A Day in the Life of Grace Kimball by Susan Van Kirk

marry-in-hasteGrace Kimball, retired high school teacher in Endurance, Illinois, is writing historical stories for the Endurance Register. Her boyfriend, Jeff Maitlin, recently bought a huge Victorian mansion to renovate called Lockwood House. Its past is full of dark secrets. While checking out the new house, Grace and Jeff find a diary from Olivia Havelock Lockwood, who lived in the house in 1893. Today, Grace is visiting Sam Oliver, Chair of the history department at Endurance College, to find out what she can about Olivia Lockwood and her powerful husband.

Grace opened her electronic notepad to a blank screen. “Was the Lockwood inheritance substantial, Sam?”

“It was enormous for the time. Charles Lockwood lived in a period when corruption was rampant, and, as a circuit judge, he was in a position to take advantage of that. He married Jane Spencer in 1888, moving to the new mansion after their honeymoon. He was thirty-six to her twenty. When you look at the Register, you’ll see pictures of the young influential couple. Study their faces and you will think they are having the time of their lives.”

“But that wasn’t the case?”

“Rumors abounded. Many local sources—diaries and journals—attest to the idea that Lockwood had a fondness for the madam of a local whorehouse, and he was whispered about when it came to corruption. He was also looking for an heir, and finally Jane got pregnant.”

“But that didn’t last either,” Grace replied, glancing up at him.

“You would think she would have a happy ending, but she didn’t. She died in an accident—fell down the huge staircase at the front of the house when she was pregnant. Both of them—she and the baby—died of their injuries.”

“But it was an accident, right?”

“Maybe. The local coroner was also the family physician, resulting in a rapid and efficient coroner’s jury and a unanimous verdict of death by accident. But people still talked and speculated. Didn’t bother the judge,” said Sam, taking a sip of coffee. “Life went on and he was appointed a federal judge. Time to consider politics, maybe run for governor, but he needed a wife.”

“And,” said Grace, “that’s when he met Olivia Havelock.”

“Yes. She was a young thing, just seventeen, and fresh off the family farm from a small town south of here.” He sighed, and a troubled look came over his face.

Grace chimed in. “Then he wined her, dined her, and married her.”

“Ah, yes. You can read about it here in my book. Exquisite wedding, honeymoon to the Columbian Exposition of the World’s Fair in Chicago—all by private railcar.” He leaned across the desk and turned a page in the book Grace was holding. “If you turn a few more pages you’ll see a photograph after their honeymoon.”

Grace stared at the photo of the couple. Judge Lockwood was in a dark suit with a pocket watch and gold chain. Olivia was in her wedding dress. There was also an exquisite ring—an heirloom ruby with pearls on either side. How beautiful she looks, thought Grace. Her hair is up in a fashionable set of curls as befits a married woman. She stands so stiffly in her corset. The delicate lace of her bodice goes up to a high collar. She looks happy . . . Her goal as a woman has finally been reached. She doesn’t realize her husband will be dead in months. How strange to look at this photo and know what lies ahead.

Sam’s voice brought her back. “And again, rumors, absences of the young wife from social events, whispers of abuse, and his frequency at the saloons on South Mercy Street.”

“I’ve seen pictures of her in the social pages. As you say, she was both hauntingly beautiful and also innocent looking. But you did say something about a mystery.”

“That’s in my book too. The deaths have been real subjects of speculation. What happened to the first wife? Accident or murder? What happened to his second wife, Olivia— period? She simply disappeared. How did the judge die? Poison? Someone he had sentenced looking for revenge?”

“I’m going to try to solve those questions, Sam. I’ve already started researching in the Register.”

“”Don’t believe everything you read on the social pages, Grace,” he warned.

“What do you mean?”

“Those were dark times, especially for women. Laws did not protect them in any way.”

Glancing at the clock above Sam’s head, Grace closed up her notepad, stood up, and thanked Sam for his help. As she passed the college president’s office, she saw a group of bundled up students in winter gear—but some of them were barefooted in flip-flops. Grace looked at their young faces as they talked and laughed energetically to their friends.

They’re about the same age as the Lockwood wives, Number One and Number Two, thought Grace. I am going to find out what happened to those two young wives, and maybe learn a thing or two about Charles Lockwood’s strange death.


Marry in Haste is the second full-length novel in the Endurance mystery series published by Five Star Publishing/Cengage, November 2016.

It is 2012 in the small town of Endurance, wealthy banker, Conrad Folger, is murdered and his wife, Emily, arrested. Emily Folger was one of Grace Kimball’s students in the past, and Grace knows Emily could never murder anyone. So, Grace joins Detective TJ Sweeney to investigate the murder, and they uncover a dark secret.

In 1893, Olivia Havelock, age seventeen, moves to Endurance to seek a husband. She finds one in Charles Lockwood, powerful and wealthy judge, but her diary reveals a terrifying story.

Two wives—two murders a century apart—and a shocking secret connects them. Marry in Haste is a story of the resilience of women, both in the past and the present.

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About the author
Susan Van Kirk was educated at Knox College and the University of Illinois. She taught high school English for susanvankirkthirty-four years in the small town of Monmouth, Illinois [pop. 10,000], and then an additional ten years at Monmouth College. Three May Keep a Secret, her first mystery novel about the small town of Endurance, was published in 2014 by Five Star Publishing/Cengage. The Locket: From the Casebook of TJ Sweeney, is an e-book novella available on Amazon. Marry in Haste was available on November 16. Connect with Susan at www.susanvankirk.com, on Amazon, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Goodreads and on Pinterest.

