I will be posting a review, in the very near future, of Robin Lee Hatcher's upcoming release A Vote of Confidence. I admit that I am enjoying what I have read thus far. Here is a sneak peek:
Who says a woman can’t do a man’s job?
Put up or shut up! Complaining about Bethlehem Springs' dissolute mayoral candidate, Gwen Arlington is challenged to take on the role herself. For seven years, she’s carved out an independent life in the bustling mountain town of Bethlehem Springs, Idaho, teaching piano and writing for the local newspaper. But now she’s a single woman running for mayor — and in 1915 this decision is bound to stir up trouble.
Morgan McKinley is fed up with the delays that hinder the construction of New Hope Health Spa, a place where both rich and poor can come for rest and healing. New to the area, he has determined that serving as mayor would help him push through his agenda for progress.Gwen and Morgan each want to prove they are the most qualified candidate, not only to voters but to each other, and so sparks fly as the two campaign. Although Morgan has learned to guard his heart as fiercely as Gwen guards her independence, could they learn to be allies instead of adversaries?
This first book in the Sisters of Bethlehem Springs Series provides intriguing insights into how women challenged convention and shaped America in the early twentieth century.
Idaho, May 1915
The Torpedo Runabout cut the corner from Shenandoah Street onto Wallula Street, driving over two of the boarding house’s rose bushes in the process. The automobile then weaved dangerously close to Guinevere Arlington’s white picket fence.
With a gasp, Gwen jumped up from the porch swing.
In the nick of time, the Model T Ford veered away from her fence, avoiding disaster.
"Hello, ladies." The driver tipped his hat to Gwen and her sister as if nothing was amiss.
"And there goes our next mayor." Cleo shook her head and cast a look of despair at Gwen. "Ten o’clock in the morning and drunk as a skunk. Can you imagine him holding the reins of government?"
"No, I can’t." Gwen sank onto the porch swing again. "Hiram Tattersall is a fool, not to mention his penchant for strong spirits."
Cleo crossed one booted foot over another as she leaned against the porch railing. "Why don’t you run for office, Gwennie? Not a reason in the world you couldn’t do it."
"Me?" Gwen looked at her twin in disbelief.
"Of course you. There’s nothing in the law that says a woman can’t be the mayor of our fair town. You’re a nicer person than Mayor Hopkins, the old coot?"
"Cleo. Don’t be unkind."
"I’m sorry. I know he’s sick or we wouldn’t be having this special election. But he hasn’t done a single, solitary thing of worth while he’s been mayor, and everybody knows Tattersall will be an even worse mayor than Hopkins."
"I have no qualifications for political office."
"And Tattersall does? You’d do a better job than Hopkins and Tattersall put together. Folks like you." Cleo winked. "Especially the men, pretty as you are."
Gwen wasn’t amused. "If I were to run, I wouldn’t want to be elected for my appearance."
"So don’t let that be why. You got that fancy education burning to be put to use. Why not let folks see you’re as full of information as a mail-order catalog?"
It was a ridiculous idea. Gwen had no intention of running for mayor. She was content giving piano lessons to the children of Bethlehem Springs and writing her columns for the local newspaper.
Cleo drank the last of her iced tea, set the glass on the porch floor, and pushed off from the railing. "I’d best get back to the ranch. I’ve got a load of chores still to be done." She slapped her floppy-brimmed hat onto her head, covering her mop of short, strawberry-blonde curls. "You’d be doing this town a favor if you were its mayor. We could use a little forward thinking, if you ask me."
Gwen smiled as she rose from the swing. "Darling Cleo, I could never be as forward thinking as you."
Gwen followed her sister off the porch and around to the back of the house where Cleo’s pinto was tethered to a post. Cleo stopped long enough to give Gwen a hug and a kiss on the cheek, then untied her horse, grasped the saddle horn, and swung into the seat. "You think about it, Gwennie. I’m telling you. It’s the right thing to do. You pray and see if the Lord doesn’t agree with me." With a tug on the brim of her hat, she twirled her horse away and cantered down the street.
Gwen shook her head. Cleo could come up with the most outlandish ideas. Imagine: Gwen Arlington, mayor of Bethlehem Springs. It was preposterous. Not that she didn’t believe women should serve in public office. She did, and she was glad she lived in a state where women had the right to vote. But she had no political ambitions.
With a sigh, she returned to the front porch and settled onto the cushioned seat of the swing, giving a little push with her feet to start it in motion.
The air smelled of fresh-turned earth, green grass, and flowers in bloom. The mountains of southern Idaho were enjoying warm weather, although snow could be seen on the highest peaks to the north and east of Bethlehem Springs.
