A MARK OF GRACE by Kimberley Woodhouse
SERIES: Secrets of the Canyon #3
GENRE: Inspirational Historical Romance
PUBLISHER: Bethany House
RELEASE DATE: January 3, 2023
When everything crumbles, her chance for a new beginning hangs in the balance.
Ruth Anniston survived an injury that left her physically scarred, broken, and angry at God. Now, she finds herself working behind the scenes as a kitchen and dining room supervisor at the El Tovar Hotel, hidden away from curious eyes and with little hope of finding love. When money begins to disappear from the hotel, Ruth’s entire livelihood is put at risk when she lands on the list of suspects.
Frank Henderson has at last succeeded in obtaining his dream job as head chef at the El Tovar. But competition in the kitchen is fierce, and one mistake could cost him his future. As the thefts at the hotel continue, and his affection for Ruth grows, Frank’s career–and his heart–are in jeopardy.
As tensions run high, Ruth and Frank must work together to save the El Tovar. They find themselves growing closer . . . but can their combined ingenuity overcome the odds against them?
Monday, May 3, 1909
El Tovar Hotel, Grand Canyon
Spoons clattered against pots. Steam sputtered out from under lids. The scent of fresh-baked bread and brewing coffee filled the air.
Frank grinned to himself. He loved the hustle and bustle of this kitchen. It practically hummed with a symphony of culinary life.
Over the past twenty years, he’d worked for the Harvey Company in one capacity or another. But once he discovered the kitchen and cooking, he’d been hooked, and he’d been in a Harvey kitchen ever since.
Once he came to El Tovar . . . well, that had changed everything. The luxury hotel perched on the very edge of the Grand Canyon was a marvel, especially this far away from any city. Not only did they have electric lights powered by their own steam generator, but railroad tank cars brought fresh water in daily—120 miles—and the kitchen grew their own fruits and vegetables in greenhouses. Right here. Add to that their own dairy and poultry flock and they were set. It was a chef’s dream.
Yesterday had been a huge success. Celebrating the opening of the official summer season at El Tovar had become quite the treat over the years, and the food only increased in volume and specialties. But when Chef Marques had been called away for a family emergency, the task of pulling it all off fell squarely onto Frank’s shoulders. He’d learned so much from being the assistant chef under such an amazing mentor all these years that the event had run with precision and clockwork. But there was no time to revel in that. Another day, another crowd of people to feed.
“Chef Henderson!” Mr. Owens’ voice rose above the kitchen clamor. “Might I have a word?”
“Yes, sir.” Frank dipped his chin toward his manager and gave directions to the new hire beside him. He wiped his hands on his apron and headed toward the door.
Mr. Owens didn’t stop there, though. He headed toward his office.
That was odd.
But Frank followed and hoped this wouldn’t take too long. His bouillabaisse needed to be started for dinner.
When they reached the office, Frank saw Chef Marques standing beside the manager’s desk, dressed in a suit. The man looked out of place without his chef attire. Derby hat in his hands, he nodded at Frank.
Mr. Owens closed the door and stepped behind his desk. “Chef Henderson . . . Frank. You have been an invaluable asset to the El Tovar since its opening.”
“Thank you, sir.” Hopefully that wasn’t an opening for his dismissal.
“Chef Marques is needing to leave us.”
The statement hit him like a cleaver chopping through thick steak bones. The man had taught him more than anyone else in his life. He couldn’t believe it.
“I’m sure you are very sorry to see him go,” Mr. Owens continued.
“I don’t know what to say, Chef,” Frank stammered. “You have been—”
“It is time.” The man’s French accent was thick, even though he’d been in the States for many years. He dipped his head and twisted his hat before lifting his head again, a sheen of tears in his eyes. “You will do me proud, Frank.”
Frank swallowed hard. Blinked against the burning sensation in his own eyes. How could he say good-bye after all this time? How could he say . . . thank-you?
Mr. Owens gripped Frank’s shoulder. “We will have an announcement with all the staff later this afternoon, but I wanted to inform you that as of right now, as long as you are willing, you are being promoted to the head chef position at El Tovar.”
Frank gasped. Not what he expected. It was hard enough thinking of Marques leaving. “Head chef.” He mumbled the words.
“You deserve this honor, Frank.” His mentor patted his arm.
Their manager raised his eyebrows as if in anticipation.
