Spotlight: Wealth & Privilege by Jeanette Watts

Money. Family. Love. Hate. Obsession. Duty. Politics. Religion – or the lack thereof. Sex — or, once again, the lack thereof.

Thomas Baldwin finds himself married to a woman he can’t stand, while head-over heels in love with another woman he can’t have. Talk about bad planning. He is something of a kite, buffeted by circumstances which blow him not only through personal crises, but also through some of the most significant events of the late 1800s, including the railroad riots of 1877, the creation of the Homestead Steel Works, the assassination of President Garfield, and the Johnstown Flood. Over time, and with the help of his muse, who dances maddeningly just beyond his reach, he takes control of his life, wresting it from the winds attempting to control him.

A carefully-researched historical novel about life among the privileged class of Pittsburgh during the Industrial Revolution.

Excerpt

Chapter 1

Irritating his mother wasn’t specifically Thomas’ favorite hobby.  She did, however, seem to excel at providing him with opportunities to do so. He didn’t have to try very hard.  His very existence was an obvious irritant to her.  It wasn’t because of who he was – Thomas knew perfectly well it was all about what he wasn’t.

He wasn’t everything his older brother Benjamin had been; quick and clever and charming and talkative.  The entire Baldwin family – especially his mother, Eugenia Baldwin, aspiring family matriarch and his most verbal critic – admitted that Thomas was the much more handsome of the two.  Then everyone shrugged.  Pretty is as pretty does.

Thomas had to agree on that point.  He gladly would have traded his bright blue eyes and much-admired dark hair for the ability to know what to say to people.

He stood at the entrance to the ballroom in his parents’ house, surrounded by giggling girls all wishing him a happy birthday with their dance cards not-so-subtly dangling from their wrists.  Trying to smile, he offered his hand to accept the little pencils and sign the blasted things.

It wasn’t that he disliked dancing, really.  He just loathed having to go through the process of begging for dances, and in-flicting himself on the expectant young ladies who smiled sweetly and patiently at him.  He wasn’t a bad dancer, but he wasn’t a brilliant one, either.  And hanging over him like a cloud was that dreaded requirement to make small talk.  He could see his mother glaring at him from the chair where she was holding court on the far side of the hallway.  He hadn’t said anything for a while, as a fresh batch of young women wished him a happy birthday and smiled up at him while he signed his name.  With a mental sigh, he searched for something to say.

“So, am I supposed to make more mature small talk, now that I’m a quarter century old?”

He almost flinched as the cluster burst into peals of merriment, entirely out of proportion for such a lame little joke.  But no doubt it was very much in keeping with the instructions each girl received from her mama before leaving for his birthday dance. “Now, sweetheart, I know he bores you, but the Baldwin family is worth a fortune.  Smile for him.  Laugh at his jokes.  Make a good impression, for goodness’ sake.”

He should feel a sense of comradeship; after all, his mother had delivered a similar lecture to him.  “Now, Thomas, please try and be charming tonight.  No slipping off to avoid signing dance cards.  It’s your birthday party.  Smile.  Say something.  Make a good impression, for goodness’ sake.”

But when he looked into their eyes, he never found a kindred spirit looking back. He saw a sort of demure ambition that made him want to run and hide.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t a viable option.  He suffered through each glance, and felt himself slowly suffocating.

It was a typical Baldwin family function.  Aunt Eleanor had arrived first, her daughters Ella and Margaret in tow, determined to undermine the placement of every piece of greenery the servants had placed without her express approval.  For some mysterious reason, his mother followed behind, drinking in their every word.  Thomas’ favorite cousin Edgar also came early, since of course he wanted to have a few words with the musicians before the dancing started.  He was outgoing, fun-loving, charming (just like Ben had been), and the natural leader for the dancing party games that would replace the regular dancing after midnight supper.  He kept such a collection of Germans in his head, he was eagerly invited to parties all over Pittsburgh.  Then the rest of the family and friends started arriving.  Quiet Uncle Alfred and Aunt Rebecca came with their four stoic sons, Albert, Osric, Stefen, and Peter, followed by a merry party led by Edgar’s always gay siblings, Lily and John.

