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In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust— let me never be put to confusion. Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape— incline thine ear unto me, and save me.
A GOSSAMER WRAP
of glittering ivory danced across Grace Hawkins' shoulders and enveloped her in its folds like the kiss of a summer breeze. Huge brown eyes stared out from a china doll face, serving only to accentuate the delicacy of its owner. Her expression might have suggested serenity, but the mood in her heart suggested quite the opposite.
"My dear, you look radiant."
"Thank you, Mother," Grace replied, trying hard to smile. She had no heart for this evening or for the charade she was about to play. This should have been the happiest night of her life; instead, Grace dreaded it as she would have a dose of the cook's tonic. Neither she nor her governess, Karen Pierce, could abide the smelly concoction and usually found an unlikely place to dispose of it before being found out. Pity Grace couldn't dispose of her unwanted fiancé as easily.
Grace sighed. There were a great many things she and Karen had managed to avoid in life; however, engagement to Martin Paxton didn't appear to be one of them. Karen's quick thinking and understanding of the world would do little to free Grace from her father's demands.
And unlike Karen, who held animosity for any man's demands, Grace had worked hard for a genteel balance. She could be her father's obedient daughter, gentle in spirit and silent unless spoken to, but she could also be a reflection of her teacher. Unfortunately, as Grace grew older and began to see life for herself, the two natures warred against each other, causing her no end of frustration and confusion. Underlying Grace's seemingly serene personality a storm was brewing, and she couldn't help but wonder if this particularly unpleasant situation would be the missing element to unleash that storm.
"Your fiancé will be very impressed, I've no doubt," her mother chattered on. "A woman of quality and beauty is not easily found. You will make him proud."
But what will he make me? Grace wondered. She'd already met the formidable man, and while he was handsome enough, despite a thin jagged scar that marred his jawline on the right side of his face, his personality suggested an aloofness, a kind of cold shoulder that left Grace wondering if there could be any hope for love to grow.
Looking up, Grace caught sight of her own reflection in the mirror. My, but I'm all grown-up.
The gown, of ivory and rose, seemed to shimmer at her every move. Tiny summer roses fresh from the garden had been sewn into the neckline, sending a delectable fragrance—sweet and airy—wafting through the air. Their deep pink color appeared shaded and muted through the veil-like covering of Grace's wrap. The teasing effect hinted of something more—something pure and special. Grace thought it a symbolic statement of her own purity, veiled and delicately concealed, yet evident for the world and one man's picking.
Her mother had commissioned the gown in honor of her engagement, and Grace could tell by the pleased expression on her mother's face that the dress was exactly what she had hoped for. Status and appearance were of great importance to her mother. The society pages would be positively ringing with praises for the couple on the morrow, giving fuel to her mother's energies to plan the wedding of the century.
"Karen, put another pin in her hair," Mrs. Hawkins commanded. "Right here where the curl seems wont to slip away."
Karen, ever patient with her employer's demands, did as she was instructed, then stood back. Mrs. Hawkins nodded and lifted her chin as she drew a deep breath. "There will not be another young woman half so beautiful. I will go and attend to our guests. Karen will bring you to your father when the time is right." She looked back at Grace and nodded again. "Oh, I do hope the photographer has arrived!"
She opened the door, then paused again, her nervous excitement irritating Grace. "Whatever you do, Grace, don't sit down! We mustn't have you wrinkled. Karen, you remind her," she said, as if Grace were only five years old instead of twenty.
Both Grace and Karen nodded in agreement. Myrtle Hawkins seemed satisfied and turned to go.
Watching her mother leave, Grace felt her hopes and dreams dissipate. "How can they do this to me?" she whispered loud enough for only Karen to hear.
"I can't abide it," Karen agreed. "It's tantamount to slavery."
Grace lifted her sorrowful face to her governess, the term revealing little of the depth of affection the two women shared. "That's exactly what it is. They are selling me to the highest bidder. Oh, Karen, what am I to do?"
Shaking her head, Karen moved to close the door between Grace's bedroom and her sitting room. "You could always run away. We've discussed this before."
"I know," Grace said, moving to sit, then remembering the warning. Her mother would never forgive her for showing up wrinkled to her own engagement party. She sighed. "They're all going to know the truth of it. All of society—all of Chicago." Her mournful words hung heavy on the air. "Everyone who is anyone knows I've not been courted by Mr. Paxton. He's nothing more than my father's business associate."
