Ship of Dreams

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Overview

A Harmless Little Lie

Accused of a crime she didn't commit, Della Gilliland flees San Francisco, barely escaping aboard an east-bound ship. Penniless yet proud, Della would never dream of approaching an attractive, charming passenger for help, but she's desperate.

Grew Into A Passion

Businessman Kent Bradford is shocked when a beautiful, flame-haired woman unexpectedly introduces herself as his wife to an important investor. Afraid that a scene...

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Overview

A Harmless Little Lie

Accused of a crime she didn't commit, Della Gilliland flees San Francisco, barely escaping aboard an east-bound ship. Penniless yet proud, Della would never dream of approaching an attractive, charming passenger for help, but she's desperate.

Grew Into A Passion

Businessman Kent Bradford is shocked when a beautiful, flame-haired woman unexpectedly introduces herself as his wife to an important investor. Afraid that a scene might risk a deal that could save his family's shipping business, Kent goes along with the charade, at least until they reach port.

Beyond Their Wildest Dreams

But unforeseen factors—as well as an intense mutual desire—draw Della and Kent together, making their "marriage" of convenience more pleasurable than either ever dreamed. Just as their passion begins to bloom, however, a raging storm throws their precious love—and their lives—in jeopardy. . . .

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061013805
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/1/2000
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Brenda Hiatt is the author of fourteen novels, most of them set in her beloved Regency England. When she takes a break from the past, Brenda embraces the future by teaching writing classes on the Internet. She has lived in Virginia, Texas, Hawaii, and South Carolina, and now resides in Indiana.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The bride hath paced into the hall,
Red as a rose is she;
Nodding their heads before her goes
The merry minstrelsy.


— Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner


San Francisco — August 1857

"Murder? Impossible!" Della Stared at her landlady in disbelief, but the woman only nodded her neat gray head.

"Murder," she repeated. "That's what they're saying in the streets. Mr. Potts claims it was the Dr. Mirabula's Sovereign Remedy for Ague you sold him that carried off his wife last night. And that apothecary, Mr. Willis, is telling everyone who will listen that it must be true."

The bristle brush she'd been pulling through her thick, carroty curls hung suspended as Della absorbed the words. "That's preposterous! I mixed that remedy myself. It contains nothing but vanilla, quinine, and a jigger of brandy. It may not cure the ague, but it's perfectly harmless. More likely it was one of Mr. Willis' own brews at fault."

Mrs. Lewis shrugged. "I wouldn't be surprised. But be that as it may, I've turned away four people already this morning wanting their money back for medicines you'd sold them, and I fear there'll be more. This could take an ugly turn, dearie. "

"Yes. Yes, I suppose it could." Remembering the vigilante sweeps of the previous year, Della shuddered. More than a few accused "criminals" had been hanged without benefit of trial, and on evidence that was sketchy at best. Standing up from the dressing table, she crossed the tiny room in three steps and cautiously parted the yellow chintz curtains to peer outat the dusty street below.

A crowd had gathered two blocks away, in front of the Euphemia, once a landlocked ship and now converted to a hotel. Even from this distance she could hear the high, nasal voice of Mr. Willis as he shouted and gestured toward Mrs. Lewis' boardinghouse. The apothecary had been trying to put her out of business for months, seeing her as his greatest competitor. Now it looked as though he might succeed.

Selling patent medicines had been Della's mostsuccessful enterprise yet, first in the outlying min-ing towns, then in Sacramento, and now in SanFrancisco. A dash of this and a dash of that, andshe could command far higher prices than hersewing or produce had ever brought in. Of course,most of her remedies were useless, which causedher the occasional twinge of conscience. But she'dalways made absolutely certain they would causeno harm, in accordance with Hippocrates — and incontrast to others peddling medicines, to includeMr. Willis.

"They're getting louder. What will you do?" The landlady wrung her hands vigorously, as though to compensate for Della's immobility.

"Do?" She turned from the window and shrugged with resignation. "Why, leave, I suppose.