Old friends of the family, the Masons (with their dark-haired daughter Janey), were followed by business friends of his father’s, the Burkes and the Thompsons (with their marriage-aged daughters, Meredith and Elsie).  Thomas was glad to see the Garretts brought along Grandma Lizzie, who declared years ago that if she were fifty years younger she would’ve married him.  She always claimed the first polka.  But they also brought slender nineteen-year-old Rose, whose brown eyes always seemed to be telegraphing to Thomas that she shared her grandmother’s intentions – and not for a polka.

The flow of people became a flood.  He thought he caught a glimpse of the Mellon boys, which meant his father must be thinking about getting a loan for something.  His mother didn’t like Mrs. Mellon, so they were only invited to parties when his father specifically wanted something.

Coats and overshoes came off and went away.  Ladies dis-appeared to primp, and returned.  Then the ball cards appeared for the ritual torture of single men and ladies, and the mothers of single men, of course.

Eventually, the ball cards were signed, Edgar gave Thomas a significant eyebrow, and the birthday boy led his guests into the ballroom.  Thomas danced the first waltz with his mother, the first polka with Grandma Lizzie.  Then began the parade of quadrilles, gallops, waltzes and schottisches, which Thomas dutifully danced with every single lady in the room.  He found himself wondering if the Prince Charming in the children’s fairy tale felt as much like a prize bull as he did.

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It was blessedly quiet in the conservatory.  If Thomas lis-tened very hard, he could hear the orchestra playing a lively polka.  His head ached mildly and his ears were ringing from the incessant giggling of his various feminine partners.  Just once, he thought, he wanted to hear a woman laugh.  A deep, hearty, belly laugh.  He’d marry a woman if he could stand the way she laughed.

As if on cue, his mother appeared in the doorway of the conservatory.  “Thomas?  I told you, no running off to hide to-night.  You’re the host, for goodness’ sake.  What are you doing here?”

“I had to get away for a moment, Mother,” he said, trying not to sound petulant.  “My head aches something awful.”

“Don’t talk to me about headaches, boy,” his mother an-swered sharply.  “You’re giving me quite a headache right now.”

Thomas managed a small smile.  “I’m sure I am, Mother.  Please don’t lecture me about my manners.  I had to sneak out.  Otherwise, that flock of girls would have wanted to come along to comfort me, and I wouldn’t get any quiet.”

Eugenia saw her opportunity.  “Well, if you’d only pick one of the crowd that’s been hovering around you, then you could have one companion to comfort you.”

Thomas groaned.  “Mother…”

Eugenia interrupted,  “Don’t ‘Mother’ me.  Honestly, I do wish you could be just a little more like your brother.”

Benjamin had been six years older than Thomas, and was seventeen when Southern rebels fired on Fort Sumter.  Ben im-patiently followed the Rebellion for a year, while both parents loudly and frequently forbade his enlistment.  But when the call went out seeking men of good character for a volunteer cavalry, it was more than Ben could stand.  His parents were horrified, and livid – for a month, until Ben’s unit was called out of drill practice and sent to Antietam.  Ben became a hero in the field – and be-came a hero again when he died someplace in Tennessee called Stone River.

His mother had worshipped her first-born son thoroughly enough while he was alive.  He was completely sanctified in the twelve years and two months since his death.  So much so, Thomas had trouble separating the facts of the brother he remembered from the fiction his mother created.

“Benjamin never had so many girls following him around as you have – you’ve always been the handsome one - but at least he could talk to them.  Somehow, he got all the charm, you got all the looks.”

Thomas had been hearing that particular phrase as long as he could remember.   Sometimes he entertained himself wondering what clever answers Ben would have given their mother.  “So you’re saying I’m as ugly as an old shoe, eh, Mum?  You’ve wounded me!”  Ben could – and did – say anything to their mother, and she would only smile.  Thomas could say the same things, and usually got a sigh and a frown instead.  He wished he could have been blessed with the charm, instead of the looks.

“I’m not Benjamin, mother.  And if he were standing here with us, he’d roll his eyes and say ‘Thank goodness for that!’ ”

His mother wasn’t listening.  She’d passed on from one of her favorite subjects – comparing him to his brother – to her other favorite subject – complaining about his father.  “I told your father that compared to Benjamin you were backward.  But he couldn’t seem to find any time to help me raise his children.  I had to try to bring you up all by myself.”  Thomas wisely held his tongue.

“You’d think I was a widow, for all the help I got with you.  Fathers are supposed to teach their sons how to talk to women.  All your father can teach you is business.”  The combative gleam in her face told Thomas she was coming full circle; he was about to become the recipient of her ire once again.  “But you’re not trying, Thomas,” she frowned at him, a puzzled look twisting her face.  “Maybe I’ve taught you how to treat girls too well.  I don’t fault you for being a gentleman, but maybe you’re being too much of a gentleman.”

Thomas was amused by his mother’s attempt to analyze his failure to secure one of the pretty brainless creatures who’d been pursuing him all evening.  It never occurred to her that he just didn’t like them.

“Too much of a gentleman?  For most of my life, Mother, you’ve been drilling it into my head how to be a complete and proper gentleman.”

“Well, at least be enough of a cad to let a girl know that you like her!” his mother snapped impatiently.  “I don’t care how you do it – but it’s about time you did!  Just what do you suppose will come of the Baldwin name if you don’t keep the family going?”

Thomas smiled a small, ironic smile and did some quick mental arithmetic.  “Assuming Aunt Mary and Aunt Rebecca don’t have any more children?  Well, even if I leave no offspring, there are three more Baldwin males in my generation, and two of them are already married.  Then Father’s cousins Henry and Margaret have two boys.  So that’s five other Baldwins in the city of Pitts-burgh alone.  Henry has brothers, too, doesn’t he?  Relatives in Cincinnati?  The Baldwin name is in no danger of extinction.  As to our little branch and our little empire, well, after we’re all dead the surviving Baldwins can fight over it.  Or none of them will want it, and they’ll put all of it up on the auction block.”

Eugenia stared at her son with confusion while he assessed the family tree, then she dismissed him with a wave of her gloved and bejeweled hand.  “Rubbish,” she snorted.  “Olympic Ironworks up for auction?  Bah!”  Not willing to be sidetracked, she returned to the subject.  “Thomas, there are fifteen girls on that dance floor who would be perfectly suitable additions to the family.  What exactly are you looking for?”

Thomas gazed steadily at his mother.  “Before I answer that, would you tell me just what makes those particular fifteen suitable?”

His question flustered Eugenia.  “Why, they’re all pretty girls,” she stammered.  “Victoria’s the heiress to a fortune in coal fields, Yvette’s from one of the oldest families in the city.”

“So, then the criteria are beauty, money and family?  Does it have to be all three, or merely one or two of them?  If I find a beautiful serving maid, will that do?  What if she’s homely, but rich?  What if she’s beautiful, but dreadfully poor, but she comes from an old family?  British royalty, maybe? I understand a lot of the nobility are frightfully poor and looking for rich Americans to support them.  Maybe that’s what I’m doing wrong.  I should be in London, wooing a Duke’s daughter.  Maybe a Duke’s daughter would be the only woman who could compare with my formidable mother.” Thomas reached over and picked an orchid, presenting it to her with a kiss on the cheek.

Eugenia looked down at the flower, then up at her son, and sighed.  “I don’t understand you, Thomas.  You’re nothing like your brother was.  Every time you open your mouth I have trouble believing that you’re my flesh and blood.”

“Biologically speaking, Mother, you had to be there when I was born …”

That was a mistake.  The reprimand came sharply back into Eugenia’s voice.  “I also have trouble believing my son can speak in such a crude manner to any woman – even his own mother,” she said sharply.  “Is that how you keep young ladies at bay?  With that – that frank language?”

“Now, Mother,” Thomas reasoned, “do any of those young ladies seem to be at bay?  They’re all over me like bloodhounds at a foxhunt.”

Eugenia frowned at him.  “You’ve never been on a fox-hunt.”

“I’m using my imagination, Mother.”

Eugenia was blessed with very little imagination, and did not care for his.  Nor did she take kindly to this latest turn in the conversation.  She knew that she did not argue logically, and that she did not fare well in any argument with her son.  She was, however, enough of a tactician to realize that es-caping with the last word was an acceptable substitute for victory.  “I’m heading back to the party now.  I expect you to follow me.  And if you don’t choose a fiancée soon, keep in mind that I will choose one for you.”  With her head high, she turned her back, and left the room in a dignified swish of taffeta.

Threats.  Every time he argued with his mother, she ended the argument by delivering a threat, then leaving the room.  Angry, he wanted to break something.  But the hothouse didn’t have much to offer besides plants.  Plopping down on a bench, he scooped up a handful of tiny decorative stones and hurled them one by one into the decorative pool in the center of the conservatory.  Then he hurled the rest at the wall of palms which obliterated the view of the rest of the greenhouse.

A startled cry of pain arose from the direction of the palms.

In confusion, Thomas stood up and stared at the palm leaves.  “Hello?”

A pained but amused voice rose from behind the curtain of fronds.  “The breeding of money has always been ugly.  I didn’t realize it had also become dangerous.”

Thomas jumped forward and parted the curtain of palm fronds.  Standing in the middle of the path was a woman, dressed in dark red, holding her handkerchief to a small cut on her face.  Thomas could see that several of the stones he’d thrown had lodged in the ruffles of her overskirt.

“What are you doing back here?”  Thomas stammered. 

The woman smiled ruefully.  “Mostly demonstrating my boundless talent for bad timing.  I was hoping to find someplace quiet for a moment.  I had no idea I was merely the advance guard before your tête-à-tête with your mother and – ” she surveyed the red spots on her handkerchief with a deep chuckle, “directly in the line of fire.”

Thomas flushed.  “I’m terribly sorry.  I – thought I was alone.”

“Of course you did,” the woman answered.  “Your family throws magnificent parties, and only those of us with no manners whatsoever would dream of sneaking away in the midst of such gaiety.  Well,” she amended with an amused twist to her mouth, “that is, I’m sure others sneak off, but not alone.”

Thomas sighed despondently and sank back onto his bench.  “It always comes back to mating rituals, doesn’t it?”

“Usually.”  The woman eyed him with impartial curiosity for a moment, then with a great rustling of red silk settled herself on the bench beside him.  “So is it marriage you object to?  Or the specifics of mating?  I’ve known people who’ve objected to one, and I’ve known people who’ve objected to the other.”

Thomas toyed with a palm frond.  “Oh, it’s neither one.  It’s just….”  He stopped.  He could feel his face getting warm, and suddenly he could not look in her direction.

She laughed; a warm, rich, deep laugh.  Thomas remem-bered his recent longing for a female who didn’t giggle.  His heart beat faster, and he looked studiously at the palm he was now shredding into thin strands.

“No, I don’t suppose this conversation falls on your mother’s list of acceptable topics to discuss at social gatherings.”

Thomas looked up at her in surprise.  “How did you know…” In looking up, he fell straight into a pair of warm, black eyes that seemed to see all the way through him.  Further disarmed, he dropped his gaze again.

“My mother gave me the same list,” she answered, laughing again.  It was a deep, musical sound.  Warm and rich.  Thomas listened, transfixed.  He’d read descriptions comparing a laugh to honey, but he’d never heard such a sound before.  Until now.

Unaware of his musings, she continued,  “I’ve spent deli-cious and scandalous years since I received that list, trying to break every rule on it.”

Thomas stared at his companion, too fascinated to be embarrassed.  The face looking back at him was an open, honest face.  Her black eyes twinkled with good humor.  A full, moist set of lips curved in a confident, almost conspiratorial smile.  She was dressed in a deep claret red.  Ruby earrings drew the eye downwards to a ruby necklace on a long, graceful neck.  Her shapely shoulders were framed by the top edge of her black-shot red taffeta bodice.  Her dark hair sparkled from the red-jeweled pins keeping an elaborate pile of curls in place.

