Victims of Love – Book Review

I’ll never walk the streets of my favorite Rocky Mountain ski town, or the bridges over the Yampa River, without thinking of author Ken Proper’s wonderful historical novel, Victims of Love.  This is more than a complicated romance, it is a magnificent turn-of-the-century history of a gorgeous little ski town, Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and a menagerie of interesting characters whose lives were forever changed by the turmoil of the world in which they lived.  The Great War of 1914-1918 was looming, women were demanding the vote and greater personal freedoms, and the disastrous experiment with prohibition was warping the nation. 

 Most of the main characters of the book live on the left bank (south side) of the sparkling Yampa River as it splashes through town.  At the time this was the neighborhood of Brooklyn, a nightlife playground of bars, pubs, hotels, brothels, restaurants, and cheap rents.  Our star-crazed lovers, two refined young Brits, Julius Brandon and Corina Englehart, are living on opposite sides of town.  One works at the best hotel restaurant in town and the other is working for the compassionate town coroner selling condoms to the Madams of the night.  But which is which? Their story is filled with surprises. 

The author’s wry humor, his intelligence, and his mastery of the morays of the time make this a uniquely entertaining read. Did I mention the historical research and the photographs that fill every chapter?  The author, Ken Proper is a published historian and photographer of his hometown[i].  He has a fertile imagination, and his research into histories and the town newspaper bring the place and its inhabitants alive.  Photographs of horse-drawn carriages, a bi-plane buzzing Mainstreet (Lincoln AV), campaign posters of Woodrow Wilson, horseracing, baseball, a bevy of switchboard operators, and endless sunny days flyfishing in the Rockies illuminate every chapter.  You not only live the life of the town and its multitude of characters, but you have a permanent photographic record of the town as it evolved in the early decades of the 20th Century.   If you only read one romance this year; I recommend this one!

[i] See Proper, Ken.  Then and Now: A history of Steamboat Springs, CO.