—Author Unknown, quoted by Donna Diegel
Valentine’s Day celebrates early Christian saints of that name. Instead of promoting romance, Valentinus performed weddings that were forbidden, and ministered to Christians. He was a martyr who suffered prison and execution. Somehow, in the Middle Ages, Valentine’s Day became a festival of romantic love and Cupid, a Greek and Roman god of desire, became associated with it. Paintings and statues depicted him; later, flowers, cards, and chocolate candy became gifts of romance.
Today, Valentine’s Day is feverishly marketed with romantic cards and humorous ones popping up everywhere. Love songs may touch upon romance seriously or not. I remember one by Connie Francis. The lyrics start, “Stupid Cupid, you’re a real mean guy, I’d like to clip your wings so you can’t fly.” That song was a hit. Of course, romance is often part of a novel’s plot. In cozy mysteries, romance is almost always important—unless the amateur sleuth is elderly like Miss Marple, pompous like Hercule Poirot, or a priest like Father Brown.
Romance between the cozy mystery’s amateur sleuth and a local police officer happens pretty often. The setting is a small town, an English manor, an area like a fishing village or a Texas ranch. Both my novels, the Caroline Hargrove Hamilton Mystery Series, are set in DeWitt County near San Antonio, in Yorktown and in the country—mostly ranches. Couples appear in both books, although St. Valentine’s influence is more important than Cupid’s bow and arrow.
In Cemetery Whites, the first novel, Caroline Hargrove Hamilton moves from Houston to Yorktown. Her husband died in a car accident and her life has disintegrated. She hopes to reshape it with her father’s family, and her old friend and cousin Janet welcomes her with open arms. They drive around the country roads one day and visit the family cemetery where they find a dead man and call the police. Constable Bob Bennett enjoys meeting Caroline. St. Valentine, so to speak, presents him as a handsome man who takes good care of the people in his precinct. Other romances include one from the old days discovered in genealogy records.
Romantic Cupid might turn up at Billie’s Bar-B-Que where Caroline and her cousins go for dinner, dancing, and playing pool. Bob Bennett turns up too, and by the end of the book, he and Caroline are romantically involved at his ranch and her house in Yorktown.
My second novel, Chances Choices Changes Death, involves several couples falling in love. The main plot is the murder of Myra Cade and the solution of that homicide, but since the book is a cozy mystery, I’ve created subplots and characters with Western romance rather than grim suspense. Myra is a single mother looking for paternal support for her eight-year-old son. She was long in love with Danny Harrell, but they broke up and she had an affair with Danny’s best friend Richard Hurst and then a short fling with sleazy dude Brian Atkins. Did one of them stab Myra to death? Cupid took Myra on a date with Brian. A bad decision.
St. Valentine had better influence on Donny Harrell who spent the summer working on Robinson Ranch. Young Cathy Robinson fell in love with him, and her guest Chris took a liking to Donny’s twin brother Danny—but Danny didn’t fall in love with anyone anymore. His old friend Richard Hurst turned up and fell in love with Dora, Brian Atkins’ cousin’s widow. She loved him, too. They all got engaged, except Danny and Chris. The book ends at Billie’s Bar-B-Que with the wedding of a long-engaged couple, Martha McNair and Allen Boyce from San Antonio. And guess what happens when Bob and Caroline go home after the wedding reception? Bob asks a question, and Caroline says yes. That’s the start of Cozy Mystery No. 3.
Connie Knight’s interest in Texas history is reflected in Cemetery Whites. Murders in 1875 and 2010 are solved, with the detective’s family history unraveling to reveal information. Knight’s hobby of gardening produced the title Cemetery Whites. The victim’s body is found sprawled in a patch of white irises in an old family cemetery. The flowers with that name still exist today, at old homesteads and in current gardens, including Connie Knight’s.
Connie Knight now lives in Houston and has just finished a second mystery, Chances Choices Changes Death, a sequel to Cemetery Whites. She is now working on her third mystery novel in the Caroline Hargrove Hamilton Mystery series.