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cover for A View Most Glorious, Book 3 in the American Wonders Collection, by historical romance author Regina Scott

A View Most Glorious, Book 3 in the American Wonders Collection

Coming October 5, 2021 (Revell) in ebook, trade paperback, hardcover, and audiobook

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Reluctant socialite Coraline Baxter longs to live a life of significance and leave her mark on the world. When her local suffragette group asks her to climb Mount Rainier to raise awareness of their cause, she jumps at the chance, even though she has absolutely no climbing experience. If she can do it, any woman can do it. And after her mother issues an ultimatum-that Cora marry the man of her mother's choosing if she is not successful-Cora must do it. But she can't do it alone.

Noted mountain guide Nathan Hardee initially refuses to help Cora, but has a change of heart when he sees what is at stake. He knows enough about the man Cora's mother has chosen to know that the headstrong young woman should have nothing to do with him, much less marry him.

Climbing Rainier will require all of Cora's fortitude and will lead her and Nathan to rediscover their faith in God and humanity. These two loners make unlikely partners in righting a wrong and may just discover that only together is the view most glorious.

 

Reviews and Endorsements

Starred Review! "Scott's historical inspirational romance captures the magnificence of the mountain and the thrilling triumph of climbers in the 1890s. As a native to the Mount Rainier region, Scott writes with an exhilarating wealth of sensory detail, brings the setting to such vivid life the mountain becomes a dynamic character in its own right. This is a truly remarkable conclusion to Scott's exceptional American Wonders trilogy." -- Kate Campos, Booklist

"Unputdownable! A View Most Glorious is historical romance at its best." -- Amanda Cabot, bestselling author

"A View Most Glorious is, indeed, glorious! This adventure-filled tale with its wonderful characters will have you holding your breath as Coraline faces more opposition than what the mountain can throw at her." -- Kit Morgan, USA Today bestselling author

 

Excerpt

Chapter One

Along the waterfront, Tacoma, Washington, 1893

She was causing a stir.

Wouldn't be the first time. Coraline Baxter was used to heads turning, eyes widening when she walked in a room. It happened at the society balls her mother insisted she attend, where she was expected to be the best dressed, the most polished. It had happened at the Puget Sound University, where she had been one of a few women. It happened when she arrived at the bank, where she was the only female accountant. So it shouldn't surprise her that it was happening at Shem's Dockside Saloon, which likely hadn't seen many women and certainly not ladies accompanied by a father.

Stepfather, something corrected her. Beside her, Stephen Winston blinked blue eyes wreathed in wrinkles he'd earned by peering at ledgers all day. His gloved hand gripped the gold head of his ebony walking stick as he glanced around the dimly lit eatery. The occupants likely hadn't seen many gentlemen of his caliber either. His tailored coat, satin-striped waistcoat, and gold watch hanging by a thick chain proclaimed him a man of means.

Means seemed hard to come by for most of the men in the room. The rough plank floors, open beams, and unplastered walls spoke of toil, hardship, and the camaraderie of men with pride in their own worth. Still, it was little more than a shanty perched over Puget Sound, and it was hard to smell the brine over the smoke in the air. She tried not to wrinkle her nose. Winston didn't bother to hide his dislike. His lips were slightly curled under his trim white mustache. And he was staring.

They were staring back.

Dozens of them. Each cap or hat covered hair that peeked out below as if it were none too sure of its surroundings. Wool sweaters were rolled up at the sleeves to display arms that had labored for long hours. Gazes sized her up, showed interest or suspicion. Her mother had taught her to dress for the part she would play in any situation, but she hadn't realized the gray taffeta overcoat that was cut to show the lace at her throat and sleeves would look so out of place here. Then again, she'd never visited a saloon before and had no plans to repeat the experience.

Conversation dwindled, stopped. Someone shoved back a chair with a screech of wood on wood.

"Do you see him?" Cora hissed.

Winston started to shake his head no, then stiffened. "There. That table near the wall. That may be young Nathan."

Nathan Hardee was no longer the youth her stepfather had remembered. That much was clear. He was facing away from them. Shoulders in a dark wool coat stretched wider than the back of the wood chair on which he sat. Lamplight picked out gold in the wavy brown hair that spilled nearly to those shoulders. Winston hurried forward, and she followed, careful to keep any part of her coat from touching the sawdust-covered floor, scarred tables, or a patron. Still they watched her.

