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The Lightkeeper's Bride (Mercy Falls Series #2)
by Colleen Coble

Published: 2010-10-19
Paperback : 304 pages
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When Katie answers the call of duty, she awakens the call to her heart.

Katie Russell loves working as a telephone operator in Mercy Falls, California. But since childhood she has been expected to marry well. Her family presses for an engagement to wealthy bachelor Bartholomew Foster ...

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When Katie answers the call of duty, she awakens the call to her heart.

Katie Russell loves working as a telephone operator in Mercy Falls, California. But since childhood she has been expected to marry well. Her family presses for an engagement to wealthy bachelor Bartholomew Foster and though he doesn't  stir her heart, their engagement promises a secure financial future.

Working the phone lines one evening, Katie overhears a chilling exchange between her friend Eliza and a familiar male voice. Katie soon learns that Eliza has diappeared, and the crime may be linked to another investigation by handsome new lighthouse keeper, Will Jasperson. Katie and Will soon form an alliance. An alliance that slowly blossoms into something more.

Despite the danger surrounding her, Katie is powerfully drawn to Will. But she is not at liberty to marry for love. And though society forbids their growing affection, Katie can't help but notice Will's sense of peace. It's a peace that rests on his trust in God--a trust that Katie has never had to depend on, with her future so clearly mapped out before her.

But the more Katie uncovers of the mystery, the more she discovers about herself, her past, and the brilliant future that could be hers if only she has the courage to trust in God and follow where her heart so fearlessly leads.

