Historical romance with contemporary relevance

Lips That Touch Mine (Grayson Brothers) - Wendy Lindstrom
The setup
Claire Ashier runs a respectable boarding house located near Boyd Grayson's saloon. She's a widow trying to support herself but can't keep boarders because of the noise from her business neighbor disturbing her customers late into the night. She wants to shut down the saloon. Boyd is sympathetic and taken by the lovely Mrs. Ashier but has no plans to close down his thriving business. 

The issues
There's so much more going on here than a noisy saloon. Claire's deceased husband was an alcoholic and an abuser. When a group of women from the church begin talk of a temperance movement, Claire's enrolled into leading the effort. When the campaign strengthens, she's threatened and Boyd takes steps to ensure her safety. As they grow closer, they are at an impasse on how to move forward with a relationship while Claire associates alcohol with spousal abuse and marriage as a loss of independence. 

What I enjoyed
There were so many layers to this story. What starts out as a simple issue regarding the noisy saloon evolves into situations regarding spousal abuse, the inequities between men and women's rights, alcoholism and family secrets. These subplots were seamlessly interwoven, making this a rich reading experience. Claire and Boyd's romance was complicated by her past and her baggage from her marriage. While there were moments where her stubbornness was irritating, it was true to her nature and the story. Boyd has his own issues, despite his affable and charming outward nature, and they have a place in this conflict. 

The bottom line
I don't often find meaty and tough issues in historical romances that have contemporary relevance. This story offered so much more than the traditional romance and it was very well presented without burdening the love story. The narration continues to be subtle and understated, not overpowering a riveting story. Each book in this series seems to best the last so I'm excited about starting the next one. The Grayson brothers keep surprising me. 

(I received an ARC from the author)