Thursday, June 9, 2016

Lips that Touch the Whiskey

by Shanna Hatfield

My latest sweet romance (releasing today!) tackles the issue of prohibition in the western town of Pendleton, Oregon.

Prohibition arrived after voters elected to make not only the town but the entire county dry June 1, 1908.

When I was researching the book, I came across the photograph above and it made me smile (and maybe snicker a little). I like to think the women were trying very hard to appear unapproachable and unkissable in the photo, especially that poor dear in the center back. It is said, upon seeing the photo, that W.C. Fields declared, "There's not enough alcohol in the world to get me to kiss those lips."

I couldn't pass up the opportunity to incorporate the humor of this into the book.

There was a song quite popular with those promoting the prohibition efforts called "The Lips That Touch Liquor..."

There are also variations on the song, numerous poems and rhymes that all focus on this theme.

In Millie (Pendleton Petticoats Book 7), the heroine is the leader of the local Women's Christian Temperance Union.

The WCTU was founded in 1874 in Cleveland, Ohio. After Frances Willard took over leadership in 1879, guiding the WCTU to become one of the largest and most influential women’s groups of the century. Their platform expanded to include labor laws, prison reform, and suffrage. With Willard’s death in 1898, the WCTU focused primarily on prohibition. Though its membership steadily declined following the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919, the WCTU continued to operate through the 20th century.

Many women joined the WCTU in an effort to protest their lack of civil rights. Most states did not give women the opportunity to control  their property or have custody of their children in the event of divorce.

One of the most outspoken and memorable women to join the temperance efforts was Carry A. Nation. The woman was nearly six-feet tall and determined to make a difference, even if it meant taking a hatchet to saloons in Kansas.

The Anti-Saloon League was a formed in Ohio as a state organization but soon gained footing nationally. The League was non-partisan, focusing on the single issue of prohibition.The League's founder and first leader, Howard Hyde Russell, believed the best leadership was carefully selected, not elected. He groomed young men to fill positions in the organization and moved them forward into a new century.

Although I was unable to discover any details about what spurred leaders in Pendleton to put prohibition on their June 1908 ballot, I did discover the topic of enforcing prohibition seemed to rise out of the dust sometime in April. In my story, I have Millie laboring for months with her temperance committee and joining forces near election time with members of the Anti-Saloon League.

I dearly love researching tidbits from history. This particular topic, in a town that had more than thirty drinking establishments at the time prohibition was voted in, did not disappoint.

~*~’s adamant about prohibition —
He’ll do anything to keep his saloon open…

A childhood traumatized by the effects of alcohol in her home left Millie Matlock convinced she doesn’t need a man in her life. No longer able to stand by and watch drunken men terrorize the women in town, Millie forms a local committee of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Little did she know the one man who could turn her head owns one of the most successful saloons in Pendleton.

Desperate to keep the WCTU from closing his saloon and the others in town, Gideon McBride agrees to a crazy plan hatched by the saloon owners. His objective is to woo the leader of the local temperance union, keeping her so distracted the committee disbands. However, he didn’t count on the beautiful, effervescent Millie working her way into his cynical heart.

Romantic, funny, and full of moments sure to warm hearts, this sweet historical romance is a wonderful example of second chances.


The evening the women stood outside and broke into a rousing rendition of Lips that Touch the Whiskey, Gideon gave every man in the bar a free drink. They raised their glasses in a toast, singing along:

And write on your bonnets in letters that shine,
The lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine.

Gideon stepped outside and held up a mug of sarsaparilla in salute to Millie and her temperance committee. When the song ended, his gaze settled on the woman who’d ripped his heart to shreds.

“Is that song a promise or a threat?” he asked with a broad grin that made Millie battle the urge to slap the dimples right off his handsome face.

“It’s definitely a promise, Mr. McBride. Lips such as yours shall never, ever touch mine,” she fumed, clenching her skirts with her hands.

His gaze focused on her mouth and he licked his lips. “You sure didn’t seem to mind them touching yours a few weeks ago. Why, I think the…”

“You are insufferable!” she huffed, affronted.

Suggestively, he waggled his eyebrows. “Don’t forget it, Tootsie!”

His use of the endearment only added fuel to the fire of righteous indignation already burning bright in her chest. She stamped her foot, snatched the mug from his hand, and tossed the sticky liquid in his face. Before he could do more than wipe his eyes on his sleeve, she charged down the street to another saloon.

Convinced everyone deserves a happy ending, USA Today best-selling author Shanna Hatfield is out to make it happen, one story at a time. Her sweet historical and contemporary romances combine humor and heart-pumping moments with relatable characters.
   When this hopeless romantic isn’t writing or indulging in rich, decadent chocolate, Shanna hangs out with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.

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  1. Love the excerpt and the history behind it! Looks like a great read.

    I recently went to a local talk by a historian/anthropologist and learned that the homemade beer and wine recipes handed down from mother to daughter that pioneers used in order to have digestible, safe drinking water only had about 3% alcohol. She mentioned that these concoctions were not included in the temperance--but it was only the higher percentage alcoholic beverages like whiskey that were. I'm wondering if you ran across anything regarding this in your research? Makes me curious now...

    Best wishes on your new release!

  2. Oh, that's interesting Kathryn! I didn't see anything like that, but would be interesting to learn more! Thanks for stopping by today!

  3. Near beer was accepted during prohibtion and kept mamy a brewery in business. Still the WCTU is a fascinating organization and Carrie Nation someone that still remains known today.
    Great post and best on this story. Doris/Angela