Let them look. She had more important things to concern her.

An older man about her stepfather's age and with hair as white rose from the table as they approached. He was a little taller than Winston, but narrower, and his face was carved in lines and hollows, as if life had worn him thin.

"Mr. Winston?" he asked, brown eyes darting from her stepfather to her and back again.

"Yes," Winston acknowledged. "You must be Waldo Vance."

Around them, voices rose, glasses clinked. One of the gang had recognized them. They were accepted.

For now.

Vance nodded to her stepfather. "That's right. This is Nathan Hardee. I believe you knew his father."

Hardee showed not the least welcome as he swiveled in his chair just enough to meet her stepfather's gaze. The son of a prominent family, Winston had said. She'd met dozens over the years. He didn't resemble any of them.

Society men strived for the same golden tan on their skin, but his was likely more the result of his work guiding people into the wilderness than the time he'd spent at lawn tennis. Society men often wore beards and mustaches, some quite prominent, but his was just thick enough to hide behind. Society men had the same assessing look, but few had so dark a green to their eyes, like the cool shadows of a forest. Society men dressed in plaid coats during the day or deepest black at night, not brown wool and poorly spun cotton. When she approached, society men bowed and flattered. He had to notice her standing at Winston's side, yet he didn't rise as propriety demanded.

"Afraid you've wasted your time," he said in a deep voice that reverberated inside her. "I'm not looking to act as a guide."

He hadn't even given her a chance to explain or make an offer. Frustration pushed the words out of her mouth.

"A shame. We pay handsomely, and there's not many who can say that right now."

His gaze drifted over her. "I hear you can't pay either."

Winston's ivory cheeks flushed crimson. "Now, see here," he blustered. "You have no call to impugn my reputation. I am the director of the Puget Sound Bank of Commerce. We may have been overly generous in these trying times, but we are as secure as the mountain itself."

"A mountain I won't help you climb," Hardee said, turning to face the wall again as if that would be enough to dismiss them.

There had to be something she could say to persuade him. Money didn't seem to matter-oddly enough. Neither did prestige. And forget the need to posture and prove himself a gentleman. Her cause probably wouldn't sway him either. Too few men in the city could be bothered to support women's suffrage. How could she get through to a man who apparently needed nothing?

"This is not what we were promised," her stepfather fumed. "I wrote you specifically, Mr. Vance. I understood you had the authority to arrange matters."

Vance shrugged. "You can lead a horse to water . . ."

"But apparently you can't make him drink," Cora concluded. "Unless it's the questionable drink of this fine establishment." She turned to her stepfather. "We might as well go. We have no need to link ourselves with wastrels."

Hardee rose. Goodness, how he rose. He dwarfed her stepfather and Vance. He likely dwarfed every man in the room. The top of her head reached only to the broad bone of his chest.

"Just because I won't do your bidding," he said, gazing down at her, "doesn't make me a wastrel."

"But it does make you a fool," Cora said, grasping any opening he would give her. "Lumber barons are digging ditches to keep a roof over their heads; shipping heiresses are cleaning toilets to make ends meet. We're offering good money, just to guide us up Mount Rainier."

"Why," he asked, eyes narrowing, "would a woman like you want to climb Mount Rainier? I won't risk my life on a whim."

She raised her chin and met his assessing stare with one of her own. Fear and anger and frustration fought for supremacy. A whim, he called it. Striking a blow for suffrage, returning the right to vote to the women of Washington State--a whim. Refusing the advances of a tyrant-a whim. Securing her future, making herself beholden to no man--a whim.

"I don't need to justify my reasons to anyone," she told him. "I'm offering generous pay for your skills. We need a guide to see me safely to the summit and back to Longmire's Medical Springs. Are you that man?"

He didn't answer, gaze on hers as if he could see inside her for the truth. She'd been in society too long not to know how to hide her secrets. If sweet looks didn't suffice, bravado generally did.

"He is," the older man insisted, head bobbing. "No one knows the mountain better than Nathan Hardee. He's guided business leaders and government agents up that mountain. You couldn't be in better hands."

