Conversations Over Coffee: Trailblazer by Anna Schmidt

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Welcome to Conversations Over Coffee and my first post for Frolic. I am so excited to be here. Coming from Seattle with its ubiquitous coffee and coffeehouses, what could be more natural for me than to write these pieces from a shop where you can absorb caffeine through the air? I don’t intend this column to be dry critical analyses of books, but rather, a sharing of ideas about books as if you and I were sitting down together by the fireside in cozy armchairs with cups of coffee steaming at our elbows. 

Some historical Westerns, whose rolling cadence mimics the countryside, have a way of worming their way into my heart and making a home there. This is one such tale. Trailblazer by Anna Schmidt puts the ‘R’ in romance. It is a tender, gentle tale of love blossoming between two people who’re not searching for it. Someday… oh, sure, someday, they want that special someone in their lives who will bring them joy and companionship, someone with whom they will walk side-by-side on the road of life. But at this moment in time, they are not looking for marriage. They are not even looking for love. And yet… love catches them by surprise.

Grace Rogers decides to move west to earn her living as a Harvey Girl at the Harvey Eating Houses along the Santa Fe Railroad. She is yearning for adventure away from the loneliness and poor prospects eking out a living at her family farm in Missouri. She also wants a good job that will allow her to send money back to her parents to aid their impoverished circumstances.

Nick Hopkins is a foreman at a cattle ranch in Juniper, New Mexico. He enjoys the trust and respect of his employer, but he dreams of owning his own land and his own ranch. He has been saving every penny he can so that one day he can turn his aspiration and ambition into reality. He has already staked out the land that is going to be his.

On the train from Kansas City to Juniper, Grace and Nick chance to meet. While Grace considers Nick a pesky, but handsome, man who she should best stay away from, he is utterly charmed by her.

Over the days, his singular attention and keen regard flusters Grace. But emotions have a pesky way of being undeniable. In her innocence and desire to ensure that her job is not jeopardized, time and time again Grace tries to ignore him and her growing feelings towards him. While being respectful of Grace’s circumstances, Nick, nevertheless, gently pursues her and beguiles her.

A smile. A blush. A glancing look. The brush of hands. Shoulders leaning towards each other. A drive in a horse-drawn buggy in starlight. This is what romance is all about, and in this book, Schmidt shows us how two people, who are capable of such kindness and consideration to everyone around them, fall in love. Watching that growing awareness of each other, the care and respect they show, and the honesty and maturity with which they acknowledge their feelings tugged at my heart and mind.

There are also heart-stopping moments in the story, where a wealthy banker takes a prurient interest in Grace and does everything to destroy Grace and Nick’s burgeoning relationship. How they deal with him and his threats made me applaud the two of them. They handle him with such finality, that there can be no doubt, these two are people with integrity and strength and they were meant to be together.

This story is why I read romance. I hope you will pick this book up and share in the wonder.

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