cover image Petticoat Detective

Petticoat Detective

Margaret Brownley. Barbour/Shiloh Run, $13.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-62836-626-6

Romance fans will welcome this first of the Undercover Ladies series set in frontier Kansas in 1883. Former Texas Ranger Tom Colton’s mission to clear the name of his recently deceased brother forces him to the door of the local brothel. Seeking to talk with the prostitute his brother allegedly planned to marry, he instead is paired up with Amy, who is actually an undercover Pinkerton operative named Jennifer Layne on the trail of a notorious bandit. With Amy’s true identity unknown, Tom finds his attraction to this “prostitute” confusing and alarming. As their parallel investigations cross and eventually collide, Jennifer struggles with her own feelings for Tom and the increasing fear that her evidence will incriminate his brother. Their shared faith gives both characters a high sense of justice and honesty, causing inner conflict over the inevitable lies and ruses that come with undercover work. Playful and funny secondary characters lighten things up, and even the judgmental church ladies prove teachable. Brownley (Gunpowder Tea) strikes a fine balance of humor and realism, not glossing over the darker side of the Wild West as she explores childhood abuse, broken families, and double standards. Agent: Natasha Kern, Natasha Kern Literary Agency. (Dec.)