Meg is offering a free digital copy of Double or Nothing for one lucky reader and I’m throwing in a $10 Amazon gift card for another. To enter: leave a comment (and your email address) on this blog entry and then click here to enter the Rafflecopter. The winner will be chosen and notified on April 19th. Good luck!
I love reading historical fiction. I love researching them even more… and the transcontinental railroad is a favorite topic because the first book in my Double Series is a twist of True Grit and Murder on the Orient Express. Double Crossing won the 2012 Spur Award for Best First Novel, and my new release, Double or Nothing, is the sequel. Book two is not set on a train, but incorporates some further information about the New York to San Francisco railroad.
So let’s talk trains! Most people take for granted the highways of today. Over 150 years ago, when gold was first discovered in California, men hoping to get rich traveled to San Francisco via steamships which navigated through the dangerous Panama River and jungle region in Central America. Settlers heading west chose stage coaches, river boats, Conestoga wagons, oxen or horses, which dictated how far one could go—and such trips would often take many months due to weather, Indians and no real roads.
After the ‘war of Rebellion,’ the Union Pacific began laying tracks west from Omaha. They had their own problems with marauding Indians, the Rocky mountains and keeping up the pace (although I’m not certain the AMC series Hell on Wheels is all that accurate). The Central Pacific had far greater obstacles and dangers. Relentless winter storms in the Sierra Nevada mountains stalled the work. Snow sheds were fashioned to keep progress going, and thank goodness for nitroglycerin and the Chinese laborers who gave their lives to build that route. The five-mile-long Summit Tunnel in the Sierra Nevada took 15 months, in fact, to finish. The “race” between the two companies ended at Promontory Point in Utah in May of 1869.
After the Golden Spike ceremony that joined the two lines, travelers could begin in New York and end up in Sacramento within a week or 10 days in good weather. But travel wasn’t easy. The Pullman Palace sleeping cars proved expensive for the average traveler, but were not luxurious by any standard. Station houses with 30-minute meal stops gave way to dining cars within the decade. Indians who had often sabotaged the Union Pacific crews withdrew further north to fight at the Little Big Horn—and eventual defeat after that short-lived victory by the turn of the century. The Western Pacific railroad was also built from Sacramento via Stockton and San Jose to get as close to San Francisco as possible, although many people took a spur railroad to Vallejo and then a ferry across the Bay. Within 25 years, the majority of fruit shipped to the East Coast from California via refrigerated freight cars.
The transcontinental railroad proved to be the biggest fuel for American western expansion. My Double series gives the reader that sense of the west, of adventure and mystery, a touch of romance, and a bit of inspiration as well. Double Crossing is a twist of True Grit and Murder on the Orient Express, while Double or Nothing continues the adventures of Lily and Ace with a twist on The Fugitive.
DOUBLE CROSSING—BOOK 1
August, 1869: Lily Granville is stunned by her father’s murder. Only one other person knows about a valuable California gold mine deed — both are now missing. Lily heads west on the newly opened transcontinental railroad, determined to track the killer. She soon realizes she is no longer the hunter but the prey.
As things progress from bad to worse, Lily is uncertain who to trust—the China-bound missionary who wants to marry her, or the wandering Texan who offers to protect her … for a price. Will Lily survive the journey and unexpected betrayal?
- Amazon for Kindle and print
- B&N for Nook
- Hardcover Large Print Edition: – Amazon or B&N
- Audiobook: Audible.com or Amazon
A mysterious explosion. A man framed for murder. A strong woman determined to prove his innocence.
October, 1869: Lily Granville, heiress to a considerable fortune, rebels against her uncle’s strict rules. Ace Diamond, determined to win Lily, invests in a dynamite factory but his success fails to impress her guardian. An explosion in San Francisco, mere hours before Lily elopes with Ace to avoid a forced marriage, sets off a chain of consequences.