"Well, he certainly thinks of himself as something more," Karen replied. "I've never seen a man hold such influence over your father. Why, the man practically ordered your father into giving this party tonight. I heard him myself. So did the rest of the house staff."
"I know," Grace replied. "I don't understand the situation any more than you do. I want to be a good daughter and do what is expected of me, but frankly, Mr. Paxton frightens me."
"Did you tell your mother?" Karen questioned.
"I tried. She said it was a simple matter of virginal nerves," Grace stated, her cheeks warming. "She said all young girls fear the expectations of their husbands and that I should simply pray on the matter and trust God for the best."
"I agree we should pray, but I know better than to believe this is simply a case of prewedding jitters. You do not love the man and he clearly does not love you. In fact, he almost seems to resent you and everyone else in this house."
"I know," Grace moaned, "but what can I do? I've tried to talk to Father, but he'll not see reason." She paced nervously, the glimmering gown swirling around her heels. "I'm a mere woman of twenty. Father still sees me as a child, and children, in his estimation, should be seen and not heard."
"I believe that to be his estimation for women in general," Karen replied with a hint of resentment in her tone.
"Father treats Mother with respect," Grace countered. "He used to listen to her counsel all the time. It was only in this decision to marry me to his associate that he rejected any influence from her."
"Probably because he knew what she'd say. I believe your mother wants to see you happy, even while pleasing her social circle. I also believe she had planned for you to marry one of the Willmington boys."
Grace nodded. "Poor Mother. Father actually yelled at her."
"Well, don't take it on your shoulders," Karen encouraged. "Your mother has known well enough how to make a go at marriage. She's shared a silver wedding anniversary with him. That must account for something."
"Perhaps if my brother, Amon, had lived. Mother said that Father was so happy having his firstborn to be a son. When Amon died, Father was inconsolable. I must have been a poor substitute."
"One child is never a substitute for another," Karen chided. "Now listen. You cannot go downstairs looking all glum. Whatever choice you make in the future, whether to go through with this and get married or run away, you must at least give your mother and father a pretense of contentment. It would greatly shame your parents in the eyes of their peers should word get out that you do not desire this union."
Grace contemplated her governess's words. She was so grateful for the companionship she shared with Karen. They were more like sisters than anything. Karen had been her teacher and friend for over ten years, and Grace loved her more dearly than anyone else. Karen's wisdom had always been a gentle guide, directing Grace to acknowledge her position and duties.
A quick glance at her watch and Karen motioned to the door. It was time for Grace to make her appearance at the party. "Well, we cannot delay this another moment. Chin up."
Grace took a deep breath and lifted her face. With the slightest hint of a nod, she followed Karen. They passed from the bedroom into the sitting room and out into the long hall of the west wing. Grace tried not to feel unduly worried—in fact, she tried not to feel anything at all. Her fear for this evening was beyond anything she had ever known. She remembered her mother suggesting that with any luck they would persuade Mr. Paxton to have a long engagement, maybe as much as three or four years. Grace agreed that perhaps in sufficient time she could come to fear him less and care about him more. But while her mother had hopes for such delays, her father implied that quick action was of the utmost importance. His attitude and insistence were puzzling.
Myrtle Hawkins had told her husband that in no uncertain terms could the wedding take place before a period of one year had passed. She would not have society believing her daughter in need of marriage. The scandal would be hard-lived, and even if the couple were slow in producing heirs, Myrtle knew how tongues would wag if the proprieties were overlooked. But despite her mother's protests, her father was unwavering in his decision. Grace had been heartbroken over her father's firm resolve to see her quickly joined with Mr. Paxton.
"I wish you could stay with me," Grace said, breaking free from the memories. "Mother has always been generous about allowing you to accompany me."
"But this is an occasion for grown-ups, not innocent maids with their nannies," Karen countered. "You are already such a delicate and petite thing, most people assume you to be years younger. My appearance would only enhance this."
"I cannot bear it," Grace said, fighting to hold back her tears. "I cannot have that man handling me."
"He won't be allowed to touch you," Karen replied. "Not in this ever-so-proper social gathering."
"But remember what he did last night after dinner?" Grace said, shuddering. "He thought nothing of touching me." She could still feel his warm hand upon her arm. He had stroked the smooth skin of her forearm in a most intimate manner before bringing her hand to his lips.
