a tiny bit afraid of the dark. Sneaking around like this was simply awful, but it would be worse to abandon her best friend when he needed her.
Clara reached the end of the street and could see the Conservatory plainly in the moonlight. The Music Conservatory, a rambling gothic monstrosity of a building with a few practice rooms and an oversized auditorium for performances, belonged to the city. She and Daniel used the practice rooms every chance they got, and her fondest memories were here while they played Beethoven and Chopin and sometimes even their own fledgling compositions. Normally the Conservatory was a haven for her, but tonight it loomed like a ghostly fortress in the moonlight. She had no idea how they would get into the locked Conservatory but knew Daniel would find a way. He could do anything.
She dashed across the street, her heart pounding and her palms sweaty. She would feel better once Daniel got here and told her to quit being such a sissy.
She heard a low chuckle behind her. "The way you're hunched over that sheet music, you'd think an army of Pinkerton's agents were hot on your trail." She whirled around to see Daniel step from behind the sycamore trees, radiating that supreme sense of confidence he seemed to effortlessly possess. A smile broke across her face. Only seconds ago she had been scared to pieces, but Daniel could always ease her pathetic worries.
"I already popped the lock on the back door," Daniel said. "Let's go."
He must have been here for a while, because Daniel had already set up the cello beside the piano. "Do you want to play Chopin or try composing something?" Clara asked. For the past few months they had been writing their own music, Daniel on the cello and Clara on the piano.
"Let's play Chopin. I don't want to have to think too much tonight."
She was afraid he was going to say that. "Well, there's a problem with the cello part," she said. "It's written in a different key than the piano."
Daniel took the cello score from her and made quick work scanning the lines. "Not to worry. I can transpose it to the higher key as we play."
Excerpted from The Lady of Bolton Hill by Elizabeth Camden Copyright © 2011 by Elizabeth Camden. Excerpted by permission of Bethany House Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted August 20, 2011
This was an interesting read; maybe a bit hard to classify topic wise. Even though the book's cover might indicate a purely romantic nature, I'd say it's a mixture of action, mystery, and politics with a dose of love story to soften things up. Those are pretty substantial themes to conquer in a little over 300 pages but, for the most part, it works.
We start out with a little back history into the relationship between our protagonists, Daniel and Clara. Their friendship as teenagers, built upon a mutual love for music and composition, has flourished despite social class barriers until an unexpected tragedy forces them apart. Twelve years later, Daniel and Clara find themselves brought back together yet not under the best of circumstances. She has just left prison and he is embroiled in legal/business dilemmas that threaten to undo his company's hard earned profits. No longer poor, Daniel still feels the need to prove himself to Clara while also holding onto a long held vendetta from the past. So caught up in his anger and need for vengeance, he is not the same man Clara remembers from her childhood. But can she uncover the Daniel she knew before it's too late?
I love historical fiction and The Lady of Bolton Hill is a nice addition to the genre. The writing was excellent, descriptive without being wordy, and has a certain finesse that speaks of intelligence. I also found the bits of humorous dialogue sprinkled throughout delightful, without being annoyingly cliched. The only thing that seemed a bit heavy handed was the biblical aspect. Clara came across too preachy at times, spouting off scripture at every turn to anyone who would listen. (Or even those who did not want to listen.) A few times, I wanted to yell across the pages for her to back off and tone it down so as not to further irritate those she was addressing. An incident that comes to mind is right while Daniel's house is being destroyed, Clara can't just let him come to grips with the horror of it unfolding before his eyes. Instead, she gets in his face to lecture him some more and then has the nerve to tell him it's only things he is losing, despite the fact some of those "things" are quite meaningful to him. Not the best time to be saying something like that if you have any trace of sensitivity. It was so obnoxious, my mouth was gaping open. If someone ever did that to me, I would be furious. Talk about adding insult to injury!
In short, I suppose Clara was the weakest link in the story for me. I just found her attitude holier than thou quite a bit of the time which ultimately made it hard for me to root for her. I actually enjoyed the few times Daniel, or anyone else, managed to put her in her place...until she slipped her way out again to bible thump some more. However, despite all of Clara's pressuring, I liked that Daniel didn't immediately convert his views to placate her but that it was a gradual process, a dawning of sorts. That seemed realistic, which is what I appreciate most in inspirational fiction. The character of Bane was one of the more interesting ones and I was intrigued to learn what made him tick. By the end of the story, I was pulling for him and wishing for more details about his life pre and post Clara. Possible sequal for Bane? Hint hint...
Despite a few quibbles, I look forward to reading Mrs. Camden's next story and think The Lady of Bolton Hill was a very good debut novel. The author is definitely talented, with an engaging s
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Posted June 9, 2011
I'll let the back cover blurb speak for itself. This review is not a synopsis of the plot.
Clara Endicott is a reporter, the daughter of a well-off, influential pastor in 1870's Baltimore. Danial Tremaine is the son of a steel worker killed in a horrible accident, bent on revenge against the mill owner. Wrong side of the tracks romance; done to death, right? Elizabeth makes it fresh!
There's a good suspense thread throughout, though it is light. This is a historical romance, not a suspense. The secondary character of Bane is very intriguing. Clara shows herself a true Christian, that she's not just talk.
The writing throughout is more formal than I'm used to seeing in modern historical romances. But it worked. Well. Very evocative of the year it takes place in. The speech patterns, while stilted to modern ears, are exactly the way the people spoke back then.
It also covers another aspect that many historical writers ignore: Unions. The unions of Baltimore play a crucial role in the plot. I was very pleasantly surprised. Unions have been in the news an awful lot this year.
The passion that binds Clara and Daniel together is music, specifically Chopin. I love it when historical authors use "contemporary" composers in their books.
