Wednesday, February 3, 2021

THE MYSTERY OF VALENTINE'S DAY

by Karna Small Bodman

Valentine’s Day is next week. Won’t it be nice to take some time to focus on romance rather than simply remaining safe during challenging times. You know why we all must be careful and keep our distance. But do you know why we celebrate love and close companionship on February 14, when Americans are expected to spend over $27 billion on cards, chocolate, roses and other gifts? Is any part of Valentine’s Day’s history authentically romantic? 

You’ve probably heard that the day has something to do with a patron saint named Valentine, but the actual origins are shrouded in mystery since there are different “martyred saints” with that name. According to one legend, Valentine was a Roman priest living in the third century who secretly married couples after the Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage because he thought single men made better soldiers. 

Anther legend focused on a man named Valentine who, while imprisoned, helped Christians escape and sent the first “Valentine” to a woman who visited him while he was there.  He reportedly signed it, “From your Valentine.”

What about the date in February? Some believe that it originated in the Middle Ages when birds’ mating season was thought to begin on February 14.  The first actual mention of celebrating Valentine’s Day as one that centers on romantic love goes back to Geoffrey Chaucer in 1375 with a line from the poem Parliament of Foules: “For this was sent on Seynt Valentynes’ day/ Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.”

When it comes to choosing how to celebrate the day with a gift for your own Valentine, you can certainly send a card, but how about choosing a book . . .  perhaps one focusing on romance, mystery or a combination of the two? Since we Rogues are women, I thought I’d pull together a short list of novels penned by bestselling women authors that just might fit the bill.

A new series by Tracy Gardner from Hallmark Publishing features both romance and mystery.  The first is Out of the Picture. The star of this story is Savanna Shepherd, a former art authenticator who can tell a forgery from the real thing.  She’s described as having a talent for spotting secrets hiding in plain sight. One reviewer tells us this is “A story of family, new beginnings and community … that holds you in pleasure, particularly for mystery and romance story lovers. You will be gripped by the story’s irresistible pace…it will not disappoint.”

The second in this series is Behind the Frame. In this installment, Savanna is convinced that the arrested murder suspect did not commit the crime, and with the help of a doctor, who is her new romantic interest, they uncover hidden resentments and intrigue. This novel also gets rave reviews with readers saying it is, “Everything I love in a cozy mystery: an appealing location, an intriguing mystery to solve, plenty of suspects to consider, and a wonderful group of likable characters.”

If you think your Valentine might like to read more focused mysteries (vs. the “Hallmark variety”) here are two brand new releases that immediately hit the bestseller lists.  We have written about author Marie Benedict before when her terrific novels, The Only Woman in the Room, about the inventions of actress Hedy Lamarr, and Carnegie’s Maid, about a servant who may have inspired Andrew Carnegie.  

Now Marie has penned The Mystery of Mrs. Christie. This novel takes place in 1926 when famous author, Agatha Christie disappeared for a mysterious 11 days, one of the most notorious events in literary history. What happened to her when her empty car was found on the edge of a deep pond, the only clues being tire tracks and a fur coat left in the car which was strange for such a frigid night? What is real and what is mystery? Read the book and decide for yourself.

A final recommendation is a book released just last month, The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins. This too was an instant New York Times and USA Today bestseller. CNN called it “One of the most anticipated books of 2021.” It’s described as being “A delicious twist on the Gothic classic, Jane Eyre that pairs Southern charm with atmospheric suspense.” It’s also called “A delicious thriller with a fresh, sharp twist that you’ll likely want to read in a single sitting.”

Of course, I would also recommend books written by my Rogue colleagues that are listed on the left of this page. These thrillers appeal to both men and women. If you haven’t sampled their story telling skills, you might want to order one of their books as a gift on February 14.

What are YOU going to give your own special Valentine next week? Leave a comment – we’d love to know. And thanks for visiting us here on Rogue Women Writers. 


6 comments:

  1. Lots of interesting tidbits, and books to add to my TBR pile! I'm giving a box of Champlain Chocolates big enough to share. ;-) Thanks, Karna!

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  2. I'm sorta having a present for myself--the first meeting of a local MWA critique group will be the afternoon of the 14th! But I will plan a special dinner for after that...but at home. Trying to get into a restaurant on Valentine's Day would be crazy!

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  3. Love the book recommendations. Not sure of the plans yet, but I’m inspired to be creative.

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  4. Love the book recommendations! And yes I will share some chocolates with my love. I may treat myself with the Marie Benedict, The Mystery of Mrs. Christie!

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  5. Ah, Valentine's Day in a pandemic. Book recs sorely needed, so thank you for these. I can imagine the love stories to come out of this time. In the meantime, thoughts for safety and wellness for everyone, and appreciate the shoutout, Karna.

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  6. Thank you for your wonderful and kind mention of my Hallmark books! xo -Tracy

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