Start with a resort location, throw in a famous gangster with a detective hot on his trail, add a Jazz age setting, and you’ve got the makings for a fun read. Trapping the Butterfly has that and more, taking the reader on a Roaring Twenties tour through Hot Springs, Arkansas where the rich and famous traveled to “take the cure.” In this case, the famous resident is Al Capone and our heroine becomes dangerously fascinated with the lives of gangsters and their glamorous molls, even as she falls in love with the detective who’s determined to bring them down.
Bethany Robinson is the kind of heroine it’s easy to sympathize with. She’s young enough to still be under the thumb of her tyrannical aunt, but old enough to wish for more. She longs to be like other girls and bob her hair, raise her hemline, and learn to do the Charleston, but first she has to break free from the aunt and uncle who have kept her—and her inheritance—very close. I liked Bethany and rooted for her as she took her first tentative steps toward independence, but I would have liked her character to be fleshed out beyond innocence and beauty so the reader could understand what makes Paul fall in love her.
Paul Tollick is a worthy hero, a detective whose job plunges him into the harsh underworld of gangsters, bootleggers, and fast women. No wonder, then, that he is captivated by the sight of innocent Bethany, sitting in the park surrounded by butterflies. I liked how the author contrasts the two worlds Bethany is exposed to—the gangsters and the detective shadowing them—but because the author packs so much into a short novel, I sometimes felt the romance was a little stinted. I would have preferred deeper characterizations and fewer subplots so the relationship between Bethany and Paul could develop.
The author incorporates lovely scenery of Hot Springs, its hotels, and describes what the spa treatments were like. She also includes nice details from the twenties, like what films were famous at the time, and shows how life was changing in America, especially for young women. Overall, I enjoyed my visit to Hot Springs with this charming Jazz age story.
Editor's note: This article was originally published at Long and Short Reviews. It has been republished with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.