REVIEW: It Had to Be You by Delynn Royer
“New York City, 1924
Determined to pursue her dream of becoming a crime reporter, heiress Trixie Frank believes she’s off to a running start when she lands a job at the most successful tabloid in Manhattan. Unfortunately, her high hopes fade fast when she’s assigned to the rewrite desk.
Sean Costigan is a demoted homicide detective on the commissioner’s blacklist. The last thing he needs complicating his life is a perky debutante with delusions of becoming the next great American journalist. Too bad she happens to hold one of the keys to solving his latest case, the Central Park murder of a notorious gangster. The other key? Sean’s childhood sweetheart, the victim’s widow, who has gone missing.
Sean soon has more trouble with dames than any good man deserves. But that’s the least of his worries. When he suspects deadly corruption within his own department, it’s not just his and Trixie’s careers that depend on finding the killer. It’s their lives.”
Dear Ms. Royer,
When I saw this book offered at Netgalley, I knew I had to look into it. At Dear Author, we’ve been looking for good historical romances which earn bonus points from me if they also fit the bill as an unusual era. I’m especially delighted to see more 1920s stories being published since this seems like such a gold mine of social changes and modernization.
At first the blurb and book have a bit of a screwball feel but that quickly falls away to reveal some of the lingering, darker aspects of life in NYC. The tenements have improved slightly but the poor and orphans are still on the edges of society. Radio and the pictures are changing entertainment but the speaks are well known places to get your illegal hootch, and thanks to the Volstead Act bootleggers are raking in fortunes. Flappers aren’t hindered by long skirts anymore but they’ve still got a long way to go before most men will think of them as anything but “dolls and dames.”
The conflicts between Sean and Trixie are believable and not easily overcome. He’s working class, she’s upperclass. He’s a cop, she’s a reporter – and one who is known at the precincts for her piece dinging the NYPD for not solving an easy case a year ago. Sean’s also got a past love he’s got to lay to rest while a broken engagement caused by a philandering fiancé has left Trixie determined to focus on her career instead of romance.
And yet these two are, deep down, very similar. She’s got a good instinct for what makes a front page story and the beginnings of the chutzpah to go after it. He’s dedicated to seeking justice, even if it involves exposing the department and the job he loves as riddled with corruption. Both are determined to discover the truth regardless of danger, which causes frequent clashes between them, and people who’d rather see it buried or reported by someone else.
The plot revolves around the gangsters of the era x bootlegging x police corruption. Yeah, not much has changed in 90 years, has it? It all makes sense and the tension slowly winds up until the final showdown with Trixie and Sean facing three people, with guns, who have concrete reasons to see them dead. I could understand Trixie’s slight naivete, though she did catch on quickly without having to have everything spelled out for her, but I kept thinking that Sean ought to be been a bit quicker on the uptake since he did have suspicions and doubts early on. Still the clues needed to solve the case are there even if it takes until the end to realize they were there all along.
The story has a good period feel with clothes, dialog, slang and social mores reminding me of silent movies and other books I’ve read about the era. Two secondary characters do come off sounding and acting like bad imitations of Lesley Ann Warren in “Victor/Victoria” but it’s still fun to picture them and “listen” to how they talk. Trixie has an admirable determination to carve a career out for herself without relying on daddy’s millions and might be liked by modern readers a bit better than Sean who is not a 21st century man in a fedora. Though his attitudes are more old fashioned, they aren’t such as to be objectionable.
With the case solved and such justice as will be found, discovered, is that the end of the story? The resolution is open ended enough for me to hope for further adventures for Trixie and Sean. It’s only 1924 and there’s plenty more left in that decade as fodder for future plots. The attraction between them is still in the crackling sparks stage, never mind a settled romance. And Applegate the butler still needs to be persuaded that Sean is good enough for his Miss Beatrix. I hope to see more of and between these two. B