Love Finds You in Frost, MinnesotaBy: Judy Baer
For Josie, Keillor, and Quentin—Merry Christmas
Kudos to the real Frost, Minnesota, for being such a tidy and charming small town!
THE TINY TOWN OF FROST IS SITUATED IN SOUTHERN Minnesota. With fewer than 200 residents, it has a post office, library, several agricultural businesses, and three Lutheran churches. Frost was named for Charles S. Frost (1856–1931), an architect from Chicago who designed The Depot in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Chicago’s Navy Pier, the Navy Pier Terminal Building, and numerous other landmarks.
The town of Frost was platted in 1888, and the post office began operation in 1899. The majority of the settlers were Norwegian, and the town’s residents still enjoy Scandinavian traditions such as church lutefisk dinners at Christmastime. Though Frost is very real and lovely, the places and characters portrayed in this book are not. Still, I fell in love with the place during my visit, and I like to imagine all the wonderful people who must live there.
Merry Blake straightened the gold angel at the top of the Christmas tree and stood back to inspect it. She had the same curly blonde fluff of hair as the angel staring benevolently down at her, the same green eyes, and the same perpetually happy expression, as if Christmas joy were etched into her soul.
Twigs Merry had collected and sprayed gold glinted from between the branches of the fourteen-foot white pine adorned with metallic gold bows, balls, and ornaments. This was her finest yet, she decided, which said a lot, considering that she’d decorated more than a hundred and fifty trees in the past five years. Yes indeed, Merry’s Christmas Boutique was looking better than ever.
She checked on the fragrant spiced cider in the electric urn near the spiral staircase to see that it was warm. Her part-time helper would head for it first thing when she arrived. Abby Phillips was almost as crazy about Christmas—and cider—as Merry.
The door opened and a cascade of chimes exploded, the motion-activated reindeer began to play “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and a raucous movement-sensitive Santa chortled “Ho, ho, ho.”
Upon hearing the auditory explosion, Merry turned to greet Abby. She was startled to see not her friend but a tall, broad-shouldered, elegantly dressed man with thick dark hair, brown eyes, and a frown that etched deep furrows in his high, intelligent forehead. He appeared to be a few years older than she, thirty-five to her twenty-eight, perhaps. Snow lay sprinkled across the shoulders of his black wool coat, and a gust of icy wind followed him inside. She shivered a bit in her Mrs. Claus red velvet skirt and fur-trimmed blouse.
“Welcome to Frost. May I help you?” Strangers didn’t often come through the streets of Frost, a tiny town in southern Minnesota inhabited by a large percentage of people with Norwegian and German heritages—except now, of course, at Christmastime, when her boutique drew people from as far away as Minneapolis, St. Paul, and even Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
“What is this?” The question was far from friendly, but the fellow’s scowling demeanor didn’t conceal his handsome features. His coat fell open to reveal black trousers and a cashmere V-neck sweater with a pristine white shirt beneath.
“This is Merry’s Christmas Boutique. Frost’s one and only Christmas store. We open on Black Friday and close January seventh, right after our clearance sale.” Merry smoothed her skirt and hoped she didn’t have straw from the Nativity sets in her hair. “Are you looking for a special Christmas gift? Stocking stuffers?”
He stared at her as if the synapses in her brain were made of peppermint bark. Disapproval oozed from every attractive pore. “Stocking stuffers? What kind of nonsense is that?”
“Nonsense? Don’t you like Christmas?” If not, what was he doing here in Frost, the town that had fully embraced Merry’s marketing concept and turned itself into a tiny Christmas village for almost two months every year?
“Has this place gone completely nuts?” Icicles dripped from his words.
“Candied pecans, perhaps,” she said through gritted teeth, determined not to allow him to fill the shop with his negativity. “They’re one of my best sellers. Would you like to try some?”