Long before the maiden voyage of the Titanic (1912), luxury steamships were crossing the Atlantic Ocean. One such vessel was the twin screw steamer, SS City of New York (pictured above). First class accommodations were meant to evoke the interior of a luxury hotel, with such amenities as a sumptuous dining room (saloon), library, smoking room, drawing room, hot and cold running water, barber shop, walking track on the promenade deck, electric ventilation and electric lighting. As enjoyable as ocean travel might for the monied elite aboard these luxury liners, it was not without difficulty. Deadly icebergs would frequently break off from the western coastline of Greenland and float south through shipping lanes. The thick Atlantic fog that often surrounded these huge steamers would obscure hapless fishing vessels, leading to collisions. Should a ship suffer some sort of mechanical failure, it would be at the mercy of passing vessels to render aid. Opportunistic passengers known as cardsharps might also pose a danger to wealthy gentlemen who enjoyed a high stakes game of cards or two. In addition, stormy seas often led to lengthy bouts of sea sickness. Nevertheless, the lure of a relatively quick voyage (a little over six days in 1890) between continents far outweighed the potential dangers.
Such is the setting for my upcoming release Duke of a Gilded Age: When American-born Wesley Parker inherits a dukedom in 1890, he must learn to be an aristocrat. Assigned to the task is his attorney’s daughter, prim Belle Oakhurst. As they travel to England together on a luxurious ocean liner, their tempestuous relationship encounters more than rough seas. Although Wesley is increasingly attracted to Belle, she is already engaged. While Belle begins to regret her hasty promise to marry, she is bound by honor and duty to keep her pledge. Furthermore, a thoughtless fabrication on her part threatens to expose her as a liar. Neither Wesley nor Belle can foresee that their voyage across the Atlantic will be fraught with peril, and will cost more than one man his life.
Wesley crossed to the far side of the ship as it skirted Brooklyn on its way to Lower Bay. The cheerful sunshine that had heralded their departure had disappeared, blocked by dark clouds rolling in. Erratic gusts of wind threatened to blow his hat over the side of the railing, so he removed it and held it in his hand. As the ship cleared Rockaway Peninsula, the ship’s bell tolled the half‐hour. Belle joined him.
“It looks like stormy weather ahead, but I overheard one of the stewards saying the tide is in our favor,” she said. “As soon as we’re on the other side of the Sandy Hook lighthouse, it will be full steam ahead.”
“That’s good news.”
“Are you terribly sad to be leaving New York?”
He glanced at Belle, whose pretty features were etched with concern.
“Not really. Since my father died, I can’t think of a happy memory…until this past week.”
“I take that as a compliment,” she replied with a smile. “You didn’t have a sweetheart in Brooklyn, did you?”
“Er…I was rather fond of Liam Kennedy’s younger sister for a while, but after he turned against me, so did she.”
“Oh, dear. Since you’re now a duke, I expect Miss Kennedy will never let her brother forget you, will she?”
Wesley laughed. “I hadn’t thought of it, but you’re quite right. She has a redhead’s temper, so it may be some time before Liam receives a kind word from her.”
“That notion should lighten your mood! Listen, I’m going to my cabin to freshen up and I’ll see you at the captain’s bon voyage reception in the saloon.”
“I’ll look forward to it.”
Wesley watched Belle walk away. A gust of wind lifted the hem of her skirt, revealing her slender ankles. He rather enjoyed the spectacle until he noticed Stephen Van Eyck watching Belle too.
To celebrate the release of Duke of a Gilded Age on Friday, June 28th, my first historical romance The Ice Captain‘s Daughter will be FREE on Amazon HERE, from Wednesday, June 26th (12 a.m. PST) until Sunday, June 30th (11:59 p.m. PST). Enjoy the download, and don’t forget to tell a friend! Psst… there’s a free sample chapter of Duke in the back! To add Duke of a Gilded Age to your Goodreads list, go HERE.