A lost town, a misplaced historical artifact, a skeleton in the family tree, and runaway slaves hiding in the attic—all the “history mystery” you could want with a squeaky-clean romance for added spice.
Abby Thomas is spending her summer in a run-down old house with a bratty pre-teen named Merrideth she is supposed to tutor. It’s not Abby’s idea of a dream job, but it does come with perks. There’s John Roberts, the devastatingly attractive neighbor who is almost too wonderful to be real. And then there are the virtual trips to the past she gets to take via a strange and wonderful computer program called Beautiful Houses—also too amazing to be real. No one knows how it works, but with the software, Abby can rewind and fast-forward the lives of all the people who ever lived in a house for a God’s-Eye view of time.
In 1858, Merrideth’s house was a train stop on the Alton & Chicago Line, and a young woman named Charlotte lived there. She takes up the cause of abolition and turns the house into a station on the Underground Railroad after hearing Abraham Lincoln pour out his heart at the debate that will catapult him onto the national stage and lead to his presidency during the dark days of the Civil War.
In book two Abby’s reluctant student finally begins warming up to her. And her friendship with John Roberts is also heating up. He’s definitely marriage material. Except he thinks she’s crazy, because a computer program that allows you to rewind and fast-forward the lives of people from long ago is surely pure fantasy.
But then John sees for himself when together they use the program to help the “Old Dears” next door with their family tree. Rummaging around in their history, they discover that the 85-year-old twins have been keeping a secret from each other since 1941. And the ladies’ Buchanan ancestors have a few secrets of their own, too.
Reuben Buchanan is a blight on the Old Dears’ family name. But was he really guilty of arson? Abby and John must get inside the mind of a murderer to find out. But there are also heroes in the ladies’ family tree. In 1803 Nathan Buchannan’s log cabin sat just outside Lewis and Clark’s camp where he and the other explorers spent the winter gathering supplies for their famous cross-continental expedition.
While Abby and John watch the cabin’s history unfold on their computer screen, they discover a 200-year-old treasure waiting to be reclaimed—and that God’s promise to bless a thousand generations really is true.
Since the Beautiful Houses software worked so well for the Old Dears’ family tree project, Abby’s friend Kate hopes it will help her find out more about her ancestor Ned Greenfield. Abby and John and Kate and her horrid fiancé Ryan take a trip to the tiny town of Equality, Illinois, where Ned Greenfield was born at a place called Hickory Hill. The townspeople of Equality refuse to help them, but eventually the two couples find Hickory Hill on their own.
Built in 1834, the mansion stands sentinel over Half Moon Salt Mine where the original owner John Granger accumulated his blood-tainted fortune with the use of slave labor in the free state of Illinois—the Land of Lincoln. The shocking discovery on the third floor concerning Kate’s ancestor Ned Greenfield is almost too much to bear. But Abby and her friends are reminded that God is in the business of redemption—that one day he’ll make all things new.