Belle returns to her old hometown, looking for clues as to what happened to her great-great-grandmother a hundred years in the past.
Zane, on a secret mission into the past, never expects to meet the woman of his dreams.
A complex time travel novel that explores alternate realities, a future no one wants to face, and sets the Thunder Mountain universe going into the future.
The sixth standalone novel in the popular Thunder Mountain series.
Dean specializes in time travel. It shows up in his short fiction and in many of his novels, but never more prominently than in his Thunder Mountain series. The books stand alone, but they share two things: a unique method of time travel and the entire history of Idaho and the American West. Dean also specializes in western history, so he's uniquely qualified to write these books. Warm Springs brings the past so vividly alive that you'd swear Dean has time traveled there as well. – Kristine Kathryn Rusch
June 9th, 2020
ISABELLE "BELLE" RUSSELL felt stunned by the sheer beauty of Warm Springs Avenue in Boise, Idaho. The massive old oak and cottonwood trees formed a dark green ceiling over the wide boulevard, letting the sun through in only streaks of brilliance.
On the right side of the road when leaving the downtown area, majestic stone and white-painted Victorian mansions sat back away from the road behind high hedges and wrought-iron gates. The rows of mansions with their high peaks overlooked the Boise River below and the Boise Valley and desert to the east.
The morning air was crisp, but held a promise of getting much warmer as the day went on. Boise was built on the edge of the high desert, sprawled along a river between the desert and towering mountains. Modern homes had crawled up the ridgelines of the foothills above the city like strings of lights draped over dark brown shapes.
Last night, all those lights had been something to see as she drove in her rented car from the airport into downtown Boise. But during the day, the brown of the foothills leading to pine trees much higher up the slopes was the dominant feature over the town.
From where she stood on the wide concrete sidewalk on Warm Springs Avenue, she could see neither the mountains behind her or much beyond glimpses of the huge mansions in front of her through the walls and hedges.
Down the avenue a half-mile closer to town was her family's old home, also a large mansion on the river's side of the avenue. She had stopped and stared at it for a time from her car, trying to get a peek of anything through the high hedge and fence. Maybe later she would go back there and talk to the owners.
She had dressed in layers for the morning. She had on jeans, her running shoes, a light white blouse with a sports bra under it, and for the chill this morning, she had pulled on a green Stanford sweatshirt. She was glad she had.
She had been born and raised in Phoenix, so anything that seemed the slightest bit cold sent chills through her. At the age of thirty-one, she had never gotten over that, even after being away from Phoenix except for visits for over a decade.
She had flown in last night from San Francisco, rented a car, and found her wonderful upscale hotel in the center of the city, just blocks from the lit-up capitol building that looked like a smaller duplicate of the one in Washington, DC.
At night, the capitol building's polished stones shone under the lights and the small park in front of it where a statue of a man standing on a pedestal gave the entire area a feeling of importance.
She had fallen into bed thirty minutes after arriving, tired from the last days of teaching for the spring semester at Stanford, and then the flight to Boise. But now, this morning, she felt much more refreshed and ready to enjoy herself, and with luck do some special research in a brand new place.
But most of all, she wanted to find out just what the Historical Studies Institute wanted of her. They said they had an offer and were willing to pay all expenses for her to come and listen to the offer.
She had agreed, if she could stay for a month and do some research and the institute had agreed at once and was willing to pick up the tab for the entire time. Considering she lived mostly on her teacher's salary and what little money her books brought in, that was a welcome relief.
But she would wait and see. It sounded almost too good to be true, and that bothered her more than she wanted to admit.
The breakfast in The Grand hotel had been wonderful and filling, with a light fruit salad, some freshly scrambled eggs, and toast. She then got her rental car out of valet parking and headed east out of town, eventually finding the large, five-lane avenue called Warm Springs.
It seemed the Historical Studies Institute occupied one of the huge Victorian mansions on the river's side. That had surprised her. Clearly the institute had great funding. She would need to find out from where before she ever agreed to work with them on anything.
