The Parlor House Daughter
Rebecca Rose’s beginnings are inauspicious. Born to a Nevada City prostitute, she witnesses her mother’s murder at an early age. In an attempt to prevent Becca from finding herself in similar circumstances, a fellow prostitute who was a friend of her mother’s arranges passage to Denver, providing the young girl with the address of one of the city’s most infamous parlor houses. The parlor house madam, Jenny Clayton, takes Becca in and offers her work as a maid. Becca grows up under Jenny’s wing, but Jenny cannot prevent Becca from pursuing a career as a prostitute. Becca’s first client, Morgan Larkspur, is gentlemanly and cannot bring himself to despoil the lovely (and naïve) young woman. Rather, he installs her as his mistress in Denver’s finest hotel while he returns to his job the mining town of Leadville, where tensions are high between the miners and the mine owners. While Morgan is away, Becca continues her dangerous, lifelong search for her mother’s murderer.
The Parlor House Daughter is a fast-paced, suspenseful romance set in the Wild West. Becca’s shrewdness and determination are appropriate for a character of her background, although her naïvete in regards to sexuality seems odd considering that she grew up around prostitutes. The details of the labor unrest in Leadville add realism to the story, but Sundell keeps the romantic relationship between the main characters, as well as Becca’s quest for revenge against the man who killed her mother, at the forefront. The language can be somewhat harsh, especially early in the novel, but it suits the era and setting. Readers who enjoy Western romances with out-of-the-ordinary settings should give this novel a try.