is the third Oregon historical. The Civil War has just ended. The Stevens family (from Books 1 and 2) is pretty well settled in the Willamette Valley (well, except for Belle). Their life though is about to make a major change.
One drawback to a pre-order is the reader can't read the sample. So I am going to put the beginning here.
June 1865 Portland, Oregon
Raine Stevens, along with the rest of the cast, walked from the wings to stand in the lights at the front of the stage. They took their bows, as the remaining gaslights were brought up to illuminate the auditorium. A sense of accomplishment filled her, as the audience rose to give them and Kirk Edmonton’s exciting play a standing ovation. Even a few bravos rang out. She smiled at her mother, step-father, sister, and brother-in-law in the first row.
Russell Grayson walked up the aisle with a large bouquet of red roses, but her gaze was drawn from him to the back of the auditorium. A man, taller than those around him, stood watching her. His features were sharp. Tawny hair hung almost to his shoulders. He resembled, but no, he couldn’t be Jed Hardman.
To clear her head, she looked back at Russell, who was now at the edge of the stage. It wasn’t the first time she had been wrong in thinking she’d seen Jed. She knelt to take the roses from Russ. Smiling, she thanked him and rose, clasping them to her breast. At the back of the large hall, people were beginning to stream out the doors. There was no unusually tall man among them.
Half an hour later, in her dressing room, her mother helped her out of her elaborate gown. With its layers of lace and silk, she would only wear something like it in a play. In slips, she sat at her dresser to wipe off the heavy stage makeup, while sipping from a glass of water.
“You’ve never given a finer performance,” her mother said. “I should have brought Eli.”
“And Laura,” Amy added with a nod of agreement. “They would both have enjoyed it. They’re old enough now.”
“There will be other opportunities,” Raine said, as she slipped into a simple, yellow dress and waited as her mother buttoned up its back. She felt full of nervous energy but was unsure how much was from the completed run of a play or those few seconds when she thought she had seen Jed.
“I liked your character,” Amy said. “She was strong and willful, funny too. This is the first time I’ve seen you carry off comedy. I can’t recall the writer’s name, but he managed to insert humor into pathos. True genius to make an audience want to laugh and cry at the same time.”
Raine perched on the edge of her dressing table and drank more water. “The playwright is Kirk Edmonton.”
“Was he in the audience?” Amy asked.
“He came opening night and seemed satisfied with how it had gone. He wasn’t here tonight. I agree about his gifts. His dialogue flows, feels real and yet as you said, can be funny and sarcastic. No wasted words. I always believe in his characters-- like in how he gave depth to Sadie and also the man she finally chose for her own.”
“Well, you knew she’d get her way.”
“They don’t always, those strong, willful women,” Raine said with a smile. “I should do a tragedy next time-- just to show the other side.”
“And then at least my daughter won’t be coming,” Amy retorted. “She isn’t ready for more life complexity than needful. When our neighbor, Eunice died, it was upsetting for her, had her questioning life and meaning. She was more aware than the younger ones.”
“All right, no tragedies for now.” She didn’t need them either.
“How is Fanny doing?” her mother asked.
“I haven’t seen much of her since she came back from Eunice’s funeral,” Raine said brushing out here hair. “She is busy, living the life to which she was born, a large staff, a home to manage, causes to support, clubs to join. It was a huge loss to her though. No one will ever support her emotionally as much as her mother did.”
“I thought we might see her and Horace tonight.”
“They also were at the opening. The whole time we chatted, Fanny was trying to talk him into taking her to San Francisco for shopping. She’s finding our stores less than exciting now that she has more money to spend.”
“They say familiarity breeds contempt,” Amy teased.
“I will not take offense... or try not to. I do what I can to keep my stores up to date-- with new styles for the ladies as well as the home. Some people though cannot be satisfied unless it came from a city more exciting than Stump Town.”
“There are those who love the excitement of big cities,” her mother agreed and then sighed. “I wish Belle lived closer, could see you in these plays. It disappointed me when, after college, she settled in Chicago—of all places. Why on earth there?”
“Perhaps you should visit her and ask.” Pleasing parents wasn’t that easy in Raine’s experience. Her mother would like her living in Oregon City, but Portland was her home. While it might not yet be as cosmopolitan as San Francisco or Chicago, someday it would.
“She would no doubt be no less evasive than she is in letters,” her mother said with that expression which told Raine she was thinking about more than she was saying. “But you are right, it’s not my business. Besides, whenever I’ve suggested visiting, she writes that she’ll be gone but will let me know a good time. She has yet to give me one.”
“Family has never mattered that much to Belle,” Amy said, not hiding her disapproval.
“That’s not all her fault,” Raine said, trying to be fair. “Being so much younger, she probably felt she grew up without the kind of closeness you and I enjoyed with only being a year apart.”
“I give up, oh mighty peacemaker,” Amy teased. “Let’s forget her. Maybe next time we can talk St. Louis into coming with us. He complains that cities aren’t for him, can’t stand crowds, but he’d be so proud to see you in a play like this one—once he came.”
“How is he?”
“Feisty as ever.”
“Good,” Raine said with a grin. “I’ll be up river soon anyway and will try to see him then.”
Listening to Amy and their mother talk about the children, the trip downriver on the steamboat, her mind was elsewhere and on those few seconds she had thought he was watching her. She had never told her family about Jed. Why would she, since there had been nothing to tell? Certainly nothing, she’d want them to know regarding her foolishness.
Maybe her feelings were tangled up in the Civil War finally ending. After Lee surrendered, she had thought maybe, if he had survived the fighting, he would return to Oregon. Except, a man, who had wanted to see her again, would have written. In four years he’d been gone, she’d received no letter. So many had died on both sides-- but more on the side for which he had fought, the South.
She turned back to the mirror, attempting to wrap her hair into a bun. Frustrated, she gave up and used combs to pull it back from her face. In the mirror, she saw herself, her mother, and sister reflected. She didn’t have their black hair, but the three of them had fine boned faces and slim bodies. Raine’s reddish-brown hair, a product of her father’s heritage, was wavier than she liked. If she could have changed it to something smoother, more manageable, she would have. More silliness. Life was what it was. She wasn’t going to be changing anything.