The ending solved all mysteries and added a twist I did not expect. Apart from the band pilfering in the store, there was someone stealing the good-quality fabrics and replaced them with cheaper materials. Annie and Nate find out that it is the owner’s son Robbie who was involved in this fraud. He wanted to have his own business after his father had denied his right to be a partner, so he and another man had partnered to open a bridal store. Robbie wasn’t straight about this as he didn’t tell his father, and instead using a crooked haulage worker and one of the store staff he managed to replace the good fabrics his father’s money was paying for and the store got cheap, low-quality material. Annie and Nate tell Livingston, who is not surprised, but since it was his son involved in the fraud, he decides not to press charges.
As for Marie’s murder, I was right. It was a woman who killed her. Madame Villeneuve is the murderer. Marie had promised to let her adopt Emmaline, but then she backed away when she got an offer from Robbie to work for him and the man even gave him the money to pay off her debt with the bank. Madame Villeneuve was angry and we know she is not mentally stable, so she pushed Marie down the stairs and then suffocated her. Madame Villeneuve almost killed Emmaline, but thankfully Nate and Annie got to her and saved her. The girl had refused to drink something bitter that the woman wanted her to swallow, and then her husband burst into their apartment, but the woman was now dead, having drunk the laudanum herself. At the end of the book Annie is not sure whether Adolphe Villeneuve found his wife dead or he did the deed himself. The reason why his wife decided to kill Emmaline and herself was that her husband was not sure to adopt Emmaline after Annie told him that there might be some relatives who could claim Emmaline. Annie was told that Madame Villeneuve had used fake suicide attempts as a way to get what she wanted, and maybe that is what she intended to do this time as well.
While Annie and Nate investigate Marie’s murder, they discover that Marie had been in a relationship with someone called Phillip who worked for the Pacific Railroad. They eventually find out that the man was a porter and black, and they also guess that Marie was of African descent. Her mother had been raped by a cousin in the family, and Marie had always looked white. When Nate and Annie talk to Phillip, he tells them the rest. The son in the family where they had been slaves took them to San Francisco, and Marie passed off as a white woman since her grandmother knew that was the only way she could survive. The son was Marie’s lover until he died, and it was then that Marie realised that he had taken a mortgage on the shop in her name. Phillip wanted to marry her, but she kept putting him off, and then she broke off the engagement just before getting killed. Marie’s plans was to have Emmaline adopted and then she would marry Phillip, but when she got Robbie’s offer and was able to pay off her debt, she knew she couldn’t leave Emmaline and she couldn’t expose her to the humiliation of being a mixed-breed child. That was why she broke off with Phillip and told the Villeneuve that she wouldn’t let them adopt Emmaline.
The twist came when Nate and Annie take Emmaline home to spend Christmas with them. The girl has the box that Annie had found in her mother’s room. Annie is curious about the photographs she found inside, and when the girl produces the photographs, Jamie and Kathleen say that the Miss Moffets have the same photograph in their room. Emmaline says that the man in the photograph was Uncle Jasper, but she thinks she was actually her dad. Through the book we learnt about the Miss Moffets’ background. They were wealthy Southern belles as their father and elder brother were ship merchants, but then they were both killed in a ship explosion. When their mother died, they moved to San Francisco with their brother Jasper. The two women supported the brother who squandered their money on gambling, alcohol, and women, and when he died, they discovered he had even gambled their house. That is why they had to board with Annie. So Annie and Nate go up to tell them that Jasper fathered Emmaline, and the two elderly ladies feel ashamed for their brother, but they are ready to get to know their niece and support her the way the little girl wants.
It is later when Nate has gone to fetch some tea and Annie is talking about the dress the ladies are making for her that the two ladies tell her that they know that they will have to add plenty of material to the skirt because of the baby Annie is expecting. Annie only got confirmation that morning when she went to see her doctor, and as she is telling the Miss Moffets about the baby being born in June that Nate walks in and learns he is going to be a father. Really lovely!!!
Then when they are in San Jose to spend some days with Nate’s family, Laura is driving the carriage and Nate and Annie tell them about the Miss Moffets and Emmaline. Annie tells her that the Miss Moffets are going to work for Mr Livingstone from now on to replace Marie as fashion designer, and they are to move to another apartment in the building so that they could be close to Emmaline and the governess Mr Livingston has hired for the girl. Annie explains that Laura could now move to the rooms the Miss Moffets had, and she can even have a roommate, and it is then when Nate and Annie tell her that if the Miss Moffets hadn’t moved out, they would have to ask Laura or Mark Chapman to move out as they will be needing the room for a nursery in June. And Laura almost run the wagon out of the road!!! I loved it!!!
I am so sad that this is the last book in the collection so far. I love Annie and Nate so much. I hope the author writes another mystery with Annie pregnant or already a mother. I am going to read the short stories now, which I know I will find very entertaining and interesting.