She had found parking on a side street that looked like a residential area built in the 1930s, and walked back to the institute carrying only her small black leather tablet case that also functioned as a purse. With its leather strap, it hung off her shoulder and never got in her way. Most of the time she felt that just carrying a tablet was easier than carrying a heavier laptop case.
A ten-foot tall hedge covering a stone wall, well maintained and recently trimmed, blocked her view of the institute from Warm Springs Avenue. The hedge had clearly grown for decades over a tall, river-stone wall.
She glanced at her watch. It was just nine in the morning mountain time. Pretty early for her, but she had wanted to get an early start, and could never sleep late while traveling anyway.
She managed to get across the five lane busy avenue and on the sidewalk in front of the institute grounds.
What looked like an extremely old metal plaque that was set into the stone in the hedge had the name of the institute on it and nothing more. Very stark and official looking, enough to make her wonder if she had even found the right place.
Scaring away unwanted guests was more than likely what the sign was for.
A wide wrought iron gate blocked a wide driveway to her left and a smaller metal gate blocked the sidewalk in front of her leading to the mansion. The pedestrian gate had a more modern hours sign on it.
The hours were from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and Saturday. A buzzer and intercom stuck out of the thick green hedge beside the gate. She at least made it here during the open hours.
She rang the buzzer and waited, looking around the wonderful historic neighborhood. She would wager every building within her sight was on the historic register. What an amazing neighborhood. It must have really been something back at the turn of the 20th century.
It was still something now.
The intercom cracked and then a male voice said, "Good morning. Please state your name and your business with the institute."
"Isabelle Russell," she said leaning into the intercom. "I was invited to come talk to Director Parks about a position."
There was a long pause that made her wonder if she had been heard or if she had needed to push some unseen button somewhere. She was about to say something else when the male voice came back clearly.
"Welcome, Dr. Russell. It is an honor to have you visit our institute. Just follow the sidewalk up to the front door and come inside."
There was a buzz and the gate clicked open.
She felt slightly surprised at the suddenly warm welcome. Clearly they knew about her books and different degrees and areas of study since they had invited her here. But she wasn't often called Dr. Russell these days. Mostly, if anyone called her anything, it was professor.
She stepped through the gate and let it close and latch behind her.
As she did, it felt as if she had stepped into another world. The traffic noise on the busy street behind her dimmed to almost nothing.
Around her was one of the most beautiful and luscious green front lawns she had ever seen, accented in various flowerbeds. The lush green lawn flowed around the flowerbeds and the trunks of the massive old oak and cottonwood trees like a river around stones.
"Wow," she said out loud to herself as she studied the front area and then the large two-story Victorian mansion with a painted-white porch across the front. Two massive round towers reached for the blue sky up through the trees and large stone pillars held up the second floor above the porch.
"This place really, really has some funding," she said aloud.
And that sentence made her again wonder what they wanted from her.
The mansion had tall windows with drapes pulled open across the front to let in light. The driveway went past the mansion to the left and toward the back where she could see some other buildings all painted to match the white and stone of the main building.
A hedge over other walls ran along both sides of the massive estate, blocking anything but a view of the top floors and towers of the Victorian mansions on either side.
She went up the five stone steps and onto the wooden front porch, her tennis shoes making almost no sounds. Three different settings of furniture were grouped along the porch. The chairs were all period chairs and short couches that would be appropriate to when the mansion was built in the late 1980s. A wonderful touch of detail.
A couple of the settings had clearly been used recently. She stopped and looked back at the beautiful shaded yard. She would have no trouble at all sitting here sipping on an iced tea and just relaxing.
Not even the sounds of the traffic from the busy Warm Springs Avenue beyond got over that wall and into this sanctuary.
So what was this place?
And how in the world did they get so much funding? That question was going to drive her nuts until she got an answer.
She turned back to the big ornately carved front door with a bronze "Welcome" sign beside it.
Looked like she was about to find out.