Editorial Review

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The lapel watch on her blouse read half past nine when Katie
Russell removed the skates from her boots and dropped them inside
the door of the Mercy Falls Telephone Company. She pulled the pins
from her Merry Widow hat, then hung it on a rack. Smoothing the
sides of her pompadour, she approached the switchboard in the room
down the hall. “Has it been busy?” she asked the woman in front of
the dangling cords.
Nell Bartlett sat with her stocking feet propped on the railing of
the table that supported the switchboard. Her color was high and
her voice clear and energetic as she answered a question then disconnected
the line. A faint line of discontent lingered between her
brows as she eyed Katie. “It’s your shift already?”
Nell was unmarried and still lived with her ailing mother, though
she was thirty-five. On the street she dropped her gaze and barely
whispered a hello, but in front of the switchboard she came alive.
Whenever she entered the office, she removed her hat, let down her
hair, and took off her shoes.
“It is indeed,” Katie said, approaching the switchboard. “Has it
been busy?”
“Not too bad. I only received three calls last night.” Nell’s tone
indicated her displeasure. “But the rings have increased quite nicely
this morning.” She rose and stepped away from the seat in front of
the switchboard but kept one hand on the top with a proprietary air.
Katie settled herself in the chair and donned the headset. Nell
slipped her shoes back on, wound her hair into a bun, then put on
her hat. Out of the corner of her eye, Katie watched her scurry from
the room, her mousy identity back in place.
Katie peered at the switchboard then forced herself to put on her
hated glasses. She nearly groaned when the light came on at her own
residence. She plugged in the cord and toggled the switch. “Good
morning, Mama.”
Her mother’s voice was full of reproach. “Katie, you left before I
could tell you that Mr. Foster called last night while you were out
gallivanting at the skating rink.”
Katie bit back the defense that sprang to her lips and kept the
excitement from her voice. “What did he say?”
“He asked to speak with your father and they went to the library.”
Such behavior could only mean one thing. Heat flooded Katie’s
face. “He asked Papa if he could court me?”
“He did indeed! Now you mind my words, Katie. You could not
make a better match than this. You need to quit that ridiculous job
and focus on building your social ties.”
Katie opened her mouth then shut it again. Another light flashed
on her switchboard. “I must go, Mama. I have another call.” She
unplugged the cord over her mother’s objection. Her parents didn’t
understand how important this job was to her. She thrust the cord
into the receptor. “Operator,” she said.
“Fire! There’s a fire,” the man on the other end gasped.
Katie glanced more closely at the board, and her muscles clenched.
The orphanage. “I’ll call the fire department, Mr. Gleason. Get the
children out!” She unplugged and rang the fire station with trembling
hands. “Fire at the orphanage, hurry!” She rushed to the window and
looked out to see smoke billowing from the three-story brick building
down the street. People were running toward the conflagration. She wished she could help, too, but she turned back to the switchboard as
it lit up with several lights. Moments later she heard the shriek of the
fire truck as it careened past.
She answered the calls one by one, but most were people checking
to make sure she knew about the fire. The morning sped by. She
relayed a message out to the North house and managed to chat a few
moments with her best friend, Addie North. One call was Mrs.
Winston asking the time, and Katie realized it was after one o’clock.
At the next lull, she removed her sandwich from the waxed paper and
munched it while she watched the board.
The light for Foster’s Sawmill came on. She plugged in. “Operator.”
Bart Foster’s deep voice filled her ears. “I’d recognize that voice
Katie pressed the palm of her hand to her chest where her heart
galloped. “Mr. Foster, I’m sorry I missed your call last night.”
“I had a most rewarding chat with your father,” he said, a smile in
his voice. “Did he tell you?”
Her pulse thundered in her ears. “He did not.”
“Excellent. I wish to tell you of our conversation myself. Might I
call tonight?”
“Of course.” She wasn’t often so tongue-tied. All her dreams of
respectability lay within her grasp. From the corner of her eye, she
saw her boss step into the small room. “I won’t be home until after
seven. Will that be too late?”
“Of course not. I shall call at seven thirty.”
“I look forward to it. Did you wish to place a call?”
“Someone must be there since you are not quite yourself.” The amusement in his voice deepened. “Connect me with your father’s haberdashery, please. I’ll see you tonight.”
“Of course.” She connected the cord to the shop then turned to face Mr. Daniels.
“I just stopped by to commend you on the way you handled the
fire call, Miss Russell. You kept your head about you in a most admirable
She stood to face him. “The children? Are they all out safely?”
He nodded. “I just came from the site. The building is a total loss,
but everyone is safe, thanks to your quick call to the fire department
that I was told about. Well done. I’d like you to consider more hours.
You’re the best operator I have. People like you, and you’re most
She couldn’t stop the smile that sprang to her lips. “Thank you, sir.
I’m honored. I love my job.”
“Then you’ll increase your hours? I’d like you to work six days a
She realized the plum that had been thrown into her lap. These
were tough times, and jobs for women were scarce. But her parents—
especially in light of Bart’s courting—would be less than pleased.
“I would like nothing better, Mr. Daniels, but I fear I’m going to
have to cut my hours instead. Nell will be delighted with the extra
Will Jesperson brushed off his hands and surveyed the gleaming glass
on the Fresnel lens in the light tower. Whether he’d done it properly
was up for debate, but he liked the way the sun glinted through the
lens and lit the floor of the tower. He glanced outside again. He’d
found it hard to keep working when he would rather study the clouds
and the waves from this vantage point.
Beautiful place, this rocky northern California shoreline. He still
couldn’t believe he had landed such a perfect job. Instead of pursuing
his hobby once a week, he could do it every day. There were weather balloons in the shed just waiting to be used. He eyed the rolling
clouds overhead and held up a finger. The wind was coming from the
north. Was that common here? He’d have the time and equipment to
find out.
He stepped outside and leaned against the railing. The beauty of
the rolling sea transfixed him. Whitecaps boiled on the rocks poking
up from the water at the mouth of the bay. Seeing them reminded
him of his grave duties here: to save lives and warn ships of the dangers
lurking just below the surface of the sea. Squaring his shoulders,
he told himself he would keep the light shining bright—both here at
the lighthouse and in his personal life. God had blessed him with this
position, and he would do his best to honor him with his work.
He removed his pocket watch, glanced at the time, and then stared
back out to sea when he heard a man yell. Were those shouts of alarm?
Through the binoculars he saw a ship moving past the bay’s opening. A
puff of smoke came from a smaller boat trailing it—gunfire? The small
craft caught up to the ship, and several men clambered up the mast.
