Marco Mondragón and his wife Paloma are living hectic but happy lives at the Double Cross, on the edge of Comanchería. Five years after the death of Comanche leader Cuerno Verde, cautious diplomacy between the tribe and the colonists is underway to end Comanche raids into New Mexico. Paloma’s time has been fully consumed by her two toddlers and newborn son and Marco’s by spring planting.
The Seven Year Audit of 1784 arrives and with it comes auditor Fernando Ygnacio. After years of incarceration for a crime he did not commit, Señor Ygnacio is a broken man. Although his daughter Catalina is bitter about his mistreatment by his superiors, her storytelling abilities captivate the household, including a frequent visitor from the nearby presidio, El Teniente Joaquim Gasca, who has been undergoing his own reformation from rascal to leader.
Unknown to him, Marco has peculiar enemies plotting his downfall. When Paloma and Catalina set out on a visit to Marco’s sister, meant to give Paloma relief from her busy life, the women are kidnapped. Devastated, Marco is torn between love and duty. He yearns to search for his wife, but feels bound by colonial duties to accompany his friend Toshua to Río Napestle, where Comanches have gathered to debate the region’s fragile peace. In his absence from the Double Cross, will Joaquim Gasca and Toshua’s wife Eckapeta be able to find the missing women?
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The Star in the Meadow (The Spanish Brand Book 4)
Marco Mondragon has overcome tragedy in his life, and has managed to find happiness again. He lost his beloved wife and twin sons to illness, and after years of grief and loneliness, he found a new love, Paloma. They have made a good life for themselves in New Mexico, overcoming the threat of smallpox, hostile Indians, and their supposed infertility. They have forged true friendships, found lost family members, and Paloma has just given birth to their second child. Most importantly, they have found a deep and passionate love in their marriage.
Yet, something feels different to Paloma after the birth of this child. She feels sad and overwhelmed when she should only be feeling joy. The tasks in her everyday life seem insurmountable. (Today we would call this postpartum depression.) Marco decides to send Paloma off to visit his sister for two weeks, where she can just relax and visit and not worry about any duties in her home. He hopes this will rejuvenate her and bring back her zest for life.
About the same time, there is a large gathering of Comanche, who want to discuss peace, and they demand that Marco be there, as he has played a large part in past negotiations. Marco has a reputation for being fair, and talks won’t go forward without him. Though Marco doesn’t want to attend, not with the state his wife is in, plus having a newborn baby, he feels that he has no choice. In order to have peace and be safe in the future, they have to make arrangements now.
When Paloma and her companion, along with the newborn baby, are enroute to her sister-in-law’s home, their carriage is stopped by criminals who believe someone else is inside. Upon learning that Paloma is Marco’s wife, they decide to kidnap them, as they have a grudge against him. This action forces Paloma to make a heartbreaking decision about her child, a decision which no mother should have to make, and quite honestly, one that horrified me. When Marco finds out that Paloma is missing, he decides he must search for her and not attend the gathering with the Comanche. Toshua, his dear Comanche friend, insists that Marco will go, even if he has to kidnap him, as the precarious future of the area