A Case for Romance
Grade : D

A Case for Romance has a cute premise. The heroine is a Sherlock Holmes devotee from Boston who comes to Denver to solve her father's murder. It's an interesting, original idea. Unfortunately, the heroine is also incredibly stupid, and the historical research is shoddy at best.

Although Emily Potter owns a successful millinery shop in Boston, she moves to Denver when she learns that her long-lost father, John Potter, has been killed. As an obsessive fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, she can't resist the chance to put her sleuthing skills to good use. On the stagecoach into Denver she meets Thomas Hall. He says he's a reverend, but he looks more like a gunfighter to Emily. And Thomas also shows a peculiar interest in her father's death.

When she gets to town, Emily is shocked to learn that the home her father left her was once a bordello. Still she starts her investigation, only to be stonewalled by the men of the town. Thomas Hall is asking the same sorts of questions, with a little more success. Although he won't tell Emily who he really is, they combine their efforts and discover that John Potter is reputed to have stolen two million dollars from the Wells-Fargo payroll. A lot of people want the money, and someone seems to want Emily dead. Emily and Thomas fall for each other even though they don't have much trust between them. They have some help from Rosie, who was once John's consort, but is now a ghost living in a mirror in the former bordello, dishing out sexual advice. Rosie pushes Emily and Thomas into each other's arms. But can they find the killer and discover the whereabouts of the two million dollars?

As a sometime fan of mysteries, I liked the idea of a sleuthing heroine. But author Rose bungles the idea - badly. Emily is brilliant at deduction, but completely ignorant of society's moreé, in a manner that is simply unbelievable. She thinks nothing of pulling out a magnifying glass and staring at people. She shows up at a saloon dressed as a prostitute (to do some detective work) and is astounded when she is almost raped. She can't understand why the society matrons won't come to a reception she's organized in the former bordello. The author refers to her as naive, but Emily's behavior puts her solidly in the "too stupid to live" camp.

There were other problems as well. The bordello had been ransacked by people searching for the gold, but Rosie's fancy jewels were still lying around for Emily to borrow. Rosie's ghostly character also posed problems. She had a wacky quality that was appealing, but it didn't quite jive with Emily's data-gathering personality.

But the most serious problem with A Case for Romance was its historical errors. The author starts off with the ubiquitous railroad mistake, having Thomas and Emily take the stagecoach to Denver in 1893, over twenty years after they could have taken the train there. They also take stage trips to Boulder and Greeley, which were both accessible by rail. But the biggest mistake is the portrayal of the city of Denver. Rose makes it sound like a one-horse town with about twenty inhabitants. She refers to "the saloon" and "the boarding house" as if there were only one in town, and mentions that Emily's millinery shop will be the first. She also makes it sound as if everyone in town knew each other. By 1890, Denver had a population of over 106,000 - pretty large even by today's standards. These huge errors pretty much sink the book, and they are all the more annoying because they are avoidable. It's pretty easy for an author to cover up a lack of historical knowledge - all she has to do is invent a small town of her own.

A Case for Romance is a cute idea gone bad, with an epilogue that implies a sequel is imminent. At the end of the book, Emily is on her way back east to solve a murder. Maybe Katie Rose knows a little more about that area of the country, but I don't think I'll take that chance.

Reviewed by Blythe Smith
Grade : D

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : December 28, 1998

Publication Date: 1999

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Blythe Smith

I've been at AAR since dinosaurs roamed the Internet. I've been a Reviewer, Reviews Editor, Managing Editor, Publisher, and Blogger. Oh, and Advertising Corodinator. Right now I'm taking a step back to concentrate on kids, new husband, and new job in law...but I'll still keep my toe in the romance waters.
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