The Hostage (Great Chicago Fire Trilogy Series #1)

The Hostage (Great Chicago Fire Trilogy Series #1)

by Susan Wiggs

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781459247956
Publisher: MIRA Books
Publication date: 06/15/2012
Series: Great Chicago Fire Trilogy Series , #1
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 211,880
File size: 806 KB

About 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

Read an Excerpt

The Hostage

By Susan Wiggs

Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.

Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1551667568

Chapter One

Chicago 8 October 1871

It was the hottest October anyone could remember. Less than an inch of rain had fallen in three months. Livestock died of thirst, their bloated carcasses splayed beside sun-baked mudholes. The unseasonable warmth made women regard baking day with special loathing and small children cranky with prickly heat. Laboring men paused in their work, looked up at the sky and remarked to each other that they'd surely welcome a breath of winter.

Drought and dry windstorms kept the fire companies frantically busy; engineers and pipemen were called on to put out as many as six fires a day, battling the flames that fed on unpainted frame cottages, rickety shanties with roofs of tar and shake, and the endless supply of woodchips from Chicago's lumber mills.

Into the restless stream of hot prairie wind floated a single spark.

Later, some would say the spark came from a stove chimney. Many believed the gossip that the unfortunate placement of a lantern near a cow in Mrs. O'Leary's barn had caused the mayhem. Others would swear, in the terrible aftermath, that the hand of God himself started it all, while still others accused the Devil. Some even blamed a hail of comets that rained from the night sky. In the great charred ruin of the city, fingers would point and recriminations would echo across courtrooms, in the city hall and at hearings before the Board of Fire.

But the fact was, a single spark, dipping and swirling like a drunken ballerina, rode an updraft of wind that night. It sailed high over a neighborhood of wood frame houses, barns packed with timothy hay, sheds full of coal and wood shavings for tinder, sidewalks constructed of knotty spruce and pine-block roadways.

The West Division neighborhood was a rabbit warren of narrow, miserable alleys and makeshift shanties, a place no respectable person would ever visit. But it was home to day laborers and women with too many babies, to shopkeepers and immigrants, to drunks and dreamers, loose women and strict Catholics. And in the tacked-together neighborhood they bore their children, worshiped, ate, drank, fought, loved and buried their dead.

The dry, blowing heat prompted some folks to find their beds early, while others tried to drown their discomfort in drink and song. The thin, lively whine of fiddle music and the thump of hobnail boots on plank floors emanated from some of the cottages. Noise flooded through open windows and caused flimsy walls to reverberate with the hectic celebration.

And high in the wild night sky, the spark looped and changed direction, pushed along by the wind blowing in from the broad and empty Illinois prairie.

The spark entered a barn where five milk cows and a horse stood tethered with their heads lowered, and a calf lay curled on a bed of straw.

The tiny ember dropped onto a store of musty hay, and when the wind breathed on it, a small circle of orange appeared.

No one saw the pool of flame spread like spilled water, dripping down and over the stacked hay, igniting the crisp, dry wood shavings from Bateham's Planing Mill. No one saw the river of fire flowing along the worn plank floor. No one noticed the horse's nostrils dilate in fear or heard the animal emit a high-pitched whistle of alarm.

Finally, a drayman with a wooden leg, who happened to be loitering across the street, noticed the deep-toned, unnatural light and headed clumsily for the barn. The cows, tied by their halters, stood unmoving even when Pegleg Sullivan came crashing into the barn and untied them. The calf, with its hide on fire and its tether hanging in the wood shavings, plowed into Pegleg and half dragged him out into the yard.

Tall, graceful fronds of flame bloomed at the side of the barn. Stark orange light licked across the beaten earth of the yard between house and shed.

Finally, a man's voice broke the night. "Kate, the barn's afire!"

In Box Number 342, at the corner of Canalport Avenue and Halsted Street, the first alarm sounded.

And over the sleeping faces of the children in the West Division of Chicago, a strange and rusty glow of light flickered.

"What's the matter with Deborah?" asked Phoebe Palmer, standing in the middle of a cluttered suite of rooms at Miss Emma Wade Boylan's School for Young Ladies. Lacy petticoats and beribboned unmentionables littered the divans and ottomans of the fringed, beaded and brocaded salon.

"She won't even let her maid in to attend her," Phoebe added.

"I'll see what's keeping her." Lucy Hathaway pushed open the door to an adjoining chamber. Deborah's dress, which she had worn to Aiken's Opera House the previous night, lay slumped in a heap of tulle and silk on the floor. A mound of sheets lay scattered over the bed, while the smell of expensive perfume and despair hung in the air.

"Deborah, are you all right?" Lucy asked softly. She went to the window, parting the curtain to let in a bit of the waning evening light. In the distance, some of the taller buildings and steeples of distant Chicago stabbed the horizon. The sky was tinged dirty amber by the smoke and soot of industry. But closer to Amberley Grove, the genteel suburb where the school was located, the windswept evening promised to be a lovely one.


Excerpted from The Hostage 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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Hostage (Great Chicago Fire Trilogy Series #1) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 99 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best of th e trilogy. Would not bother with the other two, especially the one about Lucy.
songbirdsue More than 1 year ago
I Love, Love, Love, the Susan Wiggs' books that I have read so far. I have focused on the Historical and love how it is woven into the stories. Her characters are so complex you really feel you know them by the end. But it takes most of the novel to really learn about them. This has action and even though it takes place during the Chicago fire, it has only a small portion that is about that event. It has the unlikely characters coming together in a very unlikely way that she likes to write about. It also has deep secrets that are unveiled toward the end that help us understand the characters. I think it really makes you think about abuse, and tragedy and how it can affect who you are by the way in which you handle life's challenges. The end was not what I expected, or predicted but it worked and I did feel good when it was all finished.
Howdyholly More than 1 year ago
The genre of the book is not one that is in my "normal" reading preferences, I am more of an England or Scotland kind of romance reader, but I am SO VERY GLAD that I picked this book up. I actually was so into the book that I cried and laughed out loud. The characters are very easy to relate to and the hero and heroine will own your heart. I love this book! Just make sure you read this one first. This was really a beautiful and well written book. The best of the trilogy. The book takes you on such an emotional journey, it is the stuff that dreams are made of. I also learned so much about the Chicago fire and about the rich and the poor in Chicago during that time period. You can tell that Ms. Wiggs really put a lot of time and research into the story. BRAVO! I lend this book out a lot!
lindsaydiffee on LibraryThing 24 days ago
The plot was a little too "quiet" for me- but then this is commonly a problem I have with Susan Wiggs. Her characters and their interactions are fabulous, but the stakes often don't seem high enough (to me). Still, I enjoyed it.
AuthorMarion on LibraryThing 24 days ago
Action. Adventure. Suspense. Murder. Mayhem. Kidnapping. Isolation. Desolation. Near Death. Introspection. Rape. Romance. Compassion. Empathy. Self-Reinvention. All of this and more set against the backdrop of The Great Chicago Fire.When Deborah Sinclair experiences one life-changing event, she is unprepared for a chain-of-events that is set in motion on the night of the Chicago Fire. Returning to her father's mansion to confront him with a decision she has made about her engagement, she thwarts a would-be killer who then takes her hostage to the north woods of Isle Royale. While being held captive for ransom, Deborah is forced to shed her society girl image and confront the way 'real' people live. Forced by winter blizzards and an icing of the lake that surrounds Isle Royale, she becomes aware of the atrocities that her father's businesses have committed all in the quest of climbing society's golden ladder.This story, the first in Susan Wiggs' Chicago Fire trilogy is captivating. I was caught from page one and enthralled until the final page. The characters are multi-dimensional and real. The setting is fabulous - I could almost feel the cold of the blizzard's snows and the bleakness of a deserted winter settlement. THE HOSTAGE is not to be missed. Thankfully I still have book three - THE FIREBRAND to read.
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Fast paced. Love her characters and settings.
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