Scott Gandy has always been a gambling man relying on his lazy Southern charm to smooth a way out of difficult situations. Hoping to make his fortune he opens a saloon in Proffitt Kansas. But he soon becomes a target of the prohibition movement led by the owner of the hat shop next door to his establishment -- the enchanting yet volatile Agatha Downing.
The saloon keeper and the prim and proper milliner are hopeless adversaries! until the innocence of a child opens their eyes and hearts to each other.
Comment: From the backlist books I had from this author, this one caught my attention because from the blurb I got the idea the protagonists would be opponents but obviously would eventually fall in love. I was eager to read it because I know, as a rule, this author is talented to write romances.
Agatha Downing is the female protagonist in this story ans she is furious because the building next door will be a saloon, which means noise and alcohol will be abundant and not good for her quiet millinery business. She confronts the owner of the saloon, Scott Gandy, and not only does he tell her things will become even noisier but he also puts her in the muddy ground when she refuses to back down from their verbal fight.
Watching this was another women that is trying to eradicate saloons from everywhere and she convinces Agatha to join the cause. But with time and proximity, Agatha and Scott become friends and the people who work for him at the saloon her new family. Will Agatha ever feel her happiness depends on how long Scott and the others stay nearby? What if things change?
I had a great time reading this novel and it worked pretty well for me. I especially liked the idea of how Agatha and Scott would fall in love eventually but also important was how the secondary characters would play a key role in this and be a significant part of the story, not as much in terms of actions but simply their presence and meaning.
Also important was how a child arrives on scene and is the one that works as a unifying element for the main couple's relationship. It was great to see and I had many moments where I didn't want to put the book down.
The relationship between the main couple was quite well developed, it is slow paced but that allows us to identify all special moments and to understand why they behave the way they do and why does it matter to the future of their connection. It was quite good how the author introduced sexual tension in this story, it was obvious they were growing to like the other, eventually want and although nothing was done until the end, it was there, little looks and clues telling us that. How wonderful...I liked how even little things were dealt with care by the two of them as soon as they realized how the other was a friend. The evolution of their feelings to love was gradual but poignant and at some points I was even sad by some of their memories from the past. But the HEA was deserved. Too bad we didn't have an epilogue showing us how they were months or years into the future.
One important aspect was Willy, a child that both Scott and Agatha cared about and that was the reason why their attitudes towards each other changed. I don't think it would be as easy - in contemporary times definitely not - for strangers to raise a child but they do it (apart at first and then together in the end) somehow and that makes their borrowed family to grow even more. I really liked how everyone mattered and understood their feelings were important. There's also a slight secondary romance I enjoyed seeing developed.
I think one of the best parts of this author's novels is how serious and realistic some situations feel like. I especially liked Agatha's POV and how lonely she felt, how she though that life was passing by...I understand why the felt like that and the author portrayed that situation very well. I really can't find faults with the writing in this novel.
Another interesting aspect was the historical side of things, about the attempt to turn some states "dry", the women's movement towards that, even glimpses about the president's work in that level...
All things considered, this was a winning book for me. Sure, it has many details that, properly studied, would look not as well inserted or executed, but in general that isn't what makes the book be less good. I think this is a great story, Agatha and Scotty have a beautiful friendship, they fall in love, they trust each other and how good it is to simply see that.