From Celestial Girl, A Lily Modjeska Mystery

Book 1: The Heartland

Prologue

Blood on the Barbary Coast

July 8, 1896. San Francisco, California.

He had been thirty, tall and achingly handsome, with corn-silk hair and cornflower eyes, the sort of man women fell in love with even when they knew they shouldn’t. Chill fog haunted the waterfront at midnight, ghostly whorls of it eddying over restless waves so black they could have been India ink. The sounds of revelry one always heard on the Barbary Coast–men’s drunken babble, sporting ladies’ blowsy shrieks, the tinkle of an off-tune piano–drifted from Three Fingered Jack’s, along Battery Street, and down to the Embarcadero.

I found Billy Highsmythe in the richly appointed cabin of his yacht. No one should have endured the horrors he had. No one should have witnessed the sight I saw.

He had sighed and mumbled through the gag. How I remember his tortured sigh!

I had not succumbed to Billy Highsmythe’s charms, but I’d met the man and knew what he was–a United States immigration inspector charged with enforcing the Exclusion Act of 1888 and the Geary Act of 1890. These were stringent laws, I came to learn, in a series of federal measures aimed at the Chinese, law-abiding and otherwise. Laws enacted during times when rabble-rousers won feverish applause and approbating shouts whenever they decried the Yellow Peril. Laws that caused havoc in Chinatowns across America and debased the way men and women lived. Laws that promoted all manner of graft and corruption. Laws that led, one could say, to murder.

Billy Highsmythe had been a scoundrel and a roustabout. He’d seduced virgins, smoked opium, swilled whiskey till dawn. He was the sort of man a genteel lady should avoid at all costs. I confess I boarded his yacht that night fully cognizant of my own peril. It was an impetuous thing to do after I’d fled across the continent to extricate myself from another murder. Then again, it was an impetuous thing in these last years before the turn of our century for a lady to go sleuthing.

It had been a moment when one feels the hand of destiny and cannot turn back, against all better judgment. Yet I cannot say my fateful trek across that gangplank to Billy Highsmythe’s yacht was the beginning of the mystery. The mystery of the Celestial Girl began the day I first saw her.

From Celestial Girl, A Lily Modjeska Mystery

Book 1: The Heartland

Copyright © 2012 by Lisa Mason.

I’m excited to tell you my romantic suspense, CELESTIAL GIRL, A LILY MODJESKA MYSTERY, will debut IN January 2013! If you love romantic suspense or historical mystery, this is both. Please give Lily Modjeska a try!

The Omnibus Edition will include all four books, Book 1: The Heartland, Book 2: Jewel of the Golden West, Book 3: The Celestial Kingdom, and Book 4: Terminus. Bast Books will also offer each ebook separately so you can read in four affordable installments.

The Omnibus Edition will be published on Nook and Kindle with a print edition to follow in early 2014.

Lily Modjeska is a typical woman in Toledo, Ohio, 1896: repressed and dependent on her husband. But when Johnny Pentland is found dead at a notorious brothel, Lily discovers her husband is not the man she thought he was.

Pursued by Pentland’s enemies, Lily embarks on a journey that will take her across the country to San Francisco and across the ocean to Imperial China as she unravels a web of murder and corruption reaching from the opium dens of Chinatown to the mansions of Nob Hill.

Her journey becomes one of the heart when she crosses paths with Jackson Tremaine, a debonair, worldly-wise physician. Lily and Jackson begin a conflicted, passionate relationship as they encounter the mysterious Celestial girl and her dangerous entourage.

From the author of The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, on Nook and Kindle, Summer of Love, A Time Travel (a Philip K. Dick Award finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book) on Nook and Kindle, and The Gilded Age, A Time Travel (a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book) on Nook and Kindle.

Of The Gilded Age, the New York Times Book Review said, “A winning mixture of intelligence and passion.”

Visit me at http://www.lisamason.com for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, forthcoming projects and more. And on my Facebook Author Page, on Amazon, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

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