The Lightkeeper's Ball (Mercy Falls Series #3)by Colleen Coble
At the elegant Mercy Falls masquerade ball, Olivia's hidden identity will be revealed.
It is the dawn of a new century and Olivia Stewart is heiress to an empire. Her family numbers among the Four Hundred—those considered the wealthiest and most distinguished in America. Unfortunately their wealth has nearly disappeared, and now their security rests/b>
At the elegant Mercy Falls masquerade ball, Olivia's hidden identity will be revealed.
It is the dawn of a new century and Olivia Stewart is heiress to an empire. Her family numbers among the Four Hundred—those considered the wealthiest and most distinguished in America. Unfortunately their wealth has nearly disappeared, and now their security rests upon the Stewart daughters marrying well.
Olivia's sister, Eleanor, was engaged to Harrison Bennett, one of the nation's wealthiest men, but has since died. Now the pressure is on Olivia to take her place, despite her suspicions about Eleanor's fiancé. Using her family's long-forgotten English title, Olivia travels to Mercy Falls, California, as Lady Devonworth, hoping to learn more before committing to marriage. There she finds that Eleanor's death was no accident. And Harrison is not the man she thought he would be.
When Mercy Falls holds a charity masquerade ball to raise funds for the new lighthouse, secrets—and truths long hidden—will be revealed. But can Harrison really love Olivia when he finds her true identity? Can she live with the repercussions of failing her family, or will she finally realize that nothing—not money, family, or romance—will ever compare to God's unconditional love?
Read an Excerpt
The Lightkeeper's BallA Mercy Falls Novel
By Colleen Coble
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2011 Colleen Coble
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe New York brownstone was just half a block down from the Astor mansion on Fifth Avenue, the most prestigious address in the country. The carriage, monogrammed with the Stewart emblem, rattled through the iron gates and came to a halt in front of the ornate doors. Assisted by the doorman, Olivia Stewart descended and rushed for the steps of her home. She was late for tea, and her mother would be furious. Mrs. Astor herself had agreed to join them today.
Olivia handed her hat to the maid, who opened the door. "They're in the drawing room, Miss Olivia," Goldia whispered. "Your mama is ready to pace the floor."
Olivia patted at her hair, straightened her shoulders, and pinned a smile in place as she forced her stride to a ladylike stroll to join the other women. Two women turned to face her as she entered: her mother and Mrs. Astor. They wore identical expressions of disapproval.
"Olivia, there you are," her mother said. "Sit down before your tea gets cold."
Olivia pulled off her gloves as she settled into the Queen Anne chair beside Mrs. Astor. "I apologize for my tardiness," she said. "A lorry filled with tomatoes overturned in the street, and my driver couldn't get around it."
Mrs. Astor's face cleared. "Of course, my dear." She sipped her tea from the delicate blue-and-white china. "Your dear mother and I were just discussing your prospects. It's time you married."
Oh dear. She'd hoped to engage in light conversation that had nothing to do with the fact that she was twenty-five and still unmarried. Her unmarried state distressed her if she let it, but every man her father brought to her wanted only her status. She doubted any of them had ever looked into her soul. "I'm honored you would care about my marital status, Mrs. Astor," Olivia said.
"Mrs. Astor wants to hold a ball in your honor, Olivia," her mother gushed. "She has a distant cousin coming to town whom she wants you to meet."
Mrs. Astor nodded. "I believe you and Matthew would suit. He owns property just down the street."
Olivia didn't mistake the reference to the man's money. Wealth would be sure to impact her mother. She opened her mouth to ask if the man was her age, then closed it at the warning glint in her mother's eyes.
"He's been widowed for fifteen years and is long overdue for a suitable wife," Mrs. Astor said.
Olivia barely suppressed a sigh. So he was another of the decrepit gentlemen who showed up from time to time. "You're very kind," she said.
"He's most suitable," her mother said. "Most suitable."
Olivia caught the implication. They spent the next half hour discussing the date and the location. She tried to enter into the conversation with interest, but all she could do was imagine some gray-whiskered blue blood dancing her around the ballroom. She stifled a sigh of relief when Mrs. Astor took her leave and called for her carriage.
"I'll be happy when you're settled, Olivia," her mother said when they returned to the drawing room. "Mrs. Astor is most kind."
"She is indeed." Olivia pleated her skirt with her fingers. "Do you ever wish you could go somewhere incognito, Mother? Where no one has expectations of you because you are a Stewart?"
Her mother put down her saucer with a clatter. "Whatever are you babbling about, my dear?"
"Haven't you noticed that people look at us differently because we're Stewarts? How is a man ever to love me for myself when all he sees is what my name can gain him? Men never see inside to the real me. They notice only that I'm a Stewart."
"Have you been reading those novels again?" Her mother sniffed and narrowed her gaze on Olivia. "Marriage is about making suitable connections. You owe it to your future children to consider the life you give them. Love comes from respect. I would find it quite difficult to respect someone who didn't have the gumption to make his way in the world. Besides, we need you to marry well. You're twenty-five years old and I've indulged your romantic notions long enough. Heaven knows your sister's marriage isn't what I had in mind, essential though it may be. Someone has to keep the family name in good standing."
Olivia knew what her duty demanded, but she didn't have to like it. "Do all the suitable men have to be in their dotage?"
Her mother's eyes sparked fire, but before she spoke, Goldia appeared in the doorway. "Mr. Bennett is here, Mrs. Stewart."
Olivia straightened in her chair. "Show him in. He'll have news of Eleanor."
Bennett appeared in the doorway moments later. He shouldn't have been imposing. He stood only five foot three in his shoes, which were always freshly polished. He was slim, nearly gaunt, with a patrician nose and obsidian eyes. He'd always reminded Olivia of a snake about to strike. His expression never betrayed any emotion, and today was no exception. She'd never understood why her father entertained an acquaintance with the man, let alone desired their families to be joined.
"Mr. Bennett." She rose and extended her hand and tried not to flinch as he brushed his lips across it.
"Miss Olivia," he said, releasing her hand. He moved to her mother's chair and bowed over her extended hand.
Olivia sank back into her chair. "What do you hear of my sister? I have received no answer to any of my letters."
He took a seat, steepled his fingers, and leaned forward. "That's the reason for our meeting today. I fear I have bad news to impart."
Her pulse thumped erratically against her rib cage. She wet her lips and drew in a deep breath. "What news of Eleanor?" How bad could it be? Eleanor had gone to marry Harrison, a man she hardly knew. But she was in love with the idea of the Wild West, and therefore more than happy to marry the son of her father's business partner.
He never blinked. "I shall just have to blurt it out then. I'm sorry to inform you that Eleanor is dead."
Her mother moaned. Olivia stared at him. "I don't believe it," she said.
"I know, it's a shock."
There must have been some mistake. She searched his face for some clue that this was a jest. "What happened?"
He didn't hold her gaze. "She drowned."
"No one knows. I'm sorry."
Her mother stood and swayed. "What are you saying?" Her voice rose in a shriek. "Eleanor can't be dead! Are you quite mad?"
He stood and took her arm. "I suggest you lie down, Mrs. Stewart. You're quite pale."
Her mother put her hands to her cheeks. "Tell me it isn't true," she begged. Then she keeled over in a dead faint.
* * *
Harrison Bennett tugged on his tie, glanced at his shoes to make sure no speck of dirt marred their perfection, then disembarked from his motorcar in front of the mansion. The vehicle had rolled up Nob Hill much too quickly for him to gather his courage to face the party. Electric lights pushed back the darkness from the curving brick driveway to the porch with its impressive white pillars. Doormen flanked the double doors at the entry. Through the large windows, he saw the ballroom. Ladies in luxurious gowns and gentlemen in tuxedos danced under glittering chandeliers, and their laughter tinkled on the wind.
His valet, Eugene, exited behind him. "I'll wait in the kitchen, sir."
Harrison adjusted his hat and strode with all the confidence he could muster to the front door. "Mr. Harrison Bennett," he said to the doorman.
The man scanned the paper in his hand. "Welcome, Mr. Bennett. Mr. Rothschild is in the ballroom."
Harrison thanked him and stepped into the opulent hall papered in gold foil. He went in the direction of the voices with a sense of purpose. This night could change his future. He glanced around the enormous ballroom, and he recognized no one among the glittering gowns and expensive suits. In subtle ways, these nobs would try to keep him in his place. It would take all his gumption not to let them. It was a miracle he'd received an invitation. Only the very wealthy or titled were invited to the Rothschilds' annual ball in San Francisco. Harrison was determined to do whatever was necessary to secure the contract inside his coat pocket.
A young woman in an evening gown fluttered her lashes at him over the top of her fan. When she lowered it, she approached with a coaxing smile on her lips. "Mr. Bennett, I'd hoped to see you here tonight."
