Delia Eastman returns home from teachers’ college with two goals: find a teaching position and sidestep her mother’s insistence on finding her a husband. But employers don’t care for women who are smarter than they. Neither do suitors. As she struggles to find her place, she discovers her sleepy riverboat town has turned into a powder-keg of rivalry between the steamships and the railroads.
Increasingly violent vandalism on the railroad brings her face-to-face with Endy Webster, a handsome trainmaster whose investigation into the crimes leads him to the door of a prominent steamship owner—Delia’s father.
As Delia tries to clear her father’s name, she keeps tangling with Endy. He’s intelligent. He’s charming. And he’s guarding secrets. Thinking he might know more than he’s telling, Delia reluctantly agrees to collaborate with him to solve the crimes. With the vandalism becoming deadly, they’ll need every scrap of intelligence and logic to stay alive. Working together may not be their first choice, but it might be their last.
How long did it take you to write?
My rough draft took seven months. Since I was pursuing traditional publication and had few opportunities to present my work to agents and editors, I worked on and off revising and polishing for another three years. I alternated between this series and another series entitled the O’Neills of Piper Creek. Book 1 (Once a Thief) will be released soon.
How did you come up with the idea for this story?
My husband and I love to bike the Katy Trail in Missouri. It’s the longest rails-to-trails project in the United States. Now over 250 miles long, the Katy Trail runs between Machens, Missouri (near St. Louis) to Clinton, Missouri and follows the Missouri River for much of the way. At the trailhead in New Franklin, I read of Joseph Kinney, a steamship owner, whose hatred of the railroads spurred him to write many vitriolic editorials to the St. Louis newspapers. I wondered what would happen if a steamship owner’s daughter fell in love with a trainman. Somewhere in the midst of writing, the story became a mystery and the idea for the series was born.
Will you share a favorite excerpt or scene?
Of the three Eastman sisters, Delia is the closest to her father. This is an part action/part tender scene that shows their relationship and gives some reasons for Gerald Eastman’s hatred of the railroads.
Delia hated waiting. She had no doubts about why her father had invited her to make the Glasgow packet run with him, but instead of having The Talk with her, he conversed about a wide array of other subjects.
They discussed the upcoming presidential election. The benefits of using coal versus wood as fuel for the steam engines. The environmental changes the snag boats made to the river.
Now they stood on the forward hurricane deck of the Eliza B. Almost home and he still hadn’t broached the subject. Maybe he dreaded it as much as she.
The breeze tugged at Delia’s hat, and she pulled it off. She leaned on the rail. Despite the current drought in Missouri, heavy rains to the north kept the river running high and fast. As they traveled downriver, the water seemed to rush at the ship. She waved to a fisherman in a rowboat.
Papa propped his elbows next to hers and nodded at the hat in her hand. “Shall we move to a lower deck?”
“If you wish. I mind the wind less than I mind the mob down there.”
“You’ve never been one for crowds, have you, dear?”
“I don’t intend to be unsociable.” She used her hat to fan her suddenly warm face. “When I’m in the midst of too many people, I feel…panicky. As though I’m trapped.”
“Believe it or not, I’ve noticed that. It’s why I find it difficult to imagine you in front of a classroom filled with squirming children.”
“Although I’ve never experienced a classroom, I believe the rewards of teaching will far outweigh the temporary discomfort.”
“You could be right.”
“I know I’m right. You see, in one of my education classes, we tutored struggling students. My instructor paired me with a third grade boy who had difficulty summing fractions. I tried explaining them with drawings and examples, but they still didn’t make sense to him. Finally, I brought apples and a knife to the lesson. We cut them into pieces and put them back together, over and over. Papa, I saw on his face the moment he comprehended. He giggled and…he even hugged me. A completely new piece of the world opened up to him. And I facilitated that.” A lump formed in her throat. “I’ve never felt more fulfilled.”
“I can understand that.” Papa wrapped his arm around her. “Continue seeking a position with the schools, but don’t ignore your mother’s wishes.”
Delia waited for more. She glanced sidelong at him.
He stared at the river in front of them and said nothing.
That was it? The dreaded talk was over? Delia kissed his scruffy cheek. “I will put forth my best effort. Part of my difficulty is your fault, you know.”
“Oh?” He seemed distracted, but she could see nothing on the river to account for it.
“You’ve set the bar quite high. It will be challenging to find a man like you.”
“Only because you have a limited sampling of men.” Papa gave her a gentle squeeze. “Perhaps you should widen your circle of acquaintances and take a harder look at the young men you already know. Someone might surprise you.”
He released her and faced the pilot house. “Looks like Hathaway at the wheel.” He spoke soft and low. More to himself than to her. A frown pulled at his mouth and creased his forehead.
“Is everything all right, Papa?”
“Hmm? Yes. Yes, everything is fine. Your grandmama would call me a worry wart.”
“When you and Mama married, did Grandmama approve?”
Papa smiled. “Not entirely. I’m afraid she didn’t see the same things in your mama that I saw.”
Delia faced forward. The ship rounded the bend and for a moment, the Boonville railroad bridge silhouetted against the sky.
Papa cast a another glance at the pilot house.
