• Colorado Book Review

Victims of Love by Ken Proper

4 stars

For publishers and readers alike, summer often means “beach reads.” For some, the term is catnip,. For others, a reason to stay away. Victims of Love is not a beach read in the traditional sense, but it is a book you can sink into, one which will transport you to another place and time with characters that will stay with you long after the last page is turned. In Victims, Steamboat Springs author Ken Proper (a professional photographer) has given us a gem of a book that is both a propulsive story and a dip of our toe into Colorado’s past.

Not only does Victims offer up a great tale, but Proper accompanies it with a mind-blowing range of photographs, newspaper clippings, archival information, advertisements, telegraphs, and more. Technically, it is romantic historical fiction, but Victims is not only for the romance fan. It is for everyone who has a taste for how things used to be, and an interest in why so many issues of that day, 1914, are still with us.

Victims of Love is structured as the fictional diary of Julius Brandon, a young British man of the “servant class” who is sent to America by his mother because he is an incorrigible ladies’ man with a taste for married women. Yet, miles of ocean are not enough to keep Julius from making mischief in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. True to form, Julius finds love with another British expatriate, Corina, but the conventions of the time make their relationship one fraught with heartache, yet sweet in a way reader can identify with. Along the way, we are introduced to a cast of lovable, roguish characters, and downright believable villains who help the reader to imagine with clarity what living in Steamboat—a town with more than a few brothels, saloons—was like more than a century ago. As the back cover says, “Good people were on the wrong side of the law… All of humanity stared at war, the plague of tuberculosis and the continued division of societies. Love persisted.”

If you are familiar with Colorado and Steamboat’s past, you will revel in finding touchstones, such as Denver’s 17th Street, Civic Center Park, and Union Train Station, as well as Steamboat’s Cabin Hotel, the Brooklyn neighborhood (Steamboat’s red light district), Buffalo Pass, and the Yampa River. Sprinkled into the story is a host of real life people, places, and events that will have you walking alongside Julius and Corina. If you are not familiar with the locales, you will grow to love the mountain town and state with fascinating pasts. Set amidst World War I, mining strikes and the temperance movement, and the press for women’s right in speech and choice, readers will accompany our heroes as they try to stake out a life for themselves amid the press of a host of social issues still relevant today.

Victims of Love is both a beautiful book and a well-crafted novel. It is rich in historical detail, but not at the expense of the story. So, sit down, pull a cold drink out of your cooler, and let yourself be transported to another place and time. Don’t like the terms “beach read?” Then, just call Victims a Victims fine read and one well worth your time.

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