Oh. He was supposed to accept. He pulled himself together. “Of course. I am thrilled and honored, sir.”
“Good. We are thankful to have you here. We will hire a new assistant chef within the week, but you have enough staff to make it through, I presume?”
“Yes.” Clearing his throat, he shifted his brain back to the schedule of the kitchen. “If we have everyone pull extra shifts, we will be fine.”
“Excellent. Chef Marques needs to leave on the train today, so I’m thankful you’ve got it covered.”
Frank looked from the manager to the man who’d mentored him the past four years. He could never repay him for all he’d learned. Fumbling around for words, he cleared his throat again to cover the lump that felt like rising bread dough. “I . . . um . . . that is . . . it has been a privilege to learn and work under such an amazing chef. I can’t thank you enough for the knowledge and skill you poured into me.”
Marques put a hand to his chest. “Merci. But it is I who should be thanking you. This is the first head chef position where I truly had an assistant—a right-hand man, as you put it. Most kitchens are full of egos and competitions, but non, we did not have that here. It has been my privilege, Frank.” He bowed at the waist.
Frank held out a hand. But the former head chef held out his arms and embraced Frank instead of shaking. “I will write letters. We share recipes, oui?”
Frank patted the man on the back and released him. “Yes, Chef. It will be like old times.”
With a nod, the man clamped his lips together, and headed out the door. But Frank had seen the heartache in the man’s eyes. He’d truly loved his kitchen and the people he worked with.
“Those are some awfully big shoes to fill, Mr. Owens. But thank you for the opportunity.”
“I’m confident you will do the Harvey name proud.” The manager’s broad smile was warm. “We’ve known each other a long time now and you’re one of my most trusted employees. It’s an honor to have you here, Henderson.”
“Thank you. Again.” He plopped his chef’s hat back on his head. “I better get back to work.”
As he left the manager’s office and strode through the rotunda, he looked down the hallway into the dining room. Head chef! All he’d ever hoped for in his career, and it was now his. The steps through the dining room and into the kitchen made his heart pound. What an honor. And what a responsibility. Thank You, Lord.
With a glance at the clock on the wall, he went over the tasks for the day and looked at who was in the kitchen. Word would spread soon enough, so there was no need for him to say anything. Even though there was one person he wished he could tell before the news spread.
His face stretched into a smile. How would Ruth respond?
A pot clanked against the stove as one of his workers jostled about and brought Frank’s thoughts back to the job—keep everything running smoothly, make sure delicious food was prepared, keep the guests happy and coming back for more.
The perfect job. Which he better focus on if he wanted to keep it.
Precisely at 10:45 a.m., Ruth walked into the kitchen. Every morning at this time, they went over detailed lists for luncheon and dinner. Secretly, it was the highlight of Frank’s day.
With her dark hair piled on top of her head in that poofy bun that all the women wore these days, she was prettier than ever. The scars on her face weren’t even visible anymore, but probably because she’d started wearing makeup as soon as she went back to work—something that Mr. Owens must have approved since none of the Harvey Girls had ever been allowed to do such a thing.
But she technically hadn’t been a Harvey Girl since her injury. As she’d healed, Owens had her doing tedious jobs with the books for the hotel and then had gradually given her more responsibility. Instead of being the head waitress—of which she was the best Frank had ever seen—now she was the supervisor over the entire dining room and kitchen.
Her steps were a bit slow, but he didn’t mind. After two years the limp was still there, but she covered it most of the time. Doc said that her leg would continue to heal but it didn’t matter to Frank. She was still Ruth—feisty and accomplished and as pretty as ever.
“Good morning, Chef Henderson.” Her hands were clasped in front of her.
“Good morning, Miss Anniston.” He pulled the chart of workers and list of dishes from his desk on the side of the kitchen. “I have some big news.” He couldn’t help but grin like a silly schoolboy. He’d been wanting to find her and tell her ever since he found out.
“Oh? Do tell.” She smirked at him and raised one perfectly shaped eyebrow. Her blue eyes sparkled in the bright lights of the kitchen.
“I’ve been promoted to head chef.”
Her grin spread across her face, and she glanced around the kitchen before squeezing his arm. “I know! I’m so proud of you. Congratulations!”
Of course she would know. She was in charge of the kitchen and dining room, after all. “I can hardly believe it. I mean, I hate that we had to lose Marques, but this is a dream come true for me.”