About the Author
Meg Mims is an award-winning author and artist. She writes blended genres – historical, western, adventure, romance, suspense and mystery. Her first book, Double Crossing, won the 2012 Spur Award for Best First Novel from Western Writers of America and was named a Finalist in the Best Books of 2012 from USA Book News for Fiction: Western. Double or Nothing is the sequel. Meg has also written two contemporary romance novellas,The Key to Love and Santa Paws — which reached the Amazon Kindle Bestseller list.
DOUBLE CROSSING — Chapter One
I burst into the house. Keeping the flimsy telegram envelope, I dumped half a dozen packages into the maid’s waiting arms. “Where’s Father? I need to speak to him.”
“He’s in the library, Miss Lily. With Mr. Todaro.”
Oh, bother. I didn’t have time to deal with Emil Todaro, my father’s lawyer. He was the last person I wanted to see—but that couldn’t be helped. Thanking Etta, I raced down the hall. Father turned from his roll-top desk, spectacles perched on his thin nose and hands full of rustling papers. Todaro rose from an armchair with a courteous bow. His silver waistcoat buttons strained over his belly and his balding head shone in the sunlight. I forced myself to nod in his direction and then planted a quick kiss on Father’s leathery cheek. The familiar scents of pipe tobacco and bay rum soothed my nervous energy.
“I didn’t expect you back so early, Lily. What is it?”
With an uneasy glance at Todaro, I slipped him the envelope. “The telegraph messenger boy caught me on my way home.” My voice dropped. “It’s from Uncle Harrison.”
Father poked up his wire rims while he pored over the brief message. His shoulders slumped. “I’ll speak plainly, Lily, because Mr. Todaro and I were discussing this earlier. My brother sent word that George Hearst intends to claim the Early Bird mine in a Sacramento court. Harrison believes his business partner never filed the deed. He needs to prove our ownership.”
“Hearst holds an interest in the Comstock Lode, Colonel.” Todaro had perked up, his long knobby fingers forming a steeple. The lawyer resembled an amphibian, along with his deep croak of a voice. “His lawyers are just as ambitious and ruthless in court.”
Father peered over his spectacles. “Yes, but I have the original deed. I didn’t plan to visit California until next month, so we’ll have to move up our trip.”
“Oh!” I clasped my hands, a thrill racing through me. “I’m dying to visit all the shops out there, especially in San Francisco. When do we leave?”
“We? I meant myself and Mr. Todaro.”
I stared at the lawyer, who didn’t conceal a sly smirk. “You cannot leave me behind, Father. I promised to visit Uncle Harrison, and what if I decide to go to China?”
“Lily, I refuse to discuss the matter. This trip is anything but a lark.”
“It’s a grueling two thousand miles on the railroad, Miss Granville. Conditions out west are far too dangerous for a young lady,” Todaro said. “Even with an escort.”
“The new transcontinental line has been operating all summer. Plenty of women have traveled to California. I’ve read the newspaper reports.”
“I’m afraid the Union and Central Pacific cars are not as luxurious as the reports say. You have no idea. The way stations are abominable, for one thing.”
I flashed a smile at him. “I’m ready for adventure. That’s why I’ve considered joining the missionary team with Mr. Mason.”
Father scowled. “You are not leaving Evanston until I give my approval.”
“You mean until you dissuade me from ‘such a ridiculous notion.’”
“Need I remind you of the fourth commandment, Lily?”
“No, Father. We’ll discuss this later.”
My face flushed hot. Annoyed by being reprimanded in front of Todaro, I ignored the rest of the conversation. I’d always wanted to see the open prairie and perhaps a buffalo herd chased by Indians, the majestic Rocky Mountains and California. California, with its mining camps, lush green meadows and warm sunshine, the cities of Sacramento and San Francisco that had to be as exhilarating as downtown Chicago. I’d pored over the grainy pen-and-ink drawings in the Chicago Times. Uncle Harrison, who’d gone west several years ago to make a fortune and succeeded, for the most part, would welcome me with open arms. I plopped down on an armchair and fingered the ridges of the brass floor lamp beside me. Somehow I needed to persuade Father to allow me to tag along on this trip.