He struggled to remember her name. Miss Kessler. She'd made her interest in him known at Eleanor's funeral. Hardly a suitable time. He took her gloved hand and bowed over it. "Miss Kessler. I wasn't expecting to see you here."
"I came when I heard you were on the guest list."
He ignored her brazen remark. "It's good to see you again. I have some business to attend to. Perhaps later?"
Her eyes darkened and she withdrew her hand. "I shall watch for you," she said.
And he'd do the same, with the intent to avoid her. "If you'll excuse me." He didn't wait for an answer but strolled through the crowd. He finally spied his host standing in front of a marble fireplace. A flame danced in the eight-foot hearth. Harrison stepped through the crowd to join the four men clustered around the wealthy Rothschild.
The man closest to Harrison was in his fifties and had a curling mustache. "They'll never get that amendment ratified," he said. "An income tax! It's quite ridiculous to expect us to pay something so outrageous."
A younger man in a gray suit shook his head. "If it means better roads, I'll gladly write them a check. The potholes outside of town ruined my front axles."
"We can take care of our own roads," Rothschild said. "I have no need of the government in my affairs. At least until we're all using flying machines." He snickered, then glanced at Harrison. "You look familiar, young man. Have we met?"
Flying machines. Maybe this meeting was something God had arranged. Harrison thrust out his hand. "Harrison Bennett."
Was that distaste in the twist of Rothschild's mouth? Harrison put confidence into his grip. "Yes, sir."
"How is your father?"
"Quite well. He's back in New York by now."
"I heard about your fiancée's death. I'm sorry for your loss."
Harrison managed not to wince. "Thank you." He pushed away his memories of that terrible day, the day he'd seen Eleanor Stewart for what she really was.
"Your father was most insistent I meet you. He seems to think you have a business proposition I might be interested in."
Harrison smiled and began to tell the men of the new diamond mines that Bennett and Bennett had found in Africa. A mere week after Mr. Stewart's passing, Mr. Bennett had renamed the venture to include Harrison. An hour later, he had appointments set up with three of the men as possible investors. His father would be pleased.
Harrison smiled and retraced his steps to the front door but was waylaid by four women in brightly colored silk. They swooped around him, and Miss Kessler took him by the hand and led him to a quiet corner.
"Let's not talk about anything boring like work," she said, her blue eyes sparkling. "Tell me what you love to do most."
He glanced at the other women clustered around. "I'm building an aeroplane. I'd like to have it in the air by the time earth passes through the tail of Halley's Comet."
She gasped. "Do you have a death wish, Mr. Bennett? You would be breathing the poisonous fumes directly. No one even knows if the earth will survive this."
He'd heard this before. "The scientists I've discussed this with believe we shall be just fine," Harrison said.
"I assume you've purchased comet pills?" the blonde closest to him said.
"I have no fear."
The brunette in red silk smiled. "If man were meant to fly, God would have given him wings. Or so I've heard the minister say."
He finally placed the brunette. Her uncle was Rothschild. No wonder she had such contempt for Harrison's tone. All the nobs cared for were trains and ships. "It's just a matter of perfecting the machine," Harrison said. "Someday aeroplanes will be the main mode of transcontinental transportation."
The brunette laughed. "Transcontinental? My uncle would call it balderdash."
He glanced at his pocket watch without replying. "I fear I must leave you lovely ladies. Thank you for the conversation."
He found Eugene in the kitchen and beckoned to his valet.
Eugene put down his coffee cup and followed. "You didn't stay long, sir," he said. "Is everything all right?"
Harrison stalked out the door and toward the car. "Are there no visionaries left in the country?"
Eugene followed a step behind. "You spoke of your flying machine?"
"The world is changing, Eugene, right under their noses—and they don't see it."
Eugene opened the door for Harrison. "You will show them the future, sir."
He set his jaw. "I shall indeed."
"I have a small savings set aside, Mr. Bennett. I'd like to invest in your company. With your permission, of course."
Eugene's trust bolstered Harrison's determination. "I'd be honored to partner with you, Eugene. We are going to change the world."
Chapter TwoBirds sang in the shrubs that surrounded the tiny courtyard. Olivia hadn't thought her mother would be up to eating dinner, but once the matron was revived, she had taken charge again. Mr. Bennett joined them for the meal on the terrace, but there was little conversation after the servants dished up the soup.
Olivia fingered the locket with her sister's picture in it and wished she would awaken and find this all a bad dream. I don't believe it. She must have spoken, because Mr. Bennett's dark eyes were on her face when she put down her soupspoon.
