In this cozy historical fiction novella set in August of 1880, Annie and Nate Dawson’s trip down the San Francisco peninsula to San Jose was supposed to be a pleasant romantic interlude and a chance for Annie to get to know Nate’s family better. When the visit takes a serious turn, Annie races to expose a criminal who could ruin a young man’s life, getting help from an unexpected quarter.
The events in Violet Vanquishes a Villain come right after Deadly Proof, the fourth book in Locke’s USA Today bestselling cozy Victorian San Francisco mystery series and before Pilfered Promises, the fifth book in the series.
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Sunday evening, August 8, 1880
Annie sighed contentedly and leaned against Nate as he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and hugged her. The cab took off at a gentle pace, and she thought she could still hear everyone shouting their good wishes as they pulled away from the boarding house, heading down O’Farrell to Market Street.
“We aren’t too late, are we?” Annie’d been afraid they would never get away from their well-wishers, but Nate’s best man made it clear to everyone that they needed to leave right at seven so they wouldn’t miss the last evening train from San Francisco to San Jose.
“Don’t worry, love.” Nate kissed the top of her head.
Everything had been such a whirlwind since their impromptu decision on Friday to get married immediately. This left them less than two days to let everyone know, get the license, find a justice of the peace to officiate, and pick out the two matching gold wedding bands, not to mention making all the decisions about what flowers to order, what to serve at the wedding dinner, and how many layers the wedding cake should have. Of course it was her faithful servants, Beatrice O’Rourke and Kathleen Hennessey, who did most of the actual work getting the boarding house ready for the ceremony and reception. Annie’s job had been primarily standing for fitting after fitting as Miss Minnie and Miss Millie Moffet, her elderly boarders, worked feverishly to finish her dress in time.
But all the hustle and bustle was worth it to be sitting here in a cab, alone, with Nate, looking forward to her first night as his “lawfully wedded wife.” If only they didn’t have the two-hour train trip to San Jose, plus the buggy ride to his parent’s ranch, and the inescapable social niceties with his family between now and then. Annie sighed again, not quite as contentedly.
“What is it?” Nate whispered with concern.
She snuggled closer. “I’m being silly, but I sort of wish we weren’t taking off to see your parents tonight. It seemed preferable to staying at the boarding house, with everyone…well, you know what I mean…”
Annie felt rather than heard Nate chuckle as he pulled her tighter. She traced the intricate flower pattern of her silk brocade, remembering the look in his eyes when she’d appeared at the top of the boarding house stairs a few hours ago. He’d been waiting below her on the landing, where the ceremony was to take place, and she thought for a moment he was going to forgo the whole ceremony and just carry her off to her…no their…bedroom.
The cab suddenly felt too warm, even though it was one of the usual chilly summer evenings of early August. She smiled, thinking about the summer night just over a year ago when she first rode in a cab with Nate Dawson. She’d only known him a few days, and he was escorting her home from a rather eventful St. Joseph’s Parish Masked Ball. Even then, she’d felt a disconcertingly strong attraction to a man who from the moment they first met alternated between insulting and rescuing her.
The cab swung to the left, revealing Market Street with its lit gas lamps stretching east towards the Bay. The Palace Hotel appeared on their right, the bay windows on all six of its upper floors glowing in the twilight.
“Nate, he’s missed his turn.” Annie pointed as the cab swept past Third Street, which would have taken them directly to the Townsend Street train depot.
“Slight detour,” he murmured in her ear, and the cab made two abrupt turns, first right onto New Montgomery Street and then left through the arch that led to the central courtyard of the Palace Hotel, a building she’d only ever seen from the outside.
“What in heaven’s name…” Annie gasped.
“I didn’t relish spending my wedding night sharing my childhood bed at the ranch with my new bride, so I had Tim book us a suite here. You don’t mind, do you?”
“Oh Nate, not at all, but how extravagant!”
Annie pretended to scold, but the relief that swept through her showed just how worried she’d been that the twin effects of exhaustion and a lack of privacy might…detract…from their first night together.