By: Catherine Haustein
Publication Date: May 11, 2015
Genre: Historical Romance
To get ahead she’ll have to become a man — and a man, she always thought, never let’s love get in the way…
Clementine dreams of being a naturalist — dreams that leave no time for romance. To sneak on an adventurous prospecting expedition, Clementine will have to convince everyone she’s a man. A mysterious tonic offers her just that disguise.
But “Calvin”, as she calls herself now, had no idea what she was giving up. When Wesley, the expedition’s gentle preacher, catches her eye, she can’t get him out of her head; not his lush lips, wide brown eyes … or broad chest. Dare she reveal her secret to him? Can she keep her career if she does?
Among run-ins with cowboys, natural disasters, and traveling shows, Wesley’s most fascinating adventure is meeting Calvin. Though Wesley’s betrothed, the cute, clever naturalist threatens to make him fall into temptation…
A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Catherine Haustein is a chemistry and English professor at Central College in Iowa. Her ancestors lived in the famous ghost town of Singapore on the shores of Lake Michigan. Natural Attraction is her first novel.
“This is no way for a man to act.” He said the callous words tenderly and wiped my tears with his hand.
The elevation and my bawling were giving me a nosebleed. I dabbed at the blood with my handkerchief. My nose was large, like a man’s.
“I must look a mess,” I said.
“Ah, you’re a fine looking gentleman. But you must gather up your emotions as men do.”
He looked nervously towards the camp, hoping no one had witnessed our tenderness together. “What would the Himalayan hymn writer think?”
At this mention I seized his arm and let my tears fall onto his dark coat.
He shifted away as I kept him in my grasp.
“Another reason not to head back. That arranged marriage. What a disaster.” I was more emotional as a man than I’d ever been as a woman. My expectations for happiness were higher.
He stroked my back, hesitantly. “Ah. I understand. But, my good fellow, straighten up and tell me something that a proper naturalist would say.”
“I’ll not be cowed. I’ll study nature wherever I go. I’ll prove myself and blaze a trail for others like me. I’ll show them they need not hold back their ambitions.” I was thinking of other women at this point although I wasn’t sure what I would prove to them other than the need to be fake to advance yourself.
“That’s the spirit. You make it sound like a hero’s quest. I’m humbled by you. Just let go of my arm if you please. If you get any closer to this candle, you’ll be singed.”
I sat back. “Wesley, we will both be successful.”
Footsteps crunched across the rocks as figures with a lantern approached. It was Madame Blu and Cyrus.
“What o’clock do you think it is? Don’t be dilatory. Tomorrow the curtain will rise. We’ll be celebrated. Bless my soul, yes.”
Gesternte saw the tightness in my mouth as I said goodbye. She said, “You’ll do well. One more bit of advice. If you get in a fight, keep your chin down, use your hands to cover your face, and keep your thumb outside your fist.”
Grateful, I gave her my sketch of the Western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) and a bead carrying the image of a whale. I’d found it washed up on the beach close to the port city of Singapore, over the dune from Spookstad. It had struck me as out of place, even though the Great Lakes had its own giant: the sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens), whose females could live for 150 years, growing to six feet in length.
She held the bead in her hand and looked down at it as if it was a note with small printing. “You found this?”
“Yes, on the shore. Is there something the matter?”
“No. It’s just…” She cleared her throat.
I felt my nose and my powerful arms. Inside, I didn’t feel like a man. I felt like Clementine, whoever she was.
“Tell me Clementine, what do you seek? I mean, what do you love? What do you need to know more about than anything else?”
I stood up, my legs clumsy and muscular. What was it I wanted from a life of science, besides the beauty of observation and the thrilling potential of discovery? One could, after all, look at many things and discover nothing at all.
“I wish to know the truth.”
The old woman rubbed her nose. “And if there is more than one truth?”
The tonic made me cocky and the altitude left me dizzy. The combination had me soaring. “I wish to know my truth and to live it without fear.”
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