Karen reached out to dab the corners of Grace's eyes with her handkerchief. "Put those thoughts aside. The man was out of place, but no doubt he was simply overcome by his admiration for your beauty." She smiled. "Now, be brave and strong. The Lord will go before you."
Grace nodded. She could only pray it was true.
Karen's plans were for a quiet evening in Grace's private sitting room. Reading a fashionable ladies' magazine would help to wile away the hours and hopefully keep her from worrying too much about Grace. It was true that in the last couple of years—years in which Grace had not really needed a governess—the two women had grown very close. Karen enjoyed their relationship, perhaps partly because she had been raised in a big family with plenty of siblings. She had always known what it was to have company and someone to whisper silly secrets to. Grace was an only child who had often seemed lonely.
Karen had first come into the Hawkins home when Grace had been but ten years old. The child already commanded proof of impeccable manners and rigid social graces, but she bore evidence of something else as well. Grace seemed lost—almost shunned. Her mother, a wealthy socialite, and her father, a successful entrepreneur, seldom had time to share with their child. They appeared to love Grace, to hold genuine affection for her, but their busy lives seemed far more important. Grace had been left at the mercy of nurses and the house staff, despite the fact that she adored both her mother and father.
Private schooling had been considered prior to Karen's appearance in their lives. Myrtle Hawkins had heard of the social benefits of boarding schools abroad, but Grace had pleaded with her mother not to send her away. Myrtle Hawkins seemed to understand her daughter's fear of separation and finally gave up the idea. After that, Karen had been hired and a new kind of family was born.
Stretching, Karen glanced at the clock. The party had scarcely begun. And it would be the first of many to come. Over the next few weeks there would no doubt be a parade of events to honor the couple.
The thought of Grace marrying brought another realization into Karen's life. At thirty years old, she was hardly good for anything but serving as a governess or a maid. No man would want to marry her at such a late stage of life, and few women would want an attractive woman in their house, even to perform the duties of governess.
Karen tried to play down her appearance. She felt blessed to have been given thick hair the color of strawberries and honey, but given her position, she bound it tightly in a bun and covered it with a net. No sense in giving anyone a chance to accuse her of prideful behavior by wearing her hair lavishly pinned, as she might style Grace's hair.
Her figure, while less curvaceous than desired in society, was long and statuesque. She stood at least half a foot taller than her charge, but she was not unreasonable in her height. By wearing her corset fairly loose, Karen had been able to avoid displaying any accentuated womanly curves, and taking the advice of her aunt Doris, herself a spinster teacher, Karen chose to dress in dark, matronly fashions.
"Do not give yourself airs, child. The more simplified your appearance, the less threatening you will be," Aunt Doris had declared.
Thinking of her aunt caused Karen to automatically think of other concerns—of her father. Wilmont Pierce, Doris's brother, had gone north to the Alaskan Territory some five years earlier. He and Karen's mother had felt a calling to minister to the Tlingit Indians who lived in and around the southeast panhandle. Things had gone well at first. After trying several locations, the Pierces finally settled near the area of Skagway and Dyea. Other missionaries were already set up in the area, but the husband-and-wife team was well received by their brothers and sisters in Christ. Those already stationed in the wilds of this new land felt gratitude at seeing yet another American couple. Homesickness abounded and everyone desired news of home.
Karen's mother had written of great happiness in her new home. But as time went on, Alice Pierce found herself weakened by the elements. Months of sickness led to Alice becoming bedfast and weeks later she had succumbed to pneumonia. The news of her mother's death had devastated Karen.
Staring into the fireplace, Karen contemplated her position. She could now go north and help her father. In the absence of her mother, her father could probably use someone to assist him in his work. She was, after all, college educated and trained to teach. She could certainly make more of a difference there than she would in Chicago.
"Perhaps once we find out what the terms of Grace's engagement will be," Karen whispered, "then I will know what to do."
The idea of leaving Grace sorrowed Karen. Grace had been much like a little sister. Karen had been put in charge of Grace's education, teaching her all manner of basic learning in addition to foreign languages and etiquette. While Karen's family was hardly equal to the social standing of the Hawkins family, her own background had afforded her a complete and well-rounded education, including extended time spent at a rather refined women's college back East.
Karen could have married on at least four different occasions. The men had been well-heeled and respected in the community. Their growing importance in the city could have seen Karen as mistress of a considerable fortune by now.
