Reviewed in the United States on July 12, 2021
As a fan of Ms. Stevie MacFarlane's writing and storytelling style, I have enjoyed this new series, a western historical. While this is the third story in the series, it will read well as a stand-alone. The story will have dominant males, also with feisty, independent females. Life is interesting when these two strong people clash—but it makes for a great story.
Bedelia 'Biddy' Longmore is an intelligent young woman who hasn't worried about dating and marriage; instead, she has dreams and ambitions. While the town of Centerville is growing, with new businesses and the railroad's prospects coming through, they do not have a newspaper. By the time a newspaper makes it to their town, it is more than a week old. Not only that, it is wholly geared to men—because even her mother has told her—"Everyone knows that a male brain is far superior to the female brain." But then, Bedelia isn't your average scatterbrained female. Despite how people see things, her dream is a newspaper—one that will attract female readers.
"Bedelia Longmore had no intention of letting life pass her by. I want to start a newspaper."
Thornton James is a newcomer to the Centerville area and will meet Bedelia as she leaves Mona's Emporium and convinces her to take tea with him. She will go as far as to invite him to the MacPherson's barbeque and barn dance so he can meet others in town. It is during the tea she will learn he plans to start up a newspaper.
"Bedelia was a resource, one he needed. Julia was a complication, one he did not need. Bedelia knew everyone and had her finger on the pulse of Centerville. She could be useful to him, and besides, he liked her."
Biddy: "Folks around here are not particularly fond of a woman who speaks her mind or one that might make them think."
Thorn: "Heavens no, a thinking woman!" he gasped. "Whatever is this world coming to?"
Biddy: "You may joke, but it's true."
The story's plot will have Bedelia and Thornton meeting—not long after she leaves the bank that turns her down for a business loan. Then, she will learn that he plans to move to town to do exactly what she wants to do—start a newspaper. As a man, the bank will listen to him—and he does have prior experience as a reporter. She has kept her dreams a secret, and only now a few women that she completely trust have learned what she is planning. The story will have a fallen out between Thorn and Biddy after the barbeque. A planned trip between Bedelia, Kate, and Carrie will take them out of town to purchase a used printing press—what a shock to see none other than Thornton James on the same route.
Thorn: "I want to know how we started out as friends, yet quickly turned to adversaries. Why the deceptions, secrets, and suspicion? I'll get to the bottom of that," he continued grinning. "Yes, right to the bottom."
"Oh heavens, not another one. Where did all these dogmatic, know-it-all men come from? I swear, I'd like to take a bullwhip to each and every one of them, starting with my husband."
Topeka comes with surprises—good news for Biddy and the girls when she can finalize the deal for the Washington Press she had been corresponding about. It will have her and Carrie Ann enjoying new places and experiences with Kate. But, it will also have a disgruntled Thorn that uses his reporting skills to uncover secrets—and it is enough to make him mad.
"It seemed they'd been at cross purposes from the very beginning."
The story is about two people, so well matched, with great chemistry between them, a touch of angst, navigating their feelings, and matching dreams. Are they competition, or could they become partners? Neither one saw this coming—they were both so focused on starting up a newspaper—what they weren't expecting was to find someone as determined as they each were. The story does have the good, the bad, and the planners. The story does have a couple of scenes of power exchange, and in the end, it does have the coveted happily ever after ending.
"Bedelia Longmore was not a yes sir, no sir, kind of woman. She had a sharp mind and plans of her own. She would never be content in his shadow, and he'd be lucky if she were there when called for he called for her tomorrow night."