Heartbreak Trail

Written by Shirley Kennedy
Review by B. J. Sedlock

Lucy Schneider’s new husband, Jacob, decides that they will follow his preacher brother, Abner, and leave Boston for the California gold fields. Lucy is reluctant to abandon her little stepson Noah, so she agrees. When a shooting accident on the trail makes Lucy a widow, Abner declares that Jacob’s property, including Noah, now belongs to him. Abner’s religious fanaticism repels Lucy, and she turns to Clint Palance, one of the guides, who becomes her protector through treacherous river crossings and Indian attacks. Abner then decides that his wagons will leave the train and go it alone in the wilderness. Lucy is torn between wanting to stay with Noah to protect him from Abner and not wanting to part from Clint.

This is a historical romance, not inspirational fiction: Lucy and Clint manage to sneak away together a few times, where he educates naïve Lucy on how a considerate man should make love to a woman. While I believe the couple care for each other, the spark and charisma between the protagonists is less than expected. Romance fans will learn about the many forms of tragedy that struck pioneers on their way west but will not be disappointed in the ending.