My guest today is Meg Mims, a friend and fellow author I've recently met and come to admire. It's always good to have like-minded friends, and I'm pleased she agreed to come here and share her western historical romantic suspense, Double Crossing. Welcome Meg:
Yep, Double Crossing also has a mystery element and a touch of inspirational. I call it a “blended genre” read – check out my 5-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads!
A murder arranged as a suicide … a missing deed … and a bereft daughter whose sheltered world is shattered.
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?
Why did you set Double Crossing on the transcontinental railroad? Did you learn anything about trains that surprised you while writing this book?
I loved True Grit (the original book, the movie in 1969 and the recent version also) and was inspired to use the “premise” of a young woman whose father is murdered, setting her on a quest for justice. Because I had to “twist” it (in many ways, since I couldn’t use Rooster Cogburn either!), I chose the transcontinental railroad because I’d always been fascinated by trains. Since the UP and CP first came together at Promontory Point in May of 1869, I decided that setting Double Crossing several months after that historic event seemed a ‘natural fit.’ And the research all seemed to fall into place, with a book written in 1872 about an English nobleman taking a train trip from New York to San Francisco, plus other interesting sources.
The most surprising thing I learned while writing this book – most people assume trains had normal “washroom” facilities like modern trains. Think again! Basically they were ‘outhouse’ holes with waste falling to the track, and caused major hygienic problems over the years. If your great-grandparents or grandparents were told to stay away from playing on the tracks until the 1930s, when plumbing was introduced to passenger cars, there was a good reason for that! Imagine how cold that would be in winter, too.
Since you mentioned Rooster Cogburn, did you create a character with the same role?
That was also tough – I rolled Rooster and the Texas Ranger LaBoef into “ Ace” Diamond, an ex-Confederate cavalry soldier, poker-player and wanderer… how did he end up in Omaha, Nebraska, without his horse? I’m considering writing a brief “prequel” short story to explain that soon! He may not be one-eyed or a drunk, but he has an interesting history nonetheless.
Tell us about Lily Granville. How did she introduce herself to you?
Lily went through many transitions. First she was as young as Mattie Ross, 14 years old and so whiny and spoiled, I disliked her. So I stuffed ‘Linnet,’ kicking and screaming, back into the centrifuge. Out popped Julia, who was 17, religious and quite bent on revenge for her father’s murder. Enough to shoot the killer, in fact, which wouldn’t work – she needed to be vulnerable. Needy. Yet spunky enough to undertake a 2,000 mile adventure and seek justice, not revenge. ‘Julia’ morphed into Lily, who loved her father yet quarreled with him – and then overcame her heartbreak to track the man she believed responsible for his death. Lily, at 19, has many choices ahead of her and discovers her own resilience is much stronger than she ever knew in Double Crossing. She’ll need that for the next adventure in Double or Nothing!
Here’s an excerpt, where Lily is in Omaha, painfully aware she’ll need protection from the growing danger – and then her domineering aunt shows up to persuade her to return to Chicago:
My face burned. I gritted my teeth, aware of the curious diners’ hushed whispers around the room, and lowered my voice. “I overheard your plans about Bellevue. Did you think I’d allow you to shut me away in such a place?”
Aunt Sylvia glared. “We only have your health in mind.”
“I’m in perfect health. You’d better take the train back to Chicago, because I already bought my Pullman ticket.”
“You cannot travel alone with Mr. Mason. You’re not engaged.”
“Uncle Harrison is expecting me.”
I ignored a twinge of guilt while the fib hovered between us. Her mouth pinched tight, she drummed her fingers on the tablecloth. Charles stood quiet, his face beet red, one hand smoothing back his fair hair, the other adjusting his collar and tie. Angry yells and shouts drifted through the window panes from the street, drowning out the resumed conversation around us, the clatter of plates and flatware. Outside, I caught sight of several men who fought with bare fists. They kicked, bit, scratched and pummeled each other. Sir Vaughn glanced out the window and then sat across from my aunt. He waved a hand.
“Common ruffians. These rustic surroundings breed a lack of manners.”
“Lily, you have no idea of the dangers. My husband traveled to Nevada earlier this year,” Aunt Sylvia said. “Neither you or Mr. Mason have considered the impropriety of this.”
“He’s a gentleman for escorting me.”
“I can see for myself what you both are—”
A blood‑curdling yell, similar to what I’d read about an Indian war cry, stopped her cold. The moment I glanced up, the window exploded. Shards of glass rained on us and a man rolled over the table. Scattering plates, flatware, cups and teapot, before he crashed onto the floor—unconscious, and half‑draped in the tablecloth among the broken china and glass.
Mere inches from my feet.
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