She probably shouldn’t ask, but the words slipped out. “Did you and Mama love each other?”
He turned to her, astonished. “Of course we did. Still do. Why do you ask?”
Ah. Now she had his undivided attention. Just when she didn’t really want it. She shrugged. A movement Mama hated. “I wondered. Mama always refers to marriage as a woman’s duty. As though it isn’t much fun.”
Grinning, Papa turned toward the river again. “You’ll have to ask your mother how she feels, but I’ve— Lord, have mercy.” He whirled. “Delia, grab a Kisbee ring and run to the port side.”
The steamboat hugged closer and closer to the southern bank. The vessel seemed on a collision course with the bridge’s right-hand piling.
“Papa!” Heart pounding, she grabbed his coat. “Will the ship sink?”
“Not if I can help it. Now do as I say.” He ran up the ladder to the pilot house and disappeared inside.
Seconds later, Captain Holt clattered up after Papa.
Delia took the red-striped ring from the portside wall and clasped it to her chest. The Eastman Steamship Company had never lost a ship before. Not like this. “Lord, have mercy.”
The ship drew closer and closer to the enormous iron piling. She moistened her lips.
A man on the deck below yelled. The passengers had noticed the danger.
Above the cries and shouts of the people, a voice rang out. “Stay calm, ladies and gentlemen. The captain has everything under control.”
And Papa. The ship gradually seemed to be moving to the left. Delia held her breath as the forward main deck cleared the abutment. The Texas deck blocked her view.
Unable to bear not knowing, she ran to the starboard side and looked down and aft.
They weren’t going to make it. The main decking and the giant paddlebox on the side-wheeler stuck out too far.
She stood, unable to tear her eyes from the impending disaster.
The ship struck the Boonville Bridge.
Delia tumbled to the deck, flailing for a handhold.
Splintering wood echoed like gunshots.
The screech of metal against metal filled the air.
Debris flew up from the crash. Bits and pieces of the ship smattered the rearward deck and splashed into the river.
Moments later, the sounds ceased. They were replaced by screams and cries from the passengers below.
Shrapnel from the collision might have injured passengers on the boiler deck.
Delia scrambled down the stairs and, in the midst of the confusion, found a doctor. For the next hour, she assisted him in treating the cuts and abrasions of the other passengers. The sight of the bloodied clothing and limbs made her stomach feel queer, but—thanks be to God—none of the injuries were serious.
She finished tying a cloth bandage around a young man’s shoulder and stood to help him rise.
Papa appeared next to her and took the youth’s good arm. “Are you all right?” he asked the man. Receiving a nod for an answer, Papa turned to Delia. “And you, my dear?”
She handed the young man to the ministrations of an older woman. His mother, perhaps? “I’m well—I think. What about the ship? Is there a hull breach?”
“No. We got her turned enough to avoid that. She’s listing quite badly though.”
“That would only make sense. May I view the damage?” Perhaps seeing the shredded iron and wood would affect her less than seeing torn flesh.
Papa nodded and escorted her to the other side of the ship.
The side paddle had been shorn in half.
“What about the railroad bridge?”
Papa swore. His eyes smoldered, and he spoke through clenched teeth. “I don’t care about their abominable bridge. I’ve had enough of the railroads sticking their infernal structures all over this country. One way or another, they have to be stopped.”
What is next for you?
I have the release of Once a Thief soon.
Convicted thief and con-woman Teagan Copperfield is willing to do anything to avoid prison even become an honest woman. Earning a full-pardon for her crimes should be a piece of cake. All she has to do is gain the trust of Jared O’Neill, the cynical lawyer in charge of her rehabilitation, and help him root out the political corruption in Colorado Territory’s capitol. Oh, and keep him alive until her pardon comes through.
The task isn’t without pitfalls, however. The unconditional love offered by the O’Neill family threatens to break through her emotional defenses. Ellie, a six-year-old orphan, has a faith in God that Teagan finds intriguing. Then there’s Jared O’Neill—a man unlike any Teagan has ever known.
I’m also working on Book 2 of the Katy Railway Mysteries. It’s called Malicious Intent.
Meet Eleanor Grace (AKA Ellen Potts). Eleanor has turned lying into an art form. She does it to protect her heart, but one of her lies might spell disaster for the MK&T Railroad.
Enter Seth Brady—a man who is torn between supporting his family as a station agent for the railroad and following his dream of a being a concert pianist. When his railway station receives a series of bomb threats, both careers might blow sky high.
Thanks for sharing with us, Lora!
Readers, if you would like to be entered into a drawing for an eCopy of Malicious Mischief please leave a comment.
Rules: Drawing ends February 15, 2015. The winner will be notified 2/16/2015. There must be five qualifying comments for the drawing to take place. Kimberly’s and Lora’s comments do not count. Void where prohibited by law.
Lora Young has never lived outside the state of Missouri. She grew up reading the Little House books and Trixie Belden mysteries, so it makes sense that her first novel would be an historical mystery set in Missouri.
Lora lives in rural Platte County with her husband, four cats, and the constant interruption of her children and grandchildren. She enjoys riding her tadpole recumbent, ballroom dancing, and making stuff up.
She is a member of the Kansas City West chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers.