by Maggie King
For lovers, every day is Valentine’s Day. But February 14 is the official day when Cupid’s arrow strikes and big business rakes in billions spent on candy, flowers, jewelry, and fine dining.
How did Valentine’s Day get its start? Who was St. Valentine? Good questions, with no easy answers. The history of the saint and the day that honors him is murky, to say the least.
Pope Gelasius I established St. Valentine’s Day in the 5th century to pay homage to two saints named Valentinus who were martyred on February 14. Some believe there was only one saint. A popular legend has it that Valentine was a temple priest who was arrested after ministering to Christians being victimized by the Roman empire. While in prison, he fell in love with a young woman who may have been the warden’s daughter. Before his execution, he sent her a note and signed it “Your Valentine.”
When Emperor Claudius forbade young soldiers to marry, another legend was born: Valentine was beheaded for performing secret weddings for the soldiers.
And then there’s Lupercalia, a Roman fertility festival celebrated from Feb. 13 to Feb. 15. Some say the festival inspired Valentine’s Day.
There’s a suggestion of romance in these stories, but the link between romantic love and Valentine’s Day is credited to the works of Chaucer and Shakespeare. In the middle ages couples expressed their love with handmade paper cards (valentines). In time, factory-made cards became available; but Hallmark Cards of Kansas City, Mo. came on the scene in 1913 and made the holiday the big business it is today.
How do the characters in my Hazel Rose Book Group Mysteries celebrate Valentine’s Day? I’ve yet to set a story in February, so I can only guess. But my main characters, Hazel Rose and her husband, Vince Castelli, would certainly celebrate the day in style.
In Murder at the Book Group, the series debut, Hazel describes Vince as her on-again, off-again lover. She attributes their sporadic relationship to their inability to get along. She doesn’t offer details as to why they don’t get along but the reader can guess that the real problem is Hazel’s cold feet about committing to a permanent relationship. She’s been married four times and isn’t eager to make a fifth trip to the altar, only for the relationship to sour soon afterwards. Does she love Vince? She doesn’t want to commit to that either, but she definitely has a soft spot for him.
When Carlene Arness dies after drinking poisoned tea at a book group meeting, Vince finds out that Hazel was there. He’s surprised by her determination that Carlene didn’t commit suicide and dismayed that she’s hell bent on finding the killer on her own. Someone needs to protect her and he figures it might as well be him. Hazel doesn’t make that an easy task.
At first, Hazel sees Vince as a liaison with the police (he’s a retired homicide detective), but soon realizes that she needs him for more—much more.
Will solving the mystery of Carlene’s death put Hazel and Vince on the road to happily-ever-after?
If you read #2 in the series, Murder at the Moonshine Inn, you will know the answer is “yes.” They married in beautiful Costa Rica. Hazel becomes a successful romance writer. The very name Hazel Rose conjures romance.
Hazel and Vince are best friends who respect each other and share a great passion. The passion is only suggested. I close the bedroom door on the reader.
Marriage definitely suits this couple. But they do have conflicts, the main one being when Hazel goes off on her own. Vince knows he can’t stop her from investigating, but he has her promise to always have him or another friend with her. But Hazel manages to find spur of the moment sleuthing opportunities that she can’t pass up. She knows she has to mend her ways. Trust is very important to their relationship.
The book group members don’t fare as well as Hazel and Vince in the romance department:
- Hazel’s cousin Lucy (the “perfect” one) is having marital issues in Laughing Can Kill You, #3 in the series. She was very happy with her husband Dave until a chance discovery made her question his faithfulness.
- In the first two books, Sarah Rubottom was married to a paraplegic Vietnam war veteran who was an outrageous flirt. In Laughing Can Kill You, he has died and Sarah chooses global travel over romance.
- Trudy Zimmerman is the ex-wife of the victim in Laughing Can Kill You. She almost remarried aboard a cruise, but her fiancé dumped her (figuratively) for another passenger. Trudy is happy on her own.
- Eileen Thompson has no romantic interest and is content without one.
- Lorraine Popp’s own mother calls her an “old maid.”
The characters outside the book group are also unlikely to celebrate Valentine’s Day in any big, or even small, way. In the Hazel Rose mysteries, marriages and relationships are plagued with infidelities, addiction, women with bad boys, men with bad girls. There are women with husbands in prison. There’s a woman with a husband who may not even exist!
Then there’s the colorful and free-spirited Kat Berenger. Kat enjoys casual flings with a number of men. Perhaps she and her lover du jour exchange valentines.
Of course, I’m writing murder mysteries. Conflicts, misunderstandings, and unrealized expectations can lead to murder. I can’t have too many happy and romantic couples like Hazel and Vince.
Now my mind is abuzz with ideas for Valentine mysteries. I can see Hazel and Vince finding romance and murder while zip-lining in Costa Rica.
Happy Valentine’s Day+2. Because every day is Valentine’s Day!
Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries and short stories set in Virginia. Her story, “The Last Laugh,” appears in the recently-released Virginia is for Mysteries III anthology.
Maggie is a member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, International Thriller Writers, James River Writers, and is a founding member of the Sisters in Crime Central Virginia chapter. Maggie lives in Richmond with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive. She enjoys walking, cooking, travel, film, and the theatre. Visit her at MaggieKing.com.
POSTED FOR MAGGIE KING by Jackie Houchin