By Monette Bebow-Reinhard
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No Cartwright expects, this summer of 1862, that President Lincoln will tear their family apart. But that’s just what happens in the broad-reaching drama set in Carson City, Lake Tahoe, Virginia City and beyond. Tobias and his family of runaway slaves were told that the Cartwrights were their only hope in getting Lincoln to come to New Orleans. They split up and Tobias and Adam are abducted by the slavers. Adam learns that Lincoln considers these runaways dangerous, so he maintains a façade as a muley slave to find out why, taking him into the line of Civil War fire. Ben is rescued from a prairie fire by Tobias’s family, who convince Ben to go with them to New Orleans. Joe, who thinks he lost Ben in the fire, is out chasing cattle thieves and trying to run their enormous spread alone, because Hoss has become obsessed with a woman who fears her husband is trying to kill her. But Hop Sing thinks her husband already has. Ghosts emerge in the most unlikeliest places, even interfering in the lives of Lincoln and Mark Twain, both of whom emerge as controversial characters here. Will the Cartwrights all find their way back home, and how will what they believe about the war, and each other, change in the process?
I've finished reading 'Mystic Fire' and I totally love the book. I laughed, I cried, I got angry (very angry) ...... and I wanted more... Monette, it was amazing... if you have not yet read the book, you have to – Eva Mayer, Canada
[Monette] has a gift of capturing your attention with suspense and makes U not want to put either book down. It gets so thrilling U just want to know what will happen next. --Jean in Wisconsin
Very thought provoking, being a history buff myself and especially the Civil War, I found all the twists and turns very compelling. In the end I was so glad you got my Ben and his boys home together just a little tattered, really I very much enjoyed this as I did the first. Thanks for sharing your talent and knowledge of a complex time in our history together with the Cartwrights. --Cheryl/Sadiespinner
Excellent job in weaving four separate stories into one. The different aspects of each -- Hoss and Hop Sing dealing with the supernatural; Joe trying desperately to carry on, believing that his father's dead, his oldest brother gone missing, and Hoss seemingly gone insane; Adam taken prisoner by men who believe him to be a runaway slave; and Ben undertaking a long, dangerous journey with people who may not be entirely trustworthy --- held and kept my interest throughout. References to some of the episodes and the appearance of Marie's cousin, Darcy at the end give it continuity with the series as well. –Kathleen Berney
Had anyone been coming from Lake Tahoe toward the Carson City trail, they would have seen the clouds of dust from the wheels of the running wagon. Had they been able to see through the darkness of the pure moonless night, or realize that two mules could be so stubborn as to not run when they couldn’t see. Finally a shout and the wagon slowed up, as Tobias pulled on the reins with the strength of three slaves. The wagon rocked, shaking three runaway slaves into clutching each other as the fourth jumped out.
“Tobias! You’re leaving us here alone?!”
Tobias turned back to his sister. “They’re catching up to us now, Sadie. We have to split. One of us will find a Cartwright, one way or another. You keep going. You know the direction. Don’t stop. You’ll know what to do when you see the lake. Right now, go find someplace to bed until dawn.”
Sadie clung to her children as Tobias sprinted up a rock cliff and looked for a route of escape. She couldn’t see him anymore, but she could hear his uncertain footsteps. “You be careful, Tobias!”
“We’ll make this right, Sadie, we has to. The Cartwrights will help, or Lincoln will pay the price. Go hide now. We’ll meet in two days’ time where the road turns at the lake, just like we was told.” (this is a taste of the 2nd edit, if I'll be allowed to.)
* * *
With his ranch house waiting cozy and firelight-warm behind him, his sons finishing dinner, Ben Cartwright walked outside to watch the sun fight the coming darkness over Lake Tahoe. No color in the sky, no clouds, no moisture. This was about the driest weather he could remember. Carson Valley was normally dry most of the year, but on the mountain they should have a little rain by now. He couldn’t shake the warning in his gut, a half-grown fear not ready to be shared with his sons. Once he figured its source…
The door opened behind him—his son Adam came out, by the sounds of the stride. Ben grinned. They’ve been together too long. He could tell his three boys apart by the sound of their boots. Maybe because each son was so different. Three wives, all who found life with him too hard. Whenever he caught himself wishing he’d had a daughter, he remembered losing a wife. But a daughter-in-law might be nice.
Adam stood silent next to Ben, allowing Ben’s thoughts to ramble on. Adam, the oldest, and, Ben allowed a moment of ego, far more attractive than he’d ever been by his early 30s, was still single and tied to the ranch. Ben would be happy to have all three sons hitched. Each of them knew a portion of the near thousand acres of the Ponderosa was theirs to work as they saw fit, as their legacy. All the work Ben’s done here, cattling, timbering, mining, has been for them—his hope for a better future, for grandchildren, and sons’ wives who would live longer than any of his own wives had.
Three wives, three sons—even if his darkest grief, he didn’t mourn knowing any of his loves, all true, honest, sincere. All giving him another part of his legacy. A better future. Something good must emerge from that secession war raging out east, giving the world a torn-apart feel, all the way out here. President Abe Lincoln’s speeches to the army made Ben shudder. Just keep throwing bodies at the South, that’s what winning demanded? Lincoln didn’t say as much, but telling the soldiers that they held the responsibility to save the Union made Ben very glad his sons were this far away.
Ben faced his eldest. Adam stared into the same dull dry sky, a brooding look on his darkly handsome face, lips pursed as he wrangled with an issue. His mother, Elizabeth, had laughed when Ben remarked that she had been an Arabian princess in a former life. Adam picked up her darker features, especially visible after the summer sun had its way on him. Adam could have his pick of any woman in town, but there just weren’t that many single women out here, even now. That blasted “civil war,” now over a year old, and bloodier than ever, kept women from coming west, because few traveled unaccompanied by fathers or brothers. Adam was particular about women. Ben supposed he wanted the same romance he’d heard his father share of his three marriages.
Adam spoke under his father’s steady gaze. “No sign of rain yet.”
“No, and I am plenty worried about the section up north.”
Adam crossed his arms and fixed his intensity back on Ben. “What about a windmill?”
Ben sighed. “That’s not an overnight chore, son, and I don’t know if we can spare the time or the men.”
“I’m more worried about the land. And now we’re seeing the worst brand of men running this way from the east, no telling the trouble they can cause with a careless smoke.”
AUTHORS NOTE: The best part of getting my master's degree in history was learning how to research. Before this, my major nonfiction book would have remained half fiction. I already had the idea for this second Bonanza novel because of what I'd learned in my BA about the Civil War, and thought Lincoln's attitude in 1862 was ripe for criticism. But I got stalled up on the plot and needed the insights learned in my master's program. Even before then, Dortort was impressed by my level of Civil War knowledge and willingly gave me his blessing on a novel criticizing Lincoln's attitude toward slaves in 1862. Beyond research, I wanted this novel to do what my first one did not--tear the Cartwrights into separate storylines and get them back together at the end. It was great fun bringing life to Lincoln and Mark Twain here, too. Some fans have been incensed by a certain portion of the storyline and the main female character, but she plays the perfect divider and then the great unifying force. It felt so good to add a female friend for the Cartwrights who doesn't end up dead.