"Eleanor was buried in Mercy Falls, California, yesterday. Those are the facts, Miss Olivia."
Did he not even care? His dark eyes held no emotion. "With none of her family there to mourn her?" she choked out. "Why were we not informed of her death before now?" She clutched her skirt in her fists.
"I asked Harrison to leave the conveyance of the news to me. In any event, you could not have arrived before her interment. I didn't wish you to receive this news via a telephone call or a telegram."
"What were the circumstances of her drowning? Did a boat capsize?"
He shrugged. "It appears she went swimming alone."
"That's impossible! Eleanor hated the water. She has never gone swimming in her life."
"Olivia, stop your interrogation at once," her mother said. "Nothing will bring your sister back to us." Her mother took a dainty spoonful of soup. "It is through no fault of ours that the marriage will not take place, Mr. Bennett. I expect you to uphold your part of the arrangement and sign the papers transferring fifty percent of the new mine to us."
Her mother's audacity dried Olivia's welling tears. She waited to see how Mr. Bennett would respond.
Mr. Bennett stirred sugar into his tea, then put his spoon back on the saucer. "I'm afraid that's impossible, Mrs. Stewart. It's too bad your husband's dearest wish is unable to be fulfilled." He pursed his thin lips. "There will be no property transferred without a wedding."
Her mother's smile was ingratiating. She glanced from Mr. Bennett to Olivia. "Well then, I still have a marriageable daughter. Without a blue-blooded wife, Harrison will always be merely nouveau riche and outside the best society."
The man nodded. "The agreement between your husband and I was that the two families be joined. I do not care how that is achieved. One daughter is as good as the next."
"Your son can't possibly change his affections so hastily," Olivia said. The man shrugged his slim shoulders. His mustache twitched. "He'd barely met Eleanor before her death. He is amenable to doing what is best for his family. He will still be agreeable."
Olivia hardly knew what to say, how to stop this insane proposal. She knew her mother was stressed. Six months ago her father had died when the tunnels of a newly acquired African diamond mine collapsed on him. His body was never recovered, nor were his financial investments, which had been exhausted along with the old mines. Time since then had seemed an eternity of watching pennies and struggling to pay the servants while keeping whispers of their change in fortune secret from the society in which they moved. A well-made marriage would give Olivia the power to change their circumstances. But the cost was so high.
Excerpted from The Lightkeeper's Ball by Colleen Coble Copyright © 2011 by Colleen Coble. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. 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.
Meet the Author
USA Today bestselling author Colleen Coble has written several romantic suspense novels including Tidewater Inn, Rosemary Cottage, and the Mercy Falls, Lonestar, and Rock Harbor series. Visit her website at www.colleencoble.com Twitter: @colleencoble Facebook: colleencoblebooks
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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LOVED LOVED LOVED this book. It had a wonderful combination of suspense, romance, faith and courage. I have enjoyed the other two in series however loved this one the most.
This book had me quickly flipping through the pages. There are so many mysteries introduced one right after the other. I thought I had things figured out but was mistaken at the very end. What is ironic is that two people have the same doubts and same questions they are seeking answers for. Trust is broken by two people by uncontrolled circumstances. You start to think that maybe things just aren't going to work out for Olivia and Harrison. Be prepared to be shocked.
Colleen Coble's third venture into historical romance and mystery in the California coastal town of Mercy Falls is as intriguing and entrancing as her first two ventures. I tend to read Ms. Coble's novels straight through without putting them down and have yet to be disappointed by any of them. I have thoroughly enjoyed each one of the 'Lightkeeper's ...' series.
If you love mystery, suspense, love stories with clean language this is your book. If you love time period books, this is your book. This book kept me interested, the characters were well thought out, and the story flowed well.
Colleen has done it again.what an exciting fast pace book! It will keep you guessing right until the end. Thought I had it at one time, but was wrong. Olivia is one tough Lady! Don't want to give things away, but you wonder how New York socialite Olivia Stewart survives. This book is a great page turner! Loved the Historical aspects of this story....using Haley's Comet. You also add in aeroplanes, disasters, and murder! Great descriptions of the 1910's era! What a great movie this book would make. This is the third book in the series, but it can be read alone with no problem.