She exuded wealth – she also exuded an intelligence and independence that made her seem appealingly exotic to Thomas.

She smiled, and his eyes were drawn to the frank sensuality in her smile.  “Well?”  she asked, bringing him out of his scrutiny.

“Well what?” he asked, unsure of how to answer her question.

“You’ve studied me pretty thoroughly.  What conclusions have you reached?”

Thomas blushed.  She laughed.  “Do you always embarrass this easily?  She asked.

“No.  I mean, yes.  I mean,” Thomas stammered.

“Well, which is it?”

Thomas returned her direct gaze.  “Do you know that you’re a very disconcerting person?”

His guest nodded agreeably.  “Yes, I am,” she admitted easily.  “Which is very rude of me, I’m sure.”

            “Oh, no,” Thomas hastened to dissemble.  “Certainly not.”

Her eyes twinkled.  “You’re only saying that because it’s polite,” she pointed out.  “But isn’t it also rude to contradict people?  Besides, it’s not honest.  Why isn’t honesty considered polite?”

At ease again, Thomas laughed.  “You win.  You’re terribly rude.  And you’ve got the oddest way of looking at things.”

“There, wasn’t that refreshing?  You just said exactly what you were thinking, without censoring yourself.  I bet it’s been a very long while since you’ve done that.”

“Well, I certainly hadn’t said a single honest thing all night, until I came in here,” he smiled.

His smile faded away, however, at the sound of giggling voices approaching  from the hallway.

“It sounds like you’re not done with censorship for the night,” his guest observed.

Four girls burst loudly into the conservatory.  “Thomas!?”  They squealed merrily, then their gazes turned hostile as they saw his companion.  “Your mama sent us to find you and bring you back to the party.”

Stiffly, Thomas stood up, then glanced down inquisitively at the enigmatic woman in red.  She smiled up at him.

“Thank you so much for escorting me to your conservatory,” she lied calmly. “I’m sure I’ll feel better once I’ve sat for a little while.  I do hope your guests will forgive me for imposing on their dance partner.”  She turned a warm, yet some-how condescending smile upon the gaggle of girls standing in a clutch around Thomas, each maneuvering to be touching him in some fashion.

Her look subdued the noisy little crowd.  Collectively, they dropped their eyes.  “Of course,” “Sorry you’re not feeling well,” they murmured, gloved fingers still locked onto Thomas.

He looked at the woman on the bench almost imploringly.  “If there’s nothing else I can do for you, then?”

She smiled up at him, and he detected subtle mischief in her face.  “It would be rude of me to keep you from such delightful company,” she answered.

He opened his mouth, and closed it again, unable to think of anything he could say in answer.  Hoping his eyes could convey his respect, he bowed to her, then allowed the gaggle of young ladies to drag him away.

The foursome could barely contain their curiosity until they were out of earshot.

“What were you doing with her?”  Elsie Thompson asked, appalled.

Confounded by the question, Thomas responded, “The lady had a headache.  I showed her to the conservatory so she could sit where it was quiet for a while.”

“Well, I can imagine why that sort would have a headache,” Meredith Burke sniffed.  “Reading too many books, I suppose.”

“Mama says she’s no lady.”  Janey Mason chimed in.

“What kind of a lady would actually attend that college in Waynesburg?”  Rose Garrett sneered.  Thomas wondered to him-self if it was ladylike to sneer.  He assumed not.

“Attend, nothing,” Elsie Thompson added importantly.  “I hear she has a degree from there!”

 “So tell me,” he asked as casually as he could, “who is this woman you say is no lady because she has an advanced educa-tion?”

“Why, don’t you know,” Rose Garrett gasped,  “That’s Regina Waring.  The Mrs. Waring!”

