Monday, June 6, 2022

Summer Reading 2022: The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas


I took a few days of vacation to make a long weekend and was determined to finish a few books in my summer TBR list. This novel has been in my pile for a few months. I started it in May, got distracted, and put it down. Yesterday I picked it back up and got swept away pretty immediately. 

Beatriz needs to get married to escape the awful life her and her mother are in after her father is taken away in the night and murdered for plotting against the Mexican government. It's 1823 and women have limited choices. She married Rodolfo Solórzano, a wealthy man who takes her to his home, the Hacienda San Isidro. 

Beatriz isn't greeted with much enthusiasm by the servants at San Isidro, nor Rodolfo's sister Juana. She's the second Doña Solórzano, and yikes it's not the welcome she was hoping for. The first wife of Rodolfo was a horrible woman who treated the servants terribly and made everyone's life miserable. She died from typhoid a few years before. 

However, the moment Beatriz steps into the hacienda, she feels something is terribly, terribly wrong. The house seethes with bad energy; cold air sweeps through in waves; doors slam, and there are those terrible red eyes peeking through the darkness. Rodolfo leaves for business in the capitol, and Beatriz is terrified to live in the house alone. She hears voices, sees terrible visions, and is afraid to sleep. 

She attends church, and asks for a blessing. Snubbed by the older, crabby Padre, she meets Padre Andrés, a young priest who grew up at San Isidro and has returned to take care of the village outside of the hacienda. He agrees to bless the hacienda, and oh boy, what he feels and sees when he visits is exactly what Beatriz experiences: an unholy, terrible, evil force. 

Who's that force? Why, the first Doña, of course. Beatriz is frantic to fight the evil-she just isn't strong enough to do it herself. Andrés has a few surprises of his own that may just be enough to fight the evil that inhabits the hacienda. It may kill them first, though. 

There's a lot going on here with back story and the aftermath of the Mexican War of Independence. Generations of people working on the same land; generations of the same land owners treating those people poorly and taking advantage of them. People who can't get away because of the class system that keeps them down. A priest who is also a witch, and must be careful to not be exposed. A woman who thought she was marrying a man who would give her a home, only to realize the home, and her husband, are awful. Cut off from any help, she only had Andrés to turn to. The folks around the hacienda know something dark is there, but are too afraid to do anything about it. 

This was a spooky story--I could feel that numbing cold rolling down the hallways. Author Isabel Cañas does an excellent job building tension and terror and ramping it up. This is evil that is vicious and nasty. Can you imagine what this woman was like when she was alive?! I raced through this horror novel, and was tense every time Beatriz had to be in the hacienda alone. 

A horror novel of a different kind, set in 1823 Mexico. The setting was well drawn and I could picture it all in my mind. Beatriz was smart, tough, and stalwart in her belief that there was something very wrong in the hacienda. Padre Andrés was a complex character torn by guilt as a priest and the power he was born to use for good. 

Rating: 5/6 for a tense, atmospheric horror novel with a historical setting. Once I got into it, I was hooked. 

A big thanks to Berkley for an ARC of the novel. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

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