Violet Hailey, unwed mother of six year old Priscilla, longs to begin life anew after selling her family farm to the Railroad Commission. To that end, under the guise of being a widow, she travels to Independence, Missouri to join up with a wagon train bound for New Mexico Territory, via the Santa Fe Trail. However, a few days into her journey, she realizes she has been duped in the purchase of her wagon when it breaks down and cannot be repaired. Major Mendez, the wagon master, insists that unusual circumstances call for unusual choices, and forces her into a decision--either forego the dictates of society by sharing the wagon of an unmarried man or depart the train in the next town. The sad state of her finances, and her determination to reach Santa Fe, compel her to continue onward with a man she considers uncouth and rude.
Theodore Johansson, TJ for short, isn't averse to helping the widow and her daughter; it's just that her distaste for their situation exacerbates his own frustration when she proves to be doggedly stubborn.
Priscilla Johansson, daughter of Violet Hailey from book one, Violet's Vindication, is grown up and anticipating her life as a teacher in her small community outside of Santa Fe, in New Mexico Territory. She also hopes to one day marry and raise a family there. When she receives an invitation to join the prestigious Stratford Girl's Academy in St. Louis, Missouri, however, she embarks on a future she never envisioned. Arriving at the St. Louis train station she is met by Brentley Stratford, the stepson of Mrs. Olivia Stratford, the grand lady who founded the academy. He is so elegant and handsome that he takes her breath away.
Brentley Stratford cannot understand his stepmother's reasoning for hiring a teacher from New Mexico Territory. He loves the wild west, having spent time there working for his magnate father's railroad empire, but placing this young woman in a teaching position befuddles him; especially when he first sees her. The lady is the opposite of the teachers and students at the Academy. She is gauchely dressed, tall and big-boned, and he wonders how she will be received by the "dainties" at the academy. However, she does have the softest and prettiest doe eyes he has ever seen. Soon he becomes enamored by her ability to connect not only with the students, but his cantankerous stepmother, as well.
Five years after the woman Saul had expected to spend his life with rejected him and married a wealthy Santa Fe businessman, he meets the spinster who just opened a bookstore in his town. Undeniably, the lady is not his type, but something about her keeps drawing him back to her shop. Could it be their common enjoyment of dime novels filled with action and adventure, or something more? Saul's life is about to become complicated when the woman who rejected him, now a widow, moves back to town and sets her sights on him.
Moving to Cielo Azul is a dream come true for Grace Hillsdale. After searching for the perfect town to open a bookstore, but also quench her loneliness, she believes she's finally achieved her goal. The town, now connected via shortline railroad to Santa Fe, has transformed from a stagecoach stop into a thriving population of businesses, ranchers, farmers, and most importantly, families. During her initial visit she spied a cowboy who embodied the essence of the "Wild West" of New Mexico Territory, and is thrilled when he begins visiting her bookstore. Soon they become friends. Only in her thoughts, however, does she affectionately dub him as "her cowboy." She's convinced he could never see her as anyone other than a friend.