Pirates. Will pressed against the railing and strained to see when he
heard more shots across the water. Additional men poured onto the
ship and were already turning it back toward the open ocean. He had
to do something. Turning on his heel, he rushed toward the spiral
staircase. The metal shook and clanged under his feet as he raced
down the steps. He leaped out the door and ran down the hillside to
the dinghy beached on the sand.
The pirates shoved men overboard, and he heard cries of pain. He
clenched empty fists. No weapon. Still, he might be able to save some
of the men thrown overboard. Shoving the boat into the water, he
put his back into rowing, but the tide was coming in and the waves
fought him at every stroke.
He paused to get his bearings and realized the ship was moving
away. The smaller boat, attached by a rope, bobbed after it. Something
whizzed by his head and he ducked instinctively. A hole appeared in the side of the boat behind him. The pirates were firing on him. His
hands dropped from the oars when he saw several bodies bobbing in
the whitecaps. Men were already drowned.
The wind billowed the sails and he knew he had no chance of
intercepting the ship. But he could save the men that he could reach,
then inform the authorities of what he’d seen. He grasped the oars
and rowed for all he was worth.
At 3:03 a light came on and Katie answered. “Number, please.” The
caller, a man whose voice she didn’t recognize, sounded breathless.
“Is this the operator?”
She detected agitation in his tone. “It is. Is something wrong?”
“Pirates,” he said in a clipped voice. “Just off the lighthouse. They
shot some sailors and dumped others overboard.”
She sprang to her feet. “I’ll contact the constable. Do you need
further assistance?”
“I need a doctor at the lighthouse. I’ve got two injured men. The
rest are—dead. I couldn’t get their bodies into the boat, but they’re
washing up onshore now.” His taut voice broke. “I had to leave the
men on the shore to get to a phone, but I’m heading back there now.
Tell the doctor to hurry.”
“Right away,” she promised. She disconnected the call and rang the
doctor first. Saving life was paramount. The constable would be too
late to do much about the pirates. With both calls dispatched, she
forced herself to sit back down, though her muscles twitched with the
need for activity. She reminded herself she’d done all she could.
The switchboard lit again. “Operator,” she said, eyeing the light.
The call originated from the bank.
“R-10, please.”
She plugged in the other end of the cord to ring the Cook residence.
Instead, she heard Eliza Bulmer pick up the phone on the other end.
“I’m sorry, Eliza, we seem to have a switched link somewhere. Would
you hang on until I can get through to the Cooks?” Katie asked.
“Of course, honey,” Eliza said. “I just picked up my wedding dress,
and I’m trying it on. So if I don’t say much, you’ll know why.”
“You’re getting married? I hadn’t heard. Congratulations.”
“Thank you.” Eliza’s voice held a lilt.
“Just leave the earpiece dangling, if you please.”
“I can do that.”
There was a thunk in Katie’s ear, and she knew Eliza had dropped
the earpiece. Katie waited to see if the ring would be answered at the
Cook residence but there was only a long pause. “There’s no answer,
Eliza. You can hang up,” she said.
The other woman did not reply. If the phone were left off the
hook, it would go dead. Katie started to raise her voice, but she heard
a man’s voice.
“You said you had something to tell me. What is it? I need to get
The voice was familiar, but Katie couldn’t quite place it. It was too
“Honey, thank you for coming so quickly,” Eliza said.
Though Eliza’s voice was faint, Katie thought she detected a
tremble in it. This is none of my business, she thought. I should hang
up. But she held her breath and listened anyway.
“Would you like tea?” Eliza asked.
“No, Eliza, I don’t want tea. What are you doing in that getup? I
want to know what was so all-fired important that you called me at
work—something I’ve expressly forbidden you to do.”
Katie’s stomach lurched as she tried to place the voice. Identification
hovered at the edge of her mind. Who is that?
“Very well. I shall just blurt it out then. I’m out of money and I
must have some to care for my daughter. I need money today or . . .”
“I won’t be blackmailed,” the man snapped.
A wave of heat swept Katie’s face. She heard a door slam, then weeping
from Eliza. She wanted to comfort the sobbing young woman.
Numb, Katie sat listening to the sobs on the line.
The door slammed again. “Who’s there?” Eliza asked in a quavering
voice. She gasped, then uttered a noise between a squeak and a cry.
Katie heard a thud, and then the door slammed again. “Eliza?” she
whispered. A hiss, like air escaping from a tire, came to her ears. “Are
you all right?”
Only silence answered her.
She jerked the cord from the switchboard and broke the connection.
Unease twisted her belly. She’d already dispatched the
constable to the lighthouse. But what if Eliza was in trouble? Her
fingers trembled so much she had trouble slipping the jack back
into the switchboard. She muffled her mouthpiece with her hand
and asked Nell to come back early. She had to make sure Eliza was
all right.
... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. Have you ever discovered something about a loved one that had been so hidden you didn’t believe it at first? How did this make you feel?
2. Will believed in taking responsibility for our actions. If his brother wouldn’t do it, Will would. What did you think about that? Was he right?
3. Katie didn’t want anyone to know of her real background. What are the advantages and disadvantages of letting out the truth in our lives?
4. Will knew Katie cared something about him when she forgot her hat. Actions speak loud. What is the most loving thing someone can do for you?
5. Stepping into criminal activity can happen in small steps. What steps led to Katie’s father getting involved in something criminal? What should he have done to stop?
6. Katie didn’t like surprises. Do you like them or do they frighten you the way they did Katie? Why do you feel this way?
7. Have you ever been torn between duty and love? How do you decide the right course of action?
8. Katie had a plan for her life. How can you tell if your plans parallel God’s plans?
9. Do you crave adventure or for the days to flow by evenly? What can you do to step outside your comfort zone?
10. Katie realized that God was the one who was her ultimate Provider and this life is temporary. Do you hold to things here too tightly? What can you do to begin to have an eternal perspective?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

Note from author Colleen Coble:

I woke up one morning with a scene in my head. A telephone operator at one of the old switchboards overhears a murder. What she hears puts her own life in danger. The idea for The Lightkeeper's Bride sprang from that germ of an idea. I remember the old telephones from my childhood, the big black ones where you had to lift the receiver and tell the operator what number you needed. Operators were privy to all kinds of secrets back then, and the idea intrigued me. I'd like readers to close the book with a real sense of how unimportant many things are that we hold to so tightly in this life. Seek those things of eternal value.

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Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "sweet tale"by Chelsea B. (see profile) 04/05/11

Romance, betrayal, independent female, suspense equals a sweet, quick read. Great for a vacation read.

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