She smiled, however, and shook her head as the flames in the hearth danced hypnotically. "But you would not release me to marry them," she murmured prayerfully. And indeed, that was exactly why she had remained single. God had called her to singleness, at least for a time. He had made it clear to her that her focus at this point in her life was to be Grace Hawkins.
"But that's changing now," she said aloud. Then a thought dawned on her. Perhaps Grace would want to keep Karen on as her personal attendant. Assuming the new responsibilities that would be expected of Grace, in addition to possibly moving to another city, would surely warrant the desire to have someone familiar at hand. Perhaps that was where God would lead her next. From there, maybe she would be allowed to stay on and help rear Grace's children. This thought, however, gave no real comfort.
Her father's lack of communication over the past few months was a growing concern. He should have written by now. Unless something has also happened to him, Karen rationalized. He should have informed me that things were well or at least have noted his future plans. The absence of a letter was giving Karen much reason to fear for her father's well-being. She even sensed that Aunt Doris was rather worried, although she would never admit it.
Bowing her head, Karen began to pray in earnest. "Show me the way, Lord. Show me what I am to do, because I fear I have two paths before me and neither one suggests itself over the other."
Posted October 9, 2002
This book was constantly gripping. The light romance didn't smother the book like others I have read. The adventure and spiritual concept was uplifting, and the danger was suspensful. The book was well written by Tracy Peterson, and others I have read of hers were done well.
11 out of 11 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 March 4, 2014
This book has 288 pages, is the first in a series and well edited. It is Christian fiction. The next book in the series cost $5.99. There is an open conclusion. This book was an okay read. It seems the author got caught in a rut and made the same events occur over and over until the book becomes a decent length, then said," to be continued." For example, a man leaves his children, no less than five times while he treks up and down the mountain. It is like reading reruns. There is a lot of discussion about God, the Bible, Bible verses, prayers and the proper way a woman should behave and obey a man. There is some mild violence. For ages 16 and up. I will not be purchasing the next book.
8 out of 8 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 April 28, 2009
THIS BOOK WAS SOOO AWESOME I DIDNT WANT TO PUT IT DOWN!!! (: IT TOOK ME LIKE 3 DAYS TO FINISH IT AND I HOPE TO READ MORE FROM THAT AUTHOR. ENJOY, (:
7 out of 7 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 June 20, 2014
I enjoy reading without the usual vulgar words and constant sex. This was a good book except the father who couldn't stay home. nothing about what
he did just he was gone. Then it ended.......
1 out of 1 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 April 12, 2014
Posted March 3, 2014
I had no prior knowledge of this author before reading this book. I must admit im not really into christain fiction and at times really wanted to stop reading it. But the book was actually well written and the plot kept me interested enough to see it through to the end even with the religious content.
1 out of 2 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 8, 2014
I have read a few of this author's novels and I thought that this was not as great as the other ones. Too many stories at once. I would ve liked to read abt the main character's (Grace) and her mom get in touch with each other instead of just a short note to the main character. Also, would have liked more of a resolution regarding the missing father (Karen's). The ending was abrupt but probably the best solution to the plot. All in all it is still a good book. But I dont think that I ll read the rest of the series.
1 out of 2 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 17, 2014
Posted August 16, 2014
Posted August 5, 2014
This book is somewhat dark and the male chatacters sadistic. Not a typical christian romance. It is suspenseful, but myself, who already has a bad view of men, it only left me feeling very disapointed. Also it does leave you haning and you must read the next book to find out what happens.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 4, 2014
Posted August 1, 2014
Posted July 4, 2014
The book was warm, funny and of course suspense. Takes us back to a time when marriages could be arranged by parents, but not always worked out the way things were planned. Would recommend this book for any Christian reader.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 29, 2014
Posted June 20, 2014
This series, and yes I am now into Book 2, is a clear picture of how Gold Fever can over take People. Over the past few TV seasons I have watched Gold Rush. This book could be written about these modern day gold hunter. Though I think those of today are somewhat better than those of the late 1890s. Wonder story. Conflict between good and evil. As well as a look into the past.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 20, 2014
A very enjoyable read. Good character developmentment and engaging situations. Looking forward to reading the other books in the series to see what happens next.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 20, 2014
Posted June 2, 2014
I am not as big a fan of the "Christian Romance" genre as some. However, the history wrapped around it is wonderful. I have always loved this author and am going to track down the others in this series, if only to find out if the bad guy gets his comeuppanceWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 31, 2014
Posted May 30, 2014