Mrs. Lewis stared. "Leave? Leave San Francisco, you mean? But if you're sure your tonic did no harm — "

At the moment, Della felt far older than her twenty years — far older than Mrs. Lewis, even. "Of course I'm sure. But that may not matter." Quickly she weighed her options.

She could face her accusers, attempt to prove her innocence and dear her name. But the coroner was a longtime friend of Mr. Willis, as was the chief of police. And even if she prevailed against all odds, most of her customers would likely desert her.

Two weeks ago she'd squandered most of her money on a new dress, in hopes it might elevate her social standing — a business investment of sorts-and she had yet to be paid for most of the past two weeks' sales. Now she likely wouldn't be, which meant she'd have nothing to pay her creditors when they came knocking. And they might come at any moment, as today happened to be steamer day, the twice-monthly date when all San Francisco businesses — and individuals — settled up accounts.

"At best, my business is ruined," she said to Mrs. Lewis at the end of her ruminations. "At worst, I'll be charged with murder. Leaving is the sensible thing to do."

She left unsaid what they both knew: Once a charge was brought, the verdict would depend as much on public sentiment as on the truth of the matter. Though the vigilantes had officially disbanded, justice was still frequently swift and careless in this exuberant young city — especially when a prominent man such as Mr. Willis had an incentive to affect the outcome.

"You're paid through the end of the month," Mrs. Lewis reminded her, pale blue eyes crinkled with worry.

Della smiled at the woman's kindness. "Consider next week's rent my gratitude for your help in this matter." She glanced out the window again at the milling crowd. "They'll be heading over here any time now. Hold them off as long as you can while I slip out through the kitchen. You've always been kind to me, Mrs. Lewis, and I thank you." She absently kissed the landlady on the cheek, already planning her escape.

As the woman bustled out of the room, ducking to herself, Della's mind worked rapidly. With a decisive nod, she pulled out her largest valise the trunk would be too heavy — and began throwing necessities and her most valuable possessions into it. The brooch and rings that had been her mother's, her real silk scarf, the silver-handled hairbrush. No room for her bottles of Carter's Consumption Cure or Dr. Brown's Brain Tonic. Nor for her new hooped dress, the beautiful but expensive green dimity with the seed pearls that had taken her savings.

She'd wear that, she decided. Being dressed like the cream of society might give her more choices. Besides, she couldn't bear to leave it behind. She'd pack the old lilac one she had on. She slipped her mother's wedding ring onto her left hand, thinking she might pose as a married woman or a widow. That would give her more freedom.

Unable to afford a maid, Delia owned only dresses with front closures, so she was able to change quickly and without help. Throwing an ivory shawl over her telltale red hair, she tucked her few remaining twenty-dollar gold pieces into her bodice and headed down the back stairs, suitcase in hand.

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Sort by: Showing all of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

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    Excellent Americana romance

    In 1857 San Francisco, Della Gilliland had made a living selling perfectly safe patented medicine. However, her situation changes when the husband of one of her patients accuses Della of selling him a poison that killed his wife. Not only do customers want their money back, but also an apothecary substantiates the claim that Della murdered a client. Realizing her business is ruined and she probably will face a charge of murder, Della flees the city through a ruse. <P>Near a steamer with the police searching for her, Della introduces herself as the spouse of New York businessman Kent Bradford, a fellow passenger. Kent remains silent about her ploy because he is conducting a major deal with an investor and Della¿s claim furthers his chance for success. As the couple becomes acquainted on the long voyage, they fall in love, but neither knows what Mother Nature has in store for them on the ill-fated Central America journey. <P>SHIP OF DREAMS is more than an Americana romance. The tale is an excellent work of historical fiction built around the actual nineteenth century sinking of a steamer due to a storm. From page one till the finish, the story line remains exciting. It provides insight into the era through real and make believe characters and makes that time period feel very real. The lead couple is an enchanting pair that will garner reader empathy. Brenda Hiatt provides a wonderful novel that deserves cross genre appeal by fans of romance and historical fiction. <P>Harriet Klausner

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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