Cowboys and Harvey Girls
Starting in 2019, I will be introducing a new Western series centered around the Harvey Girls – young women from the East and Midwest who answered an ad for waitressing on the frontier, and left home and family to follow their hearts.
In the late 1800’s a young freight agent working for the railroad spotted an opportunity to change the service side of travel. As more travelers headed West, Fred Harvey saw the need for making the experience more enjoyable and less tedious. He established a chain of “eating houses” along the Santa Fe Trail route, serving good food at reasonable prices in comfortable surroundings. Perhaps his most innovative idea was to hire and train a core of young, single, intelligent women who were also of “good character,” and, sought the adventure that came with traveling to frontier towns where they would live in company housing and staff Harvey’s popular lunch counters and dining rooms.
The Harvey Girls not only contributed to the success of Fred Harvey (and later his son and grandson), but they are generally credited with bringing a new civility to the West. In these early days, aside from mothers, sisters and saloon hall girls of questionable reputation, the Harvey Girls were young, attractive and lived under the strict rule of the Harvey Company’s rules for conduct. Many a cowboy or railway worker frequented the local Harvey house as much for a chance to see a pretty smile as to eat a good meal.
These were THOSE HARVEY GIRLS!!!
Schmidt (the Last Chance Cowboys series) builds this middling romantic western around strong and plucky farm girl Grace Rogers, who travels to New Mexico to become a Harvey Girl, one of the first waitresses of the Old West. On her way there, she meets Nick Hopkins, a handsome rancher. Harvey Girls aren’t allowed to be married, and Grace wants to send money home to her family, but the promise of romance tempts her all the same. Descriptions of Grace’s job are the novel’s high points, and readers who have worked in restaurants will be able to connect with her plights, such as fending off rude customers and having to learn the job on the fly. Though the romantic plot has a bit of a lackluster start, it develops well. Readers may have to suspend their disbelief when the story acquires a third layer involving attempted rape and murder, and Grace’s career falls somewhat by the wayside, but it’s easy to identify with Grace’s yearning for money, happiness, adventure, independence, and love. Easygoing western romance readers will cheer for this good-hearted heroine to achieve all her dreams. Agent: Natasha Kern, Natasha Kern Literary. (Jan.)
~ Publishers Weekly – 10/1/18