Cowgirl Trail is the fifth book in Texas Trails: A Morgan Family Series. The connection to the rest of the series is subtle so this book works very well as a standalone yet still holds its place with the other stories.
Maggie Porter has been away from the Rocking P Ranch, helping to care for her mother in a sanatorium. After her mother passes away, Maggie returns to find her home in turmoil.
The cowboys threaten to strike after some harsh and arbitrary decisions by her father. Alex Bright, the foreman, tries to mediate the dispute but can’t understand Mr. Porter’s obstinate attitude. The men walk off and, conflicted by divided loyalties, Alex reluctantly joins them.
Maggie and Alex have been sweet on each other and, in the beginning, both look forward to Maggie’s return. This relationship is strained to the breaking point when Maggie holds Alex responsible for not keeping the men on the job at a crucial time.
Maggie learns that her father is facing huge bills from the sanatorium and may lose the ranch. This is why he could not negotiate with the cowboys. He is also dying of cancer and the pain has affected his judgment.
To pay the bills, the cattle need to be rounded up and driven to market. With her own cowboys gone and none available from other ranches, Maggie recruits women from the nearby town and surrounding ranches to get the cattle to market.
Alex and some of the other cowboys follow. Alex wants to keep an eye on Maggie. Some of the others, however, look for opportunities to harass the women and show the need for Porter to meet their demands. One prank ends up costing Maggie more money than she can spare. When she learns who pulled the prank, she accuses Alex of being part of it, severing their relationship.
Other cowboys have more sinister plans to disrupt the drive and steal the cattle. They start a stampede. When Maggie sees Alex riding among the herd, she believes he is part of the group looking to take her property away.
Maggie eventually learns Alex was trying to stop the stampede at the risk of his own life and he had nothing to do with the expensive prank. She realizes he was doing his best for her, her father, and the ranch.
As always, Susan Page Davis presents an exciting and tense story with enough twists and intriguing characters to keep you turning pages. She provides the right amount of detail to give authenticity but doesn’t overwhelm you with myriad facts just to show off her research.
You are with the women on the cattle drive, sleeping on the hard ground, enduring the boredom and routine, burning the hide of a calf with a hot iron, and enduring the danger and excitement of a stampede.
The women are believable in their roles. The minor characters add just the right amount of humor, insight into the major characters, and tension.
Maggie and Alex are two people in love but struggling with inner conflicts and loyalties that present major stumbling blocks to the relationship. You are wondering until the very end if they will make it.
If you enjoy historical romance, this will be a most satisfying read.