Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Petticoat Detective by Margaret Brownley

This is a delightful Christian historical romance. Jennifer is one of the first female detectives for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. While she has had some great adventures catching big named villains, this assignment may be her hardest yet. She has to pose as a woman of ill repute in a frontier town. She is to befriend Rose, another woman in the bordello who is supposed to have information about the identify of the Gunnysack Bandit. But shortly after Jennifer arrives, Rose is killed. Then her life becomes even more complicated as she crosses paths with Tom, ex-Texas Ranger now looking for his brother's killer. His brother had been planning to rescue and marry Rose and Tom had planned to talk to Rose too. Jennifer must keep her true identity secret as she continues her assignment and avoids being distracted by the handsome Tom.

I really liked this novel. The idea of a virtuous woman posing as one of ill repute is a touchy one but Brownley pulls it off. Jennifer manages to retain her virtue while continuing on the case.

There are some thought provoking moral issues in the book. Each of the women in the bordello has a story and the reasons they have come to this place of last resort will tug at heart strings. There are righteous women from the local church who go about dealing with these women all wrong – except for one. There is the issue of the men who visit the house too. When Jennifer sees men of good standing in the town frequent the place, it sours her toward men in general. She is not convinced there are any men who can be trusted to be faithful to their wives.

Within these serious issues Brownley has included some humor. When the women in the house become a shoe tossing brigade, I had to laugh.

I was impressed with the way Brownley concluded the book. The issue of the women of ill repute ends well and somewhat realistically.

In the author's note at the end of the book we find that there was an initial woman Pinkerton detective, working from 1856 to her death in 1868. She was put in charge of the Female Detective Bureau in 1860. (This novel takes place in 1883.) Pinkerton was way ahead of his time since women were not allowed on any police force until 1890.

There is a good discussion guide included so this would make a good book for reading groups. There are some great moral issues to discuss. I really enjoyed how Brownley handled those sensitive issues, how the plot developed, the humor included from time to time, and the romance. An overall good novel.

Margaret Brownley is the author of more than twenty novels. You can find out more at www.margaretbrownley.com.

Shiloh Run Press, 320 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this novel from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.
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