Title: UNTIL . . .
Author: Beth Henderson
Genre: Historical Romantic Mystery
Life. Death. Fate has its own agenda.
When Talmadge Hammond drifts into the Idaho mining camp he has no intention of using his law degree. He’s there for whiskey and the gold he can win at cards. Instead, he must save the life of the woman who’d once vowed to love him until…
Noletta Kittridge begins that day covered in a man’s blood and accused of murder. She has sinned to stay alive. Redemption can come only by giving her life to save the person who accidentally killed the man. Even Tal’s reappearance in her life can’t revive Letty’s will to live.
Determined to keep her from the hangman’s noose, Tal must either convince her to tell who did kill the victim or solve the mystery himself. If he fails, he and Letty will finally reach that unvoiced destination beyond until…
Although the men dragged the half-clad woman along, their grips tight and threatening, she wasn’t fighting or resisting them physically or verbally. She looked beaten, not in body but in spirit. And yet, when she stumbled, the toe of her wear-marred but neatly laced-up boot catching in the cloying mud, pitching her forward out of the men’s custody, the crowd gasped. Some stepped farther back to avoid physical contact. The carrion seekers in the mob pressed nearer, set to rend her vulnerability.
They hurled insults at her. She suffered the name calling, if it could be called such. The style of her clothing—or lack of it—and the building itself proclaimed the truth of her profession. She was the whore they called her.
Then he heard the new word, the word that was at first only whispered before it gained a more daring voice: murderess.
One of the men yanked her upright, uncaring whether he hurt her or not. It was only then, when she raised her head, her chin, in a manner any grand dame reared in the top tier of Eastern society would recognize, that he knew her.
It couldn’t be.
And yet, when she swept the gathered crowd, the gaze she turned on them was the one she had learned at her mother’s knee. At her grandmother’s table and at enumerable dinners, balls, and afternoon teas in Boston.
Tal watched in stunned amazement as the once Honorable Miss Noletta Kittridge shrugged free of the man’s hand and with a back straightened by years of deportment, stepped from the meager shelter of the porch, moved beyond the hungry, insult-hurling crowd, and strode on her own toward the camp jail.
She looked at no one, met no eye, taking comfort in the inborn dignity of the class into which she had been born.
Her class, Tal thought, heart sore. He’d never been a true part of it, merely a hanger-on, a climber. A friend to her brother.
And that friend had called him a traitor to his country.
But Letty… What was she doing in Idaho Territory? She should be enjoying the comforts of Boston, being fêted by the officers who managed to make it home and the wealthy industrialists who paid other men to take their place in the infantry lines.
If she hadn’t stridden down the sorry muddy excuse of a street with her blueblood holding her above the rabble, he might have doubted his eyes. Even so, it was difficult to believe Letty Kittridge and the prostitute with blood and mud drying on her scant clothing were one and the same.
The show over, the crowd dispersed around him. Before they could all disappear, Tal tapped a blurry-eyed man in a threadbare suit coat on the shoulder.
“Pardon, friend,” he said. “Could you tell me what that was all about?”
“Gal shot her man, from the looks of it,” the fellow said. “Not surprised it happened, just that it took Pearl this long to do it.”
“The dove they arrested.”
“You sure she’s the one that did it?” Tal pressed.
“Wearing Rosser’s blood, isn’t she? Why the interest, mister?”
Tal gave the man what he hoped passed for a harmless grin. “Just making sure no other gal or man’s like to shoot my fool head off while I’m here.”
“Gold brought you, then?”
“Brought everyone else in town, too, I’d say,” Tal observed, his smile widening.
“You’re right,” the man agreed and chuckled. He offered his hand. “Ebner Melton, mayor of this little burg.”
“Adam Cain,” Tal said easily and pumped the mayor’s paw. He’d been using the alias for too long now to ever stumble over offering it. It was more difficult to remember his life as Talmadge Hammond back in Boston.
Did Letty feel the same?
“Where do you hail from, Mr. Cain?” the mayor asked.
“Anymore, the last gold field that called to me,” Tal admitted. “’Fore that, Canada and points beyond.”
“And might I ask what you did before you came down with gold fever?”
The mayor was treading on dangerous ground now, wanting to know what sort of man he’d been back East. But considering events at this gold strike, Tal decided the truth needed to be let out at least one last time.
“I was a lawyer, Mr. Mayor. One with a knack for defending the innocent.”
Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):
Amazon US https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08XV12YWY
Amazon CA https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B08XV12YWY
Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08XV12YWY
What makes your featured book a must-read?
For me, this equates to how well a story zips me into the mental time machine and takes me to someplace I’d never probably visit even if there were a time machine. I’d miss modern conveniences and restaurant menus. But there is action-adventure, romance, a mystery, star-crossed lovers, and gold in them thar hills. It’s character driven which always makes for a very enticing read to me because the people in the cast are sorta “real” then.
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BETH HENDERSON spent a dozen years writing and rewriting the same three books during the 1980s, but all those rewrites paid off via a romance spinning career now 30+ years long. Romantic-comedy and historical romantic adventure are her forte. She also writes urban fantasy PI mystery comedy and Weird West Steampunk, 1920s Dieselpunk and Victorian Gaslamp mystery comedy under different pennames. Between all the genres she’s danced through there have been a total of 32 novels (Until… the 32rd), 9 novellas, and 15 short stories (the 15th in an anthology releasing July 1st). She is also a regular writing workshop presenter at Savvy Authors and various online RWA chapters and is the author of How To Write a Funny Mystery by Beth Daniels, her real name!
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