Regina Waring.  The Mrs. Waring. Everyone in Pittsburgh, Allegheny, and, heck, all of Allegheny County had heard of her.  Perhaps the entire industri-alized world knew who she was.  Wife of the eccentric Henry Thorougood Waring, who swore proudly, frequently, and publicly that no one, man or woman, in any country, could compete with his wife’s business acumen.

While fashionable women whispered in their parlors about Regina’s unseemly – no, unwomanly – behavior, Regina was wel-comed behind the closed doors of board rooms where powerful men made deals – and made money.

Together, the Warings had turned Henry’s father’s flour mill into an industrial empire.  Opportunity was everywhere in Pittsburgh, at least for good businessmen with something to sell.  With the country expanding westward and the railroads spreading fast, the demand for goods like flour was large.  So were the profits of those who could meet those demands.  The Warings had turned those profits back into more flour mills, into an immense glass-works along the southern bank of the Monongahela River, and into copperworks somewhere close to Johnstown, east of Pittsburgh up in the Laurel Highlands.

The Warings, Thomas reflected, made their fortunes the same way his own father had.  Except that Thomas’ mother made party arrangements, not business deals.  Thomas was intrigued, and crushed.  He had just fallen in love at first sight with a married woman!

Thomas’ mind had run out of useful information about the dashing Regina Waring by the time his escorts finished dragging him back to the ballroom.  Absentmindedly, he danced with each of the young ladies in turn, leaving the other three to put their heads together and whisper.

He was dancing the York with little blonde Meredith Burke when he saw his lady in red enter the room.

Upon second viewing, he concluded she was the most stunning creature he’d ever seen.  Her dark red contrasted sharply against the pale, gay swirls of color standing in clusters near the door. She was neither the tallest nor the shortest woman present, but she carried herself with an elegance every other female in the room was lacking.

His eyes couldn’t memorize the sight of her fast enough.  The red dress flattered her figure most emphatically.  The long, curved lines of her bodice advertised a tiny waist, calling an enticing invitation to masculine hands.  Her skirts tumbled to the floor in playful waves, tucked here, billowing there.

An irritated cough called his mind back onto the dance floor.  Meredith was regarding him indignantly, as they silently went through the motions of the dance.  Thomas leaped on the opportunity she had just afforded him.

“You’re not altogether well tonight!” he exclaimed solic-itously.  “How thoughtless of me to keep you out here.  We can finish this dance another time.  Let me fetch you a glass of water for that cough.”  Deftly, overriding her protests with his own pro-tests of concern, he maneuvered his partner to the corner where the other three had their heads together, and deposited a now very in-dignant Meredith among her friends.  Excusing himself, he dashed to the door.

He reached the stairs, and stopped to watch in fascination as Regina descended.  There was an animal grace about the way she moved, a thinly veiled power; and in her smile, a frank sen-suality Thomas found mesmerizing.

He wasn’t the only one.  Thomas was astonished to recog-nize the members of the small male crowd that stopped her half-way down the stairs; George Westinghouse, the enthusiastic genius inventor of the air brake; Tom Carnegie, who was building a steel mill up the Monongahela in McKeesport for his brother Andrew; Jacob Vandergrift, the local oil and gas king, and, of all people, his own father!

Thomas couldn’t believe his ears as the foursome all clamored for a dance.  He could pick out his father’s voice, claim-ing, “Since Henry couldn’t join us tonight, you’ll have to let me fill in for him!”

“Oh, no!”  Three other voices rose as one, then broke into separate protestations as each man pressed his claim upon her.

Thomas stood, rooted to the spot, as the group resumed their descent, each of the four gentlemen insisting on the next dance.

Richard Baldwin rarely took any notice of his only surviving son, who was his ever-present shadow in all affairs regarding the running of the family empire.  But even he couldn’t miss the sight of Thomas, standing bug-eyed at the bottom of the stairs. “Thomas!  Come meet the most beautiful capitalist in Amer-ica.”  Richard grinned foolishly at the lady. “Thomas, this is the incomparable Regina Waring.  Regina, this is my boy Thomas.”

