The Mistress (Great Chicago Fire Trilogy Series #2)

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Overview

October 8, 1871 — One small spark ignites the entire city of Chicago, sending its residents into panic. But amid the chaos, a case of mistaken identity leads to an unexpected new love.

As the historic fire ignites across town, Kathleen O’Leary finds herself dressed in borrowed diamonds and silk, enjoying a lavish masquerade. The penniless maid has caught the eye of Dylan Francis Kennedy, the rich, handsome gentleman all of high society has been...

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The Mistress (Great Chicago Fire Trilogy Series #2)

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Overview

October 8, 1871 — One small spark ignites the entire city of Chicago, sending its residents into panic. But amid the chaos, a case of mistaken identity leads to an unexpected new love.

As the historic fire ignites across town, Kathleen O’Leary finds herself dressed in borrowed diamonds and silk, enjoying a lavish masquerade. The penniless maid has caught the eye of Dylan Francis Kennedy, the rich, handsome gentleman all of high society has been speculating about. The night feels alive with magic...and ripe with promise.

Then fire sweeps through the city, cornering the young lovers with no hope of rescue. Desperate to share their last moments together, Kathleen and Dylan impulsively marry. Incredibly, they survive. Now, as the fire burns down to cold ash, Kathleen must tell Chicago’s most eligible bachelor that he has married a fraud. But the joke’s on her. For this gentleman is no gentleman. While Kathleen had hoped to win Dylan’s love, he had planned only to capture her heart and steal her fortune. Dylan Kennedy — con artist, gambler, and ne’er-do-well — has been unwittingly caught in his own game. Now the real sparks are about to fly.

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Editorial Reviews

Kathe Robin
Susan Wiggs delves deeply into her characters’ hearts and motivations to touch our own. In the second book of her Chicago Fire Trilogy, she reminds us “that no good ever comes of a lie” until the truth is told and consequences paid. In this case, the lessons are well learned and readers truly feel for Dylan, Kathleen and the city’s plight after the fire.
Romantic Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781552042366
  • Publisher: Durkin Hayes Publishing, Ltd.
  • Publication date: 10/28/2000
  • Series: Great Chicago Fire Trilogy Series , #2
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: 2 Cassettes
  • Product dimensions: 4.82 (w) x 7.10 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Wiggs is the author of many beloved bestsellers, including the popular Lakeshore Chronicles series. She has won many awards for her work, including a RITA from Romance Writers of America. Visit her website at www.SusanWiggs.com.

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Read an Excerpt

The Mistress


By Susan Wiggs

Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.

Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1551667576


Chapter One

Chicago October 8, 1871

She looked older than her years from a lifetime of toil. The routine struggles of making her way in the world wore on her like the fading dye of her dimity dress. Up at dawn for the milking, feeding the hungry mouths that depended on her for every breath they took, keeping house, seeing to the livestock and navigating the unseen reefs and rocky shoals of everyday living had stolen her youth.

On a hot October night following a hot October day, Catherine O'Leary put the children down early. She washed up after supper, plunging her chapped and chafed hands into the tepid water. A high prairie wind roared through the shantytown that comprised her small world, across the river from the quiet, stately mansions of the grain barons and merchant princes. Her children had learned to sleep despite the boisterous, frequent celebrations of the McLaughlins next door. The neighbors were welcoming a cousin newly arrived from Ireland, and the thin, lively whine of fiddle music flooded through the open windows, causing the walls to vibrate. As she washed, Catherine tapped her sore, bare foot to match the rhythm of hobnail boots on plank floors emanating from the adjacent cottage.

Shadows deepened across the beaten-earth yard leading to the cow barn that housed the source of the family's livelihood. Her husband was out back now, feeding and watering the animals. The dry, blowing heat caused brown leaves to erupt in restless swirls through the air. The wind picked up, sounding like the chug of a locomotive coming on fast.

