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In 1893 Baltimore, Cornelius Maximilian, a rugged ship’s master who has been summarily dismissed from the merchant navy as a result of the conniving of an avaricious trader, meets strong-willed, independent Vanessa Tompkins. Over everyone’s objections, Vanessa accompanies him to the Shelbourne coal mine in Pennsylvania, where Captain Max uncovers embezzlement, wretched exploitation, and a murder. When the mine is flooded by an underground river, and is abandoned by its absentee English owners, Vanessa, Captain Max, and mining engineer Andrew Campbell secretly reclaim it and restore it to operation.

Overcoming tremendous odds, the three build Port Maximilian, an entirely new kind of mining town, where instead of being treated as slaves, cheated and exploited, miners live in exceptional housing and enjoy good schools and services, without rent or taxes because everything is supported by profits from the mine.

Gates of Horn and Ivory is an unusual tale of adventure, love, and family. Vanessa and Captain Max marry, have two children. Joshua grows into a mean, spiteful young man, in conflict with his father, whose power he envies and despises.  Annie, gentle and devoted to her father, has her mother’s strength and will.  While the captain battles against conspiracies to destroy him and the industries he has built, plus an attempt by the former English owners to take back the mine, he also supports Vanessa in her leadership of the local women’s suffrage movement and in improving the lives of women and young girls. With profits from the mine, they establish a free college for women on a bluff overlooking Port Maximilian.

But with all the success she and her husband achieve, in the end Vanessa faces a heart-breaking situation as she uncovers her son Joshua’s evil plot to destroy the mine and bring Captain Maximilian down.

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