Normally, this is not the type of book I would pick up and read. Now that I have, I am glad that I took the time to investigate and give the book a chance. The Lightkeeper's Ball is a phenomenal read. It has everything you would want in a book... a historical angle interwoven in mystery, romance and a "I did not see that coming" conclusion to the story. I ended up starting the book at 6 p.m. and did not put it down until I finished it. I am excited that I found a new author and genre of books to read. I would definitely recommend this book.
Can an arranged marriage bring love? The year is 1910, and Olivia Stewart's sister, Eleanor, has gone off to marry a wealthy man in hopes of securing her family's future. But, when Eleanor drowns before she is married, that obligation falls on Olivia. With her father and sister dying under mysterious circumstances, Olivia needs to be careful, especially after almost drowning herself. Harrison Bennett is the wealthy man Eleanor was supposed to marry, and the one who rescued Olivia from drowning, but what is he really like? Did he have anything to do with the deaths of her father or sister? Olivia sets out to discover the answers, finding love along the way, even planning the "Lightkeeper's Ball" to help replace things damaged by a horrible storm. What will become of Harrison and Olivia? Will she find the answers she is looking for? Colleen Coble has once again drawn me into a story with a compelling storyline and wonderful characters. There are many twists and turns along the way, but I found them realistic and fun to follow. I loved the "frontier" feel of the book, with early trains, boats, and planes. This is a great book to read alone or in a group because you will want to talk about it with others. Thank you to Book Sneeze for my copy and the opportunity to write a review. I recommend it to all.
Why do these idiot people read the long review when they know it will give away the plot? And then complain about it!
To those of you smarting off saying dont read the plot spoilers.... its a little hard when you sight read and you have to scroll thru the loooooong posts telling every detail. You inevitably end up seeing something no matter how hard you try not to. To solve the problem, STOP THE PLOT SPOILERS THEN NOONE WILL SEE THEM!. Problem solved.
Olivia Stewart goes west to California because of the mysterious death of her sister. She was engaged to Harrison Bennett. Olivia is expected to marry Harrison Bennett who she believes killed her sister. Olivia goes to Mercy Falls as Lady Devonworth. She has many near death experiences. There is someone who is determined for her not to find the truth about her sister. She hates and fears Bennett but she finds he is not the man she thought he was and falls in love with him. What happened to her sister and what will happen when she finds her true identity at the Lightkeeper's Ball? I recommend this book. Thomas Nelson provided me with a copy of this book.
This book not only has one of the most gorgeous covers I have seen in awhile, it also has one of the best plot lines of the books I've read so far this year. I love Colleen's style, the way she develops her characters so beautifully, puts them in a setting that is so realistic that I feel like I'm there and then she artfully weaves story lines around the characters as she melds everything together. In this particular case Olivia is a strong heroine that wants justice for her sister and sets out to make things right and find out who murdered her. The very man she holds responsible creates a puzzle for her as she starts to doubt his guilt (and then slowly falls in love with him). She finds that she is in grave danger herself and whoever murdered her sister isn't done yet. What a great book!
If you would like a mystery that is Christian based this series is for you. I was kept reading
This is a GREAT book! Recommended for all ages. Although I have read the other books in this series, I got to say this one is my favorite!
First off, I absolutely LOVE the cover. Seriously. Whenever there’s a discussion about pretty covers, this one comes to my mind first. I did a Cover Focus on it awhile back too! And it contains a great story. There were a few scenes that I can only describe as heart-melting – so sweet, and I loved them. Mystery and excitement abound in this book, making it a page-turner the whole way through! It’s a memorable read – I recommend it.
Duznt??? I don't GIVE TWO FU<_>KS IF SHE HATED ME. I NEVER HATED HER. WE ASKED HER FOR HELP N COMFORT N WE DID SAME IN RETURN. SHE FAUGHT WITH N FOR US N WE DID SAME IN RETURN. SOOO IDGF. Sum1 hatin on me won't hurt my feelings. Im not.like other ppl. U have to know me. Ree
Um I was thinking of restarting... Its at vibrate res 3
Story was well written but way to religious for me
The Light Keepers Ball; Keeps you guessing who the bad guy is up until the end! It lets you see how you need to listen to your own inner voice and trust your gut feelings. One lie snowballs into a giant snowball out of control.
It is soooooooooooo awsome it is lnteresting i looooooooooooooooooooved the book
This is another great book from this author. Balancing suspense, mystery and light romance, it kept me reading until the end. Colleen Coble paints a realistic picture with words that brings characters to life and puts you in the middle of the story. It was fun to have the brief time spent on the flying machine. Very clean with enough suspects to keep you guessing until the end. It has a good ending as well.