BOOK 1: The Hostage by Susan Wiggs
The Mistress description:
October 8, 1871 — One small spark ignites the entire city of Chicago, sending its residents into panic. But amid the chaos, a case of mistaken identity leads to an unexpected new love.
As the historic fire ignites across town, Kathleen O’Leary finds herself dressed in borrowed diamonds and silk, enjoying a lavish masquerade. The penniless maid has caught the eye of Dylan Francis Kennedy, the rich, handsome gentleman all of high society has been speculating about. The night feels alive with magic…and ripe with promise.
Then fire sweeps through the city, cornering the young lovers with no hope of rescue. Desperate to share their last moments together, Kathleen and Dylan impulsively marry. Incredibly, they survive. Now, as the fire burns down to cold ash, Kathleen must tell Chicago’s most eligible bachelor that he has married a fraud. But the joke’s on her. For this gentleman is no gentleman. While Kathleen had hoped to win Dylan’s love, he had planned only to capture her heart and steal her fortune. Dylan Kennedy — con artist, gambler, and ne’er-do-well — has been unwittingly caught in his own game. Now the real sparks are about to fly.
It’s always a bit humorous when 2 poor people dress up like they’re from money and then fall for each other thinking they’ve struck it rich. Although Kathleen only did it because she’s the maid of some rich girls who talked her into it to prove a point, but Dylan is a conman whose main priority is money and love just has to take a back seat. But having this set during the Chicago Fire adds that urgency of people just fighting to survive. It shows the desperation of all, the rich and the poor, just wanting to find a safe place and looking for some hope in a world suddenly turned to rubble. And these 2 find themselves trying to figure out how to make it on the other side. It’s romantic and adventurous, with the humor mixed in as Kathleen’s mom is the one whose cow was blamed for the fire. There really is a lot going on in this story that gave it actual depth and character growth, and I liked how the ending came about. Happy but in its’ own time.