Gwen loved this small town. She loved her neighbors, the children who came for lessons, the women in her church sewing circle. She loved the long, narrow valley, the river that flowed through it, and the tree-covered mountains that overlooked it all. She loved the sense of the old West and the new century that surrounded her, horses and automobiles, outhouses and indoor plumbing, wood-burning stoves and electric lights.
Her mother, Elizabeth Arlington, hadn’t felt the same about Idaho. She despised everything about it, so much so that after four years of marriage, she’d left her husband and returned to her parents’ home in Hoboken, New Jersey, taking two-year-old Gwen with her.
"Be thankful, Guinevere," her mother said on many an occasion over the years, "that your father allowed you to come with me. We’re alike, you and I. We need society and fine culture. Think of the advantages you’ve had that poor Cleopatra has gone without. The opera and the theater. Fine schooling. You would never be suited to live in that backwater town where your father chose to settle."
But her mother was wrong. Bethlehem Springs did suit Gwen — a truth she discovered soon after her arrival in Idaho seven years before. At the age of twenty-one, and with the reluctant blessing of her mother, she had come to Idaho to meet the father and sister she couldn’t remember. She hadn’t intended to stay, but in a few short weeks she’d fallen in love with the area. Her heart felt at home here as it never had in New Jersey.
A frown puckered her forehead. What would happen to Bethlehem Springs if Hiram Tattersall became its mayor? He wouldn’t try to better their schools or improve roads or help those who had lost jobs due to mine closings. And if the governor of the state succeeded in passing prohibition in Idaho, as many thought he would, Tattersall wouldn’t enforce it in Bethlehem Springs. She was convinced of that.
I would do a better job than he would.
But of course she had no intention of running for mayor.
No intention whatsoever.
Morgan McKinley wanted nothing more than to punch that artificial smile off Harrison Carter’s face.
"You’ll have to wait until after the election, Mr. McKinley. I’m sorry. The new mayor and the county commissioners must be in agreement on these matters."
Before Morgan did something he would regret—something that would get him tossed into the jail one floor below — he bid a hasty farewell and left the commissioner’s chambers. When he exited the municipal building, he paused on the sidewalk long enough to draw a calming breath.
Harrison Carter had delayed this decision for personal reasons, not for anything to do with an election. Several times over the past year, the commissioner had offered to buy the land where New Hope was being built. If he thought these delays would change Morgan’s mind about selling, he was in for a big disappointment.
With a grunt of frustration, he turned and headed for his automobile, parked on the west side of the sandstone building. Fagan Doyle, Morgan’s business manager and good friend, leaned against the back of the car, his pipe clenched between his teeth.
"Well?" Fagan cocked an eyebrow.
Morgan shook his head.
"Then I’ll be asking what it is you mean to do about it?"
"I don’t know yet."
Morgan got behind the wheel of the Model T while Fagan moved to the crank. Once the engine started, Fagan slid into the passenger seat and closed the door. Morgan turned the automobile around and followed Main Street out to the main road, thankful his friend didn’t ask more questions. He needed to think.
Occasional complications and delays were expected when a man undertook a large building project, but this felt different. Morgan had half expected Harrison to ask for money under the table, but that hadn’t happened. Just as well since Morgan wasn’t the sort who bribed public officials. Nor allowed himself to be blackmailed by them. Not under any circumstance.
Twenty minutes later, the Touring Car arrived on the grounds of what would one day be a unique resort—the New Hope Health Spa. The main lodge had taken shape at the upper end of the compound. Morgan no longer needed to study the architectural renderings to imagine what it would look like when finished.
He wished his mother had lived to see it. This spa had been her dream before it became his.
Before the automobile rolled to a stop, the site foreman, Christopher Vance, ran toward them. "Morgan, we’ve got a problem"
Another one? "What is it?"
"The dam on Crow’s Creek. It’s leaking. I’m not sure it’ll hold. I’ve got a crew up there now working on it."
Morgan’s gaze shifted toward the narrow road at the east end of the compound. About a mile up they’d built the dam that would provide and control the cold water used in conjunction with the natural hot water from the springs.
"I’d better see it for myself. Hop in," he said to the two men, "and we’ll drive up there."
If that dam broke, a good portion of the resort compound could end up covered in several inches of water. Not the end of the world, but it would stop construction until things dried out. Another delay.
"Somebody did this, Morgan," Christopher added. "It’s no accident."
He frowned at his foreman. "Are you sure?"
Why would anyone want to sabotage the dam? It was deep into his property, and he hadn’t diverted water that was needed by anyone else. No farmers or ranchers were dependent upon the flow of Crow’s Creek. He’d made sure of that.
Could Harrison Carter be behind it?