Catherine dried her hands on her apron as Patrick returned from the barn, his shoulders bowed with exhaustion. She saw a flicker in the sky, a star winking its eye perhaps, but her attention was all for her husband. This week he had worked hard, laying in supplies for the winter - three tons of timothy hay, another two tons of coal, wood shavings for kindling from Bateham's Planing Mill. Baking in the arid heat, the shavings curled and rustled when the aggressive wind stirred them. In this heat it was hard to imagine that winter was only weeks away.

She gave Patrick his supper of potatoes and pickled cabbage, wishing he'd had time to eat with her and the children. But families like the O'Learys did not have that luxury. Imagine, sitting down like the Quality, with enough room for everyone around the same table.

She took off her apron and kerchief. Pumping fresh water into the sink, she bathed her face and neck, and finally her sore foot; a cow had stepped on it that morning and she had been limping around all day. She drew the curtains and peeled her bodice to the waist, giving herself a more thorough washing. She braided her thick red hair, then went to check on the children. Scattered like puppies in the restless heat, the little ones lay uncovered on rough sheets she had sprinkled with water to keep them cool. There was another daughter, Kathleen, firstborn and first to leave the reluctant arms of her parents to work as a lady's maid at Chicago's finest school for young ladies. Perhaps in the turreted stone building by the lake, Kathleen suffered less from the heat than they did here in the West Division.

Ah, Kathleen, there was a fine young article, Catherine thought fondly. By hook or by crook, she'd make good. The Lord in his wisdom had given her the brains and the looks to do it. She wouldn't turn out like her mother, overworked, tired, old before her time.

The sounds of revelry next door swelled, then quieted, mingling with the howl of the wind. Through the coarse weave of the sackcloth curtains, Catherine noticed a flash of light in the window.

"Let us to bed, Mother," her husband said softly. Patrick kissed her and put out the lamp. Settling her weary head on the pillow, she listened to the rustling and breathing of her children. Then she nestled into the strong soft cradle of her husband's arms, sighed and thought that maybe this was what all the toil was for. This one sweet moment of inexpressible bliss.

A knock at the door drew Catherine O'Leary back from the comfortable edge of sleep. The McLaughlins' fiddle wailed on and the bodhran thumped out an ancient tribal rhythm. Two of the children awakened and started whispering. Frowning, she propped herself up on one elbow and prodded Patrick. "Are you awake, then?" she asked.

"Aye, just. I'll see who it is."

She lay still, hearing the low murmur of masculine voices followed by the sound of the door swishing shut. Her sore foot throbbed heatedly under the thin sheet.

"It was Daniel Sullivan with Father Campbell, come to call," Patrick said, returning. "I told them we were already abed, and not in a state for entertaining company."

"God preserve us for turning away a priest," Catherine said, "but 'tisn't he who has to do the milking at dawn." Feeling guilty for criticizing a priest, she drew aside a corner of the curtain to see the two men leaving.

Daniel often took an evening walk to escape the stifling heat of his cottage, even smaller and more cramped than the O'Leary place. He had one wooden leg, and as he walked along the pine plank sidewalk, his gait had the curious cadence of a heartbeat. He kept his head down, for his wooden leg tended to wedge itself into the cracks between the boards if he wasn't careful.

She was about to settle back down for the night when she noticed a sweeping gust of wind lifting the priest's long black cassock, revealing skinny white legs and drawers of a startling green hue. "Now there's a sight you don't see every day," she muttered.

Outside the wooden cottage, high in the hot night sky, a spark from someone's stove chimney looped and whirled, pushed along by the wind gusting in from the broad and empty Illinois prairie. The spark entered the O'Learys' barn, where the milk cows and a horse stood tethered with their heads lowered, and a calf slept on a bed of straw.

The glowing ember dropped onto the hay, and the wind fanned it until it bloomed, then burned in a hot, steady circle of orange. The flames spread like spilled kerosene, rushing down and over the bales of hay and lighting the crisp, dry wood shavings. Within moments, a river of fire flowed across the barn floor.