There's also a strong thread of redemption throughout the story, and how God will go to whatever lengths it takes to rid us of our idols. Daniel's idols are his inventions, his patents, his thirst for revenge. Sometimes threads like that can be overdone or melodramatic, in my opinion. Not this one. The entire progression was believable and never once made Daniel seem less of a man. He remained committed to his goal throughout, and allowed God to change that goal. That's a real man!
3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 18, 2011
I absolutely loved The Lady of Bolton Hill. The mystery and intrigue in the story was a surprise. Throughout the second half of the book I was anxious to know the out come of certain situations with a mysterious character so I was having a very hard time setting it down for any reason.
It was very well written and the characters stole my heart from the beginning. Elizabeth has a wonderful flair for writing that makes you want to follow the charcters into the book. I do hope that a couple of the secondary male characters in this book will have their own story. I think their stories would be just as wonderful as Clara and Daniel's.
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Posted June 28, 2011
In the debut from Elizabeth Camden, as teenagers Clara Endicott and Daniel Tremain were in love. Clara grew up at Bolton Hill as the a preacher's daughter, but grew up to a journalist. Her love Daniel grew poor, as his father worked at a steel mill. After Daniel's father dies in a tragic accident, Clara leaves for England. Over the next twelve years, their lives go in different directions. Clara's journalism career is going strong, while Daniel has become a railroad tycoon. Circumstances occur causing Clara to leave England and is reunited with her long-lost-love. Daniel has changed since the last time they met. He is now a bitter man, wanting vengeance for his father's death, and his faith in God has been lost. Daniel's actions soon put Clara in mortal danger.
The Lady of Bolton Hill is an historical novel set in 1879 and spans England and the United States, and emerges in the booming technology era of the railroad. Unlike other Christian novels, the two main characters are already in love, and develops more on a plot than relationships. I, personally, had trouble getting interested in the novel. I couldn't connect to any of the characters, which at times they felt a little bland. I did enjoy the historical accepts of the railroad boom, and Clara's profession. It's not a bad debut for the author, but I, overall, have mixed feelings for the novel. I would only recommend this book to other historical romance readers/fans.
2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 10, 2012
Posted August 10, 2011
This book was a fairly typical Christian historical romance, and indeed the author did not disappoint in that area. It's always comforting to read a romance where there is excitement, a strong female, a dashing rogue, and plenty of tension. And add to that--nothing inappropriate in the least. After all, it is Christian!
I did find myself drawn into the story, but I cannot say I loved any of the characters. Clara and Daniel were fine, but I was not enthralled with them. Sometimes I even found Clara a little annoying. She was a Christian, and I had no trouble with her Christian views, but I felt that she didn't live in reality. The story got a little far-fetched for a historical romance at times, but to the author's credit, she did allow some bad things to happen to the characters.
I was not terribly impressed with how the Christian views were woven into the story. At times, it seemed a little forced, and I get tired of Christian authors feeling they need to force the entire gospel message into a book. If it a Christian novel, then the Christian views of the book should be woven seamlessly into the story line. The thing that did impress me was the view that was stated concerning suicide. I was quite pleased to read that, and I felt that author took a risk that really worked in that area. I applaud her for that!
In conclusion, if you are up for a story that is a light historical read with a basically engaging story and a strong Christian message, give this book a try.
I was provided a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. All opinions are 100 percent mine, and I was not financially compensated in any way.
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Posted January 7, 2014
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Posted August 29, 2013
I loved this book. I couldn't put it down. It had humor, passion, and faith weaved throughout. It reminds the reader that unforgiveness is destructive and costly. Elizabeth Camden is a gifted author and I will definitely purchase more of her books.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 23, 2013
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Unique and unexpected action
for those of you who enjoy some mystery added to your romances...
Innovative debut from Elizabeth Camden, featuring action, adventure,mystery, inspiration, along with romance.
in addition to the gorgeous cover!
I look forward to further offerings from Ms Camden.
Posted August 11, 2012
Posted July 26, 2012
Clara and Daniel had lived worlds apart for more than a decade. It was obvious from the beginning [and I can't imagine this is a spoiler...] that they were meant for each other – they’d just have to overcome the obstacles to getting there.
I love the journalistic aspect of Clara. Perhaps because I’ve watched a few too many Superman movies and love Lois Lane. Perhaps because I have friends in the newspaper business. Perhaps because I like to write. Whatever the reason, I loved it .
The chemistry between Clara and Daniel was wonderful as were the secondary characters and the setting. I was able to visualize their locations especially as the plots came to a climax.
The subplots were interesting, opium and music. What more does one need?
Overall rating: 7.5 out of 10 stars
Thanks to Ms. Camden and Bethany House for an influencer copy.
Posted July 8, 2012
I enjoyed the female character but the male lead was a bit annoying by the conclusion of the book. There were unexpected twists in the story that diverges the book from the typical Christian romance book. A good read and it held my interest.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 29, 2012
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Posted February 18, 2012
Posted February 13, 2012
This is a typical "rags to riches" type story, but is an enjoyable read. The characters are fairly well developed, as is the plot line. It is a comfortable, easy book to read and it's not going to instigate any serious thinking, though it might prompt some research into child labor laws of the late 1800s and early 1900s. It is very obvious that faith is a central part of the life of the main character, Clara Endicott, though it is not overwhelming for the reader. It's great to see a romance played out with no sex.
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Posted February 11, 2012
Wow, I really liked this book. I've never read anything by this author before. I'm looking forward to buying my next book by her. I didn't think I would like it, but I did. I am currently reading it. I have about 50 pages left to read & can't wait to see how it ends.
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Posted February 10, 2012