All comments are welcomed.

Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of Marry in Haste. US entries only, please. The giveaway ends November 20, 2016 at 11:59 AM EST. Good luck everyone!

49 responses to “A Day in the Life of Grace Kimball by Susan Van Kirk

  1. Your book sounds intriguing and a awesome 😃 Thank you for a chance to win.

  2. A very fascinating plot….two young wives whose lives were cut short and were married to an influential man. Definitely a must read on my list.

  3. Sounds like an interesting read with facts about how we lived back then.

    • Susan Van Kirk

      I enjoyed doing a lot of research for the 1893 plot. The most interesting thing I found was that people had short engagements because if the engagement were long, they might not get married at all.

  4. Those Victorian mansions get me every time! Thanks!

    • Susan Van Kirk

      Thanks, Donna. This mansion was one I lived in for five years. It has over 4,000 square feet of living space, and I lived only in the downstairs. I’ve researched its past, finding it was a pretty darn amazing place.

  5. Fascinating!

  6. Sounds like a captivating mystery. Would LOVE to win a copy. Thank you for your generosity & the chance to win!

  7. This is the second review of this book I’ve read, and I am even more intrigued. Thanks for the chance to win it.

    • Susan Van Kirk

      Thanks, Gail. I am finding myself coming and going on internet sites. I hope you read “Marry in Haste.” I had so much fun researching the “place” of women back in the late 1800s, and also finding out about the house that is a setting for both plots.

  8. This book sounds compelling and intriguing. Thanks for this lovely feature.

  9. A most compelling book to read. A mystery to solve. Thank you for a great post and the intro to a new author. And a chance to get a most intriguing book

    • Susan Van Kirk

      Thank you for stopping by, free53544. Now THAT is an intriguing name. Solving problems came naturally as a mom and a teacher. So now it is just moving on into my writing career. Hope you enjoy!

  10. Susan Van Kirk

    A huge thank you to Dru for allowing me to come visit today!

  11. Barbara Hackel

    What a fascinating sounding book! So many stories similar to what is suggested here have been hidden in history. I definitely have to read “Marry in Haste” after reading this blog! Thanks Dru Ann. Thanks Susan for the the chance to win a copy! 🙂

    • Susan Van Kirk

      You are so welcome, Barbara. I find myself drifting into history as my writing goes on. So this book certainly sent me in that direction. I love the late 1800s, and this book also involves a trip to the Columbian Exhibition of the Chicago World’s Fair.

  12. elainehroberson

    I love mysteries. Thanks for a chance to win a copy.

  13. Sounds like a good read.

  14. It sounds like this one is a must read. I want to know what happened so long ago and was repeated more recently!

  15. Oh my. That is tantalizing.

  16. Fascinating storyline! I can’t help but want to read it. Definitely on my TBR list.

    • Susan Van Kirk

      Hope you find it filled with dead ends, darkened hallways, and a series of interesting mysteries!

  17. A new to me author…..and this book sounds very intriguing and I would love to win a copy. However, I will have to find a copy of the first book so I can become aquainted with Grace and Endurance. I also enjoy finding leading characters who are older than their 20’s or 30’s. 😊

    • Susan Van Kirk

      Pat, I am with you! A lot of libraries carry “Three May Keep a Secret” (book 1), and Amazon, Target.com, and BarnesandNoble.com sell it. I am very much with you in that I wanted to write a mystery for readers over 40. Grace is 57 and her sister-in-law, Lettie, is 69. Jeff Maitlin is 62. This series gives us a chance to see what later life might hold for them. I didn’t start writing mysteries until four years ago at age 66, so I’m still working right along! Thanks for stopping in.

  18. Thanks for including this new author and her book on your blog. It was interesting to see what her book consists of.

  19. I really enjoyed reading this post. I have to read this series & author soon.

    • Susan Van Kirk

      I keep seeing your reviews on GoodReads, Doward. I’m waiting to read one for my books! Thanks for checking in, and i hope this story sounds very tantalizing!

  20. Pauline Barlow

    It would be great to compare the happenings of two different times and see if and how they connect. Yes, I want to read Susan Van Kirk’s mysteries.

    • Susan Van Kirk

      Thanks, Pauline. I thought a double plot would be a step in the right direction since I like to challenge myself! We’ll see if you think so too.

  21. “Marry in Haste” sounds like a fascinating read. I just ordered the first book in the series from Amazon because it is definitely my type of read. Can’t wait to read both books.

    • Susan Van Kirk

      Thanks so much for ordering “Three May Keep a Secret.” Hope you enjoy my little town that seems sooo deceptively normal on the surface!

  22. Enjoyed the excerpt – looking forward to discovering the connection between the two wives.

  23. Susan Van Kirk

    Thanks, Mary. Hope you enjoy it.

  24. WOW! Thanks for introducing me to Susan Van Kirk, I have added her and Marry in Haste to my TBR list. I have to find out what happen.

    • Susan Van Kirk

      Thanks, Vicki. I can assure you, if you read this book, you’ll definitely find out what happens to these two marriages!

  25. What an exciting sounding mystery…I have got to read this book!! Thank you for the chance to win a copy!!

  26. Love the plot of this one…Retired…writing historical stories and discovery of two murders…thank you for a chance.
    Marilyn ewatvess@yahoo.com

  27. Susan Van Kirk

    Thanks fpr visiting, Marilyn.