Genre: Historical Women’s Fiction
Word Count: 107,000
A 1906 San Francisco debutante and aspiring botanist struggles to choose between sisterly loyalty and a life of wilderness adventure with her love.
The bellman’s knock was as familiar to me as the back of Mother’s hand, yet still I jumped when its rap, rap, rap punctured the silence of our parlor.
‘Another delivery of one of Mother’s treasures.’ I laid my copy of ‘Asa Gray’s Botany Primer’ beside me on the divan—an uncomfortable hand-carved Art Nouveau piece Mother adored because ‘Mrs. Vanderbilt had one just like it in her morning room at the Breakers’—and hauled the heavy walnut door to our suite open.
“Letter for Mrs. Rose.” The bellman clutched a sterling silver tray with two white-gloved hands.
‘I know that handwriting.’ I snatched up the letter and dropped two jitneys onto the bellman’s tray with a wide smile. “Thank you. We’ve been waiting for this.”
He bowed and I closed the door.
“Father’s finally written.” I rushed toward Mother and my filmy afternoon frock tangled around my legs. Father had been gone four weeks with no word—unusual behavior for him, but not entirely unexpected. When business consumed him, his vision narrowed to a pinpoint.
“Hand it to me, Elizabeth.” Mother slumped in her favorite chair—a piece designed by Jack Gruber, she liked to boast—with an empty crystal tumbler beside her.
Why hadn’t she leapt from her chair to open the door? She loved retrieving neatly wrapped packages and calling cards from fine families looking to make a stronger acquaintance with ours. “Do you think he’s coming home?”
She opened the envelope with a slash. “I have no idea what that man is thinking.”