Trapping the Butterfly by Debra Parmley

Trapping the Butterfly by Debra Parmley
Publisher: Desert Breeze Publishing
Genre: Historical
Length: Short Story (74 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Hollyhock

Bethany is looking forward to celebrating her eighteenth birthday in Hot Springs. If Aunt Margaret and Uncle James have their way she will return from the trip engaged to Mr. Rivalde. Every part of Bethany’s life has been controlled, from the clothes she wears to the food she eats. Bethany can’t wait to cut off her long hair like other girls and to fly free.

Paul studied and chased butterflies when he was a small boy. Now he chases gangsters and he’s in Hot Springs following Al Capone’s gang.

The sight of Bethany amid butterflies, sun streaming down and lighting up her pale skin and long blonde hair, is one that stops Paul Tollick on the spot. She is the most beautiful female he’s ever seen.

But two other men have determined to catch her for themselves and one is a dangerous gangster. Will she fly free or be trapped?

Start with a resort location, throw in a famous gangster with a detective hot on his trail, add a Jazz age setting, and you’ve got the makings for a fun read. Trapping the Butterfly has that and more, taking the reader on a Roaring Twenties tour through Hot Springs, Arkansas where the rich and famous traveled to “take the cure.” In this case, the famous resident is Al Capone and our heroine becomes dangerously fascinated with the lives of gangsters and their glamorous molls, even as she falls in love with the detective who’s determined to bring them down.

Bethany Robinson is the kind of heroine it’s easy to sympathize with. She’s young enough to still be under the thumb of her tyrannical aunt, but old enough to wish for more. She longs to be like other girls and bob her hair, raise her hemline, and learn to do the Charleston, but first she has to break free from the aunt and uncle who have kept her—and her inheritance—very close. I liked Bethany and rooted for her as she took her first tentative steps toward independence, but I would have liked her character to be fleshed out beyond innocence and beauty so the reader could understand what makes Paul fall in love her.

Paul Tollick is a worthy hero, a detective whose job plunges him into the harsh underworld of gangsters, bootleggers, and fast women. No wonder, then, that he is captivated by the sight of innocent Bethany, sitting in the park surrounded by butterflies. I liked how the author contrasts the two worlds Bethany is exposed to—the gangsters and the detective shadowing them—but because the author packs so much into a short novel, I sometimes felt the romance was a little stinted. I would have preferred deeper characterizations and fewer subplots so the relationship between Bethany and Paul could develop.

The author incorporates lovely scenery of Hot Springs, its hotels, and describes what the spa treatments were like. She also includes nice details from the twenties, like what films were famous at the time, and shows how life was changing in America, especially for young women. Overall, I enjoyed my visit to Hot Springs with this charming Jazz age story.

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