this book was a can't put down one
Wonderful story, prequel to match earlier contemporary Montana Mavericks. Lily Devine story about the Queen of Hearts mine.
Lily Divine runs the Shady Lady, it is a saloon, dance hall and gambling house. She doesn't whore her ladies. She also helps abused ladies in town, but the good ladies in town hate her....they keep trying to close her down.
Nick Harding is the new sheriff in town. He is hired to get the saloon's closed down but he will not do anything to them as long as they are not breaking any laws. The women in town think that they can have the town without saloons but they pay high taxes and support the town. The miners bring in money that the good ladies enjoy by their husband's business.
This is finally Lily's story after all the years of her being mentioned in the Montana Maverick series.
Nick Harding after years of being a bounty hunter, finally decides that he would like to settle down somewhere and possibly start a family and become part of a community. He accepts a position for Sheriff in the mining town of Thunder Canyon where he meets Miss Lily Divine the owner of The Shady Lady. Lily insists that she is running a legal saloon and nothing else but the Sherriff is slow to believe her as he fights his growing attraction.
The Bounty Hunter is a touching story that explores the possibilities of love once trust is given. While Nick is very attracted to Lily it takes him a long time to trust her. This is one of the things that frustrated me with this book. He was willing to have a physical relationship with Lily and yet keep himself emotionally distant from her at the same time. It also bothered me that he couldn't see Lily for who she was right away. It took him too damn long, in my opinion.
I think that Lily was the stronger character. I really enjoyed her personality. She was very independent for a woman of that time period and she had a lot of confidence in herself and the choices she had to make due to life's difficult circumstances. The Bounty Hunter had good characterization and the town seemed like a character all on its own. Ms. St. John does a very good job of immersing the reader in Western town life. Overall, I enjoyed the story. However, Nick just needed to get a clue.
Nate Harding is 35 and bone tired of chasing outlaws over the Western states. When he gets a chance to be sheriff in a small mining town, he's ready. When he arrives, Nate is told about the major conflict in the town. The mayor just wants to give the impression of cleaning up the town (his wife and many others are demanding that the saloons be closed). In other words, Nate has just jumped into the middle of the Temperance League and the saloon keepers. The men want things to stay as they are; they just want their wives to think they are making progress.
There are 3 saloons in town; Lily Devine owns the cleanest one. The Temperance League is not aware that the the saloons provide most of the town's income (through license fees and monthly taxes). Nate assumes all three saloons have brothels -- Lily's does not. In fact, Lily helps many of the town's women on the quiet.
Nate is attracted to Lily but he sets his sights on a lovely young woman, who is chaste and demure. He does not believe that Lily's girls only serve drinks and play cards. This makes for lots of tension between what Nate wants and what he knows he should choose. This is a very satisfying book.
Nick Harding has seen enough of life darker side and bore the scars inside and out to prove it. Plus years of tracking reprobates had hardly improved his opinion of his fellow man. Yet some spark of hope remained in him, he suspected. Why else would he have agreed to settle down in Thunder Canyan as a sheriff whose main job was seeing that the saloons remained respectable. But the quiet life proved elusive whenever he and Lily Divine crossed paths, for the feisty owner of the Shady Lady seemed hell bent on stepping out of a womans proper place and into his wounded heart.