Boy?  Thomas was thrown by his father’s term.  It made him feel backwards – more specifically, like he was twelve years old.

Regina smiled at him, holding out a slender black-gloved hand.  “We’ve met already.  Your son had – lost something.”  Thomas caught that twinkle of humor in her eyes.  “Have you found it again?”

“Yes, thank you.”  Thomas responded, understanding her veiled reference to his temper, and looking desperately for some-thing clever to say.  “I believe I have,” was all that he could think of.

The two looked at each other for a brief second.  Detecting that there was nothing more to say, Richard jumped in, thinking to cover for his awkward son.

“Excuse us, Thomas,” he said, taking Regina’s hand from where it still lay in Thomas’ grasp.  “I’m determined this lady has the next dance with me!”

Thomas didn’t hear the friendly protest of his father’s friends.  Already, the clever phrases it was too late to say came bubbling to his lips;  “Why, yes, it was kind of you to help me look for it.”  “I couldn’t help overhearing that you are missing your usual escort tonight.  Rather than start a war among these fine gentlemen, may I fill in?”

He looked after the departing group, and watched as Regina and Tom Carnegie separated from the rest and joined the dancers.  Married.  The most musical laugh he’d ever heard, and she was already married.  His father was already better acquainted with her than he could ever hope to be.

As Thomas stared after his muse in red, a conference was taking place halfway across the ballroom.  Frustrated and angry at Thomas’ desertion, Meredith Burke sought out her mother.

“Mother!  Janey, Rose, Elsie and I found Thomas alone in the conservatory with Mrs. Waring.  And now, he won’t even look at us!  He abandoned me in the middle of a dance so he could stand and stare at her.  Look!”  She pointed him out, halfway up the stairs, gazing dumbfounded into the crowd of dancers. “He’s still standing there staring at her!”

Marjorie Burke was a practical woman.  She was the daughter of a barge driver and a laundress, who married a man with a little money and a lot of drive.  Her ambition in life was to marry all her children off to families wealthier than their own.  Meredith was the last of four; she’d succeeded with the first three.  Marjorie was not about to lose sight of her goal now.  Thomas was the choicest bachelor any of her daughters had gotten close to.

She followed her daughter’s gaze to where Thomas stood, rooted to the ground as he watched the ever-dazzling Mrs. Waring whirling about in the arms of a carefully attentive A.W. Mellon.  Mrs. Burke’s figure stiffened in dislike.  It was bad enough that woman turned the heads of every married man in the city.  Now she was keeping the unmarried men from paying their attentions to the marriageable girls in the room!

“Well, my girl,” Mrs. Burke said briskly to her daughter, “It looks like it’s going to take some rather drastic measures if we’re going to pry one more victim from Mrs. Waring’s lovely fingertips.  I have a very melodramatic idea,” she said, firmly tak-ing her daughter’s arm and guiding her outside on the terrace for a brief lecture in the icy February air, where no one would be apt to overhear them.

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Praise for Wealth and Privilege

“Thomas Baldwin is like a Rorschach inkblot test. Some people love him, some people find him unlikeable. Most people can’t stand his wife. Others feel sorry for her. I take the fact that people have such a huge variety of reactions to my characters as a sign I succeeded in writing full, rich personalities.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Wealth and Privilege is an exceptionally provoking read. The real romance is between the author and the reader” – Page Traveler

About the Author

Jeanette Watts couldn’t help but notice that all romances seemed to be set in the American West or the South. A staunch Yankee girl, she asked what is unromantic about the North or the East? After living for four years in Pittsburgh, and falling deeply in love with southwestern Pennsylvania, she found it the perfect location for a love story.

Besides writing, she is also a dance instructor, an inveterate seamstress, the artistic director for several dance companies, an actress, and a history buff. Wealth and Privilege took her 10 years to write, because she felt the research needed to be thorough. Everything from big events and famous people to little details like dog breeds and women’s fashions have been carefully researched.

For more information visit Jeanette Watt’s website, and follow the Wealth and Privilege Facebook Page