“You deserve this, Frank. And I couldn’t be happier for you.” She leaned in close and squeezed his arm again before glancing around and resuming her stiff posture. Miss Professional Supervisor. “Is there anything important we need to cover today? Because I’m sure you have your hands full.”
While he’d hoped to chat as friends for a few minutes after he shared his news, he could see the trepidation on her face. The longer she stood here, the harder it was for her to sneak back to her office without a lot of eyes on her, which was her habit, even though she’d never say it aloud. The dining room opened again at precisely eleven a.m. He handed her the chart and list. “Thanks for believing in me to do this job.”
“You completely earned this on your own merit, Frank. As much as I think you’re the best chef in the world, I didn’t need to put in my two cents for Mr. Owens to make the decision.” She waved the papers and turned. “Thanks. I’ll see you later this evening.”
With a swish of her skirts, she was gone. Head held high. Shoulders straight. Trying her best to keep her steps smooth and steady as she exited the kitchen. He’d watched her do the same thing every day for the past two years. Never allowing himself to tell her what was in his heart. And the couple times he’d tried when they weren’t working, he had been interrupted. Which made him think God was having him wait.
Until when? Neither one of them was getting any younger. But Ruth wasn’t ready. Not since the accident.
When would she see how valuable and cherished she was? That scars and limps didn’t matter? That she was the most beautiful woman in the world?
The way he saw her.
May 5, 1909
Kansas City, Missouri
Uncle Melvin would be proud.
After years of meticulous research and planning, Oliver had figured out a way to put his plan into action. A way to tarnish the Harvey name. And not just tarnish it but ruin it. For good. That would be the ultimate win for his family. To make up for the decades of disgrace and loss. The empire that should have been O’Brien. Not Harvey.
While the rest of the family wallowed in self-pity and poverty, sitting around rehashing the story, he’d made a name for himself and was determined to reclaim what should have been theirs. Uncle Melvin should have never gone into business with Fred Harvey. They’d had a thriving restaurant and saloon until that thief took off with every cent they had. All because he disagreed with Uncle politically. What a slimy, backstabbing wretch.
Oliver walked over to the chessboard under the window and looked at the pieces in play. He’d practiced his moves over and over again. Until he could capture the king each and every time. Perfect.
Granted, his initial attempts to put a dent in the Harvey Empire had been chaotic. Half-hearted. Not well thought out. He’d been young, stupid, naïve, and poor. It not only took money to make money, but it took money to steal money.
Things were different now. He was older . . . wiser. Richer. He knew his opponent better. He had a saboteur in place. Just like in studying the game of chess. If he had to lie, cheat, steal, even kill to accomplish his goal, he didn’t care, because he would do whatever it took. Every time he heard of Harvey’s success, it dug the knife in a little deeper. His family could whine and complain all they wanted, but it wasn’t helping them. He, on the other hand, had allowed the rage to boil inside him until revenge was the only way out.
He looked out the window and straightened his collar. This quick trip home would be his last until it was all over. The busy street before him would soon bear his family’s name. It wouldn’t be such a dingy place. He could turn everything around. His cousin’s little restaurant, started by Uncle Melvin, could become something bigger. They would expand across the country. Just like Harvey, but they would do it better. And use their own name.
It would all come out. People would hear the truth.
It had taken a lot of time to learn the inner workings. To analyze the Harvey Company. The food. The Harvey Girls. The standards. To understand how the El Tovar succeeded. How a luxury hotel could exist in the middle of nowhere. The supply chain alone was outrageous. But because the wealthy wanted the best at one of America’s wonders, Harvey made it happen.
Well, money could disappear.
Supply chains could be disrupted.
Accidents could happen.
Rumors could spread like wildfire.
People could even get sick.
Which would mean guests would stop coming.
Newspapers would write about the demise of Harvey’s Crown Jewel and predict that the empire would fall.
And in time, it would. Just as the O’Brien Empire rose.
Wouldn’t be long now until all the pieces would be captured. He’d take the queen—the El Tovar—and then?
Kimberley Woodhouse, A Mark of Grace
Bethany House Publishing, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2023. Used by permission.
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Kimberley Woodhouse (www.kimberleywoodhouse.com) is an award-winning, bestselling author of more than 30 fiction and nonfiction books. Kim and her incredible husband of 30-plus years live in the Poconos, where they play golf together, spend time with their kids and grandbaby, and research all the history around them.
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