It was full dark the next time Catherine awakened, once again by a knock at the door. More visitors? No, this knocking had the rapid tattoo of alarm. Patrick hurried to answer. Catherine drew aside the tattered curtain divider to look in on the children. Over their sweet, slumbering faces, an eerie glow of light glimmered.

"Sweet Jesus," she whispered, racing to the window and tearing back the curtain.

A column of flame roared up the side of the barn. Firelight streamed across the yard between house and shed.

Catherine O'Leary opened the cottage door to an inferno. Her husband ran toward her, his face stark in the flame-lit night.

He said what she already knew, voicing the fear that made her heart sink like a stone in her chest: "See to the children. The barn's afire."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Mistress by Susan Wiggs Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 60 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 60 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 13, 2010

    Not as good as the first book...

    I found myself wanting to put this book down. There were several instances that felt redundant, almost like the plot just kept repeating itself. It was a very good idea I think it just got a little sluggish in the middle. I would not recommend this book unless you just LOVE historical american romance.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 15, 2013

    Great history backdrop. d this book!

    Great history backdrop. d this book!

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  • Posted August 31, 2012

    I Love Susan Wiggs writing. The history of the Chicago fire was

    I Love Susan Wiggs writing. The history of the Chicago fire was a great backdrop for this story. It is about finding out what is really important in life. Kathleen and Dylan both pretend to be something they are not for their own gain. They get married and then spend the rest of the book figuring out who they really are and what is really important to them. The characters were well developed and likable.

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  • Posted April 2, 2012

    Higly Recommneded

    This series is an awesome Trilogy! The Hostage is just as good as the other two!

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  • Posted November 3, 2010

    Good read

    Good ready but not as #1 in the series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2000

    Excellent reading!

    Phoebe Palmer said the rich knew who were of their high station. Lucy Hathaway insisted that they did not and even a penniless pauper could fool them. So a bet was made. Kathleen O'Leary was a penniless maid and the three went to a soiree for the elite. Not only did Kathleen pull it off, but attracted Dylan Kennedy, the richest man in society. Then the famous Chicago fire (started, according to newspapers, by Kathleen's mother and a cow) swept through the city! When Kathleen, Dylan, a priest, the mayor, and a dying city hall clerk were in their last desperate moments, the two main characters wed. <BR><BR> Amazingly, they lived! Kathleen must admit to not being an heiress. But Dylan turned out to be a con artist, as poor as she <I><B>Now the real battle begins! </B></I><BR><BR> *** Susan Wiggs has a way with words that made me feel as though I was actually in the fire with the main group! Readers will find their hearts pounding in their throats! An exciting story that I highly recommend with pleasure! ***

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    enjoyable Americana romance

    <P>In Chicago, impoverish Kathleen O¿Leary works as a maid at an exclusive school for young ladies. However, tonight, October 8, 1871 Kathleen pretends to be a wealthy debutante wearing a borrowed gown to attend a high society ball. Also at the gala event is the city¿s wealthiest bachelor Dylan Kennedy, just back from Europe. When they meet, Dylan sees a beautiful woman perfect for him to seduce. He wants funds from her because he is a con artist. She sees her soulmate. <P>On the other side of town, an inferno has erupted starting at the barn of Kathleen¿s parents. As the fire spreads and threatens everyone in the city, Kathleen and Dylan hastily marry. Somehow they survive and quickly fall in love, but both, not expecting to live, entered the marriage with deception and duplicity. He trusts no one and needs instant cash that she cannot provide while she continues to shower him with love. <P>THE MISTRESS is an enjoyable Americana romance that centers on the aftermath of the Chicago fire. The story line uses real events and people to propel the entertaining romance to its climax. The lead couple will receive reader empathy as they learn the importance of being truthful as well as earnest in a relationship. However, what makes Susan Wiggs¿ tale a cut above the norm is the intricate look at survivors whose prize for minor success is clinging to life one day at a time. <P>Harriet Klausner

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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