As the new teacher of Haven, Kansas, Anthea Bright has come from the East; she knows manners and deportment, as well as the 3 R's. Gabriel Jackson confronts Anthea at school one day; he wants his daughter to be taught school subjects, not etiquette and fancy manners.
Folks in Haven are scornful and afraid of Gabriel; Anthea is not. She gives as good as she gets. Gabriel also senses that his daughter really likes her teacher. In the weeks to come, Anthea learns all the gossip about Gabriel -- he's the bad man' of the title.
In the middle, the story sagged a bit. However, this was an interesting tale. The main characters were unique and charming. The little girl of this story is quite compelling; she's an outcast (her mother was a prostitute who died and Gabriel took her in). Some of the story is told from her point-of-view and it was chilling to see how illegitimate children were treated by adults and other children.