As if he disagreed, Hardee flexed the fingers of his large hands, hands business leaders and government agents trusted. Did that mean she could trust them? Did that mean she could trust him?

He didn't trust her.

"Not interested," he said, and he returned to his seat once more.

*

He couldn't state it more baldly. He wasn't taking a spoiled, high-society sweetheart into the wild. He still couldn't believe Waldo had suggested it.

"Just hear them out," his mentor had urged as they'd ridden into Tacoma with the pack mules for supplies. "This is a good opportunity. Enough to allow us to buy lumber and nails to add another room before winter."

The amount of money Stephen Winston had offered was indeed a pretty price, if it was real. The Panic had robbed families of their homes, men and women of their dignity. The financial turmoil could well force him and Waldo back into the society Nathan abhorred if he didn't accept work.

But not this work. It smelled of nonsense. How did he know she wouldn't cry complaint the moment things became difficult-and they would become difficult-then refuse to pay him? He'd had one or two society members attempt totreat him that way. They thought he was still one of them. What did he need with money?

He hadn't been one of them for years, and God willing, he would never be one of them again.

Besides, how did he know the banker and his daughter even had money to pay? The fellow wasn't the only one in Tacoma with the threat of ruin hanging over his head. Men reacted badly to ruin. Look at his father. Look at himself.

The beauty beside him tugged at her father's sleeve. "Come, Winston. We are wasting our time. Surely we can do better."

Waldo glanced at him and jerked his head toward the pair. That was Nathan's cue to placate, apologize. Most men probably begged her pardon when they refused her. And they likely refused her rarely. That pale hair piled up on the top of her head with curls teasing her fair cheeks. Those big blue eyes. The figure outlined in the wasp-waist coat. She probably crooked her finger and they all came running.

Not him. He'd left behind society's rules for the glory of God's creation. Playing proper hadn't changed the fact that his father was gone, along with the bulk of the fortune he'd amassed selling land in the burgeoning city. Nathan knew what it meant to fall from grace.

"Go out to the carriage, dearest," the banker told her. "I have a few words I'd like to say to Mr. Hardee, and I'd prefer not to say them in front of a lady."

Her brows went up, as if she were surprised by his forcefulness, but she nodded. The banker watched her traipse out of the saloon.

So did every other man in the room.

"Save your breath," Nathan told the fellow. "Nothing you say will change my mind."

All the bluster went out of him, and he plopped down in the chair Waldo had vacated. Waldo pulled up another to join them.

"Forgive the subterfuge, Mr. Hardee," Winston said, face sagging as if he had wearied himself with all the posturing. "What I said to Coraline is only true. While I have no intention of remonstrating, I simply didn't want her to hear me beg."

Again Waldo glanced Nathan's way. Nathan ignored him to focus on the banker. "Why would a man like you need to beg? Is there something more at stake in this climb?"

"Entirely too much," he admitted with a sigh. "Coraline is a member of the Tacoma Women's Suffrage Association. The ladies have asked her to climb the mountain to raise awareness and support of their cause."

Nathan snorted. "There are far safer ways to gather support, and other women more experienced at climbing."

"True," Winston allowed. "I gather the idea was that if Coraline could manage it, then any woman could manage it."

"And if any woman can climb the mountain, then why not give them the vote?" Waldo concluded. "Makes sense to me."

"I'm all for every person having the vote," Nathan told them both. "I'm still not convinced Miss Winston must climb the mountain."

"Miss Baxter," the banker corrected him. "I am Coraline's second stepfather."

So her mother was on her third husband? That was a wretched thing to have in common. Nathan's mother had been through two other men since his father had died as well.

"Miss Baxter, then," Nathan said. "Climbing Mount Rainier is a grueling feat. I won't subject an untried climber to it."

"But you must." He leaned closer, blue eyes imploring. "I may not have been there at Coraline's birth, but I am her father in every sense of the word, and I want her to be happy. My wife believes the only way for a woman to be happy is to marry well. If Coraline doesn't reach the summit, she has promised her mother she will return and marry the man of her mother's choosing." He lay his hand on Nathan's arm. "Please, my boy, help me save my daughter from an unhappy future."

He could see the fellow's point. The men Nathan's mother had married hadn't made her particularly happy, from what he'd heard. Other women in society seemed more resigned than pleased with their marriages. Good for Miss Baxter for trying to break the mold.

But to risk her life?

He pulled back his arm. "I'll think on it."

The banker beamed. "That's all I can ask. I will hope for good news soon." He rose, nodded to Waldo, and headed for the door.

Nathan raised his empty glass to order another sarsaparilla.

"Stuff and nonsense," Waldo spat out.

"I agree," Nathan said.

Waldo scowled at him. "I was talking about you."

"I warned you not to get your hopes up," Nathan reminded him. "It's hard enough climbing the mountain with an experienced group of hikers. She wouldn't last past Longmire's."

"Seems to me she has more grit than that," Waldo grumbled as the barkeep brought them two more of the earthy drinks. He nodded to the man. "Sorry for the bother, Shem. You got any stew on?"

"Soup only," Shem Holland answered, setting a heavy glass down with a grimace nearly swallowed by his thick brown beard. "Vegetable."

"We'll take two bowls," Nathan said.

Shem hitched up trousers that bagged at his waist. "You mind if I see the money first? Whole lot of folks mistake me for the poor farm these days."

Nathan pulled out a dollar and tossed it on the table. The metal gleamed on the dark wood. Shem's eyes gleamed nearly as brightly.

"Coming right up," he said, scooping the coin into the palm of his hand.

"Be careful showing silver like that," Waldo fussed as the proprietor hurried away. "Some men would do most anything for money these days." He glanced left and right before muttering, "Except climb Mount Rainier."

"It's a fool's errand," Nathan insisted, leaning back in his chair.

"Says you. You took her in dislike afore she ever opened her mouth. I saw it."

Nathan shrugged. "I've met enough like her."

Waldo shook his head. "No, you ain't. I'll have you know that little girl graduated from the Puget Sound University, one of the first women to do it."

That was impressive. He knew how rigorous college studies could be. As the son of a prominent businessman, he'd graduated from the State University in Seattle. But that had been eight long years ago. Life had changed. He'd changed.

"She rides too," Waldo continued, as if warming to his theme. "Real good, I hear. And she's a gem at lawn tennis."

Nathan eyed him. "Do you even know what lawn tennis is?"

Waldo pouted. "No, but it sounded hard."

"Miss Baxter is obviously a paragon," Nathan said. "But that doesn't mean I have to take her up the mountain."

Shem hustled back with a tray, setting it down in front of them with a flourish. The battered bottom of the tin bowl was evident through the clear liquid, and Nathan could count the pieces of carrot and celery clinging desperately to the sides. The soup was accompanied by two thin slices of bread.

"How about some butter?" Waldo asked as Shem straightened.

"'Fraid not," he said. "Had to sell the cow."

"Maybe you should have cooked the cow," Waldo said, poking his spoon at the vegetables.

"I'm just doing what I can to stay open," Shem said.

Waldo pointed his spoon at the barkeep. "You saw Miss Baxter. You think she can climb a mountain?"

Shem grinned. "She's got pluck. Rumor has it even Cash Kincaid is sniffing at her heels, but she'll have none of it."

"Good for her," Waldo cheered.

She had sense and courage, then. Kincaid was ruthless, his tactics just short of illegal. If he was the man her mother intended for Miss Baxter, Nathan couldn't think of a better fellow to receive a setdown. He only wished he could be the one to give it to him.

He pushed back his chair. "Finish my soup, Waldo. I have something I need to do."

Waldo frowned. "Now? I thought we weren't starting home until tomorrow. We have to pick up the supplies."

"We may have to delay a day or two," Nathan told him. "It all depends on how long it takes Miss Baxter to feel ready to climb a mountain."

This unpublished text is copyright protected by the Baker Publishing Group.

 

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Extras

Remember the other books in the American Wonders Collection
Cover for A Distance Too Grand, book 1 in the American Wonders Collection by historical romance author Regina Scott, showing a young woman in a cream-colored dress standing beside an antique bellows camera and surrounded by the rugged cliffs of the Grand Canyon    Cover for Nothing Short of Wondrous, book 2 in the American Wonders Collection by historical romance author Regina Scott, showing a young woman in blue looking out over a steaming hot springs with mountains in the background