Utopia Miner is tired of hunting gold and caring for her three adopted fathers. Living in a Rocky Mountain mining camp is holding up her dream of becoming a saloon girl. If only she could learn the essential skills of singing, dancing and kissing, she’d be on her way to a glamorous life. When Utopia discovers she’s the prize in her three fathers’ marrying scheme, she sees benefits in going along with the courting contest. She now has a kissing teacher. And wow, what a teacher. One starter kiss from Lance and her body’s sweating in places it never had before.
Lancelot Jones wants to turn in his life-risking marshal’s badge for a much safer job as a reporter, but the newspaper wants articles as proof of his qualifications. When his editor sends him to a mining camp to get the scoop on a courtship contest, Lance discovers the privilege of covering the story hinges upon chaperoning the bride-to-be. He soon finds himself ensconced in Utopia’s innocent charms and demanding saloon girl lessons. In short order, chaperoning the bride-to-be becomes risky business.
Utopia turned the morality of keeping all the men’s gifts every way she could in her mind. In the end, her heart could find no sin in it. The sin would be in discouraging such a lucrative collection of goods. To her reasoning, shirking gifts would be so, so wrong. If these men were crazy enough to bring her presents, she’d be the crazy one if she refused them.
Besides, some of the gifts might be things she needs for her dancehall job.
But sooner or later, she’d have to find a way to get out of picking a husband. She’d put off the choosing as long as possible. This wasn’t the right time for worrying about that.
For the rest of the day, Utopia made six more trips up the mountain with nary a one of these suitors giving her things that could be classified good saloon gifts.
The liveryman, Enos Christman, gave her a horseshoe. Said he’d be the luckiest man in the Rockies if she’d marry him. The riverboat gambler, John Powell, did a few fancy card tricks then gave her the deck as a gift. Cards might be something to use when she was working in a saloon. But, for now, she wanted better gifts.
Then there was Reverend Pardee. That man gave her nothing but an offer to perform the wedding service for a nominal fee and the wedding would be free if he was the one she decided to marry.
Something had to be done to sort the good gift givers from the waste-of-time, gift givers.
Utopia spotted Lance seated on a keg in the shade beside the whiskey barn. He was eating on an apple as she drew near. There was a disheveled look about him. His tan shirt was all grass stained and tattered. Not that she cared to count but there were upwards of twenty or more mosquito bites dotting his face. He started to get to his feet.
“No. Keep your seat. By the looks of your clothes, you could use the rest.”
“I have been rather busy today.”
“Looks like you were at it quite hard, whatever it was.”
He tossed his apple core to the weeds. “Is there something I can do for you?”
“As a matter of fact there is. I take it you decide whose turn it is to walk me up that hill.”
“Unfortunately, yes. Is something wrong with how things have been going?”
“Well, yes. There is.” Utopia held up a horseshoe. “My horse is already shoed with four of these. I don’t need more.” She tossed the shoe on the ground. “You can save us both a heap of aggravation, if you weed out the fellas that don’t have decent gifts.”
Lance shot to his feet. “What?”
Linda Gilman is known for writing humorous western romance novels. Her stories are centered on independent, strong-willed women, and courageous heroes who always protect the innocent without violating their personal code of conduct. It’s the cowboy west readers are so enamored with and a twist of zany plot. From first page to last, her books are loaded with pain-in-your-side laughable moments. She has a deep love of the American gold rush era and often uses this as an excuse to do book research and travel to ghost towns in the western states. Born into a city girl life, her parents raised her in St. Louis County. However, Linda has always felt her country girl roots calling her to move west young woman. She currently lives in rural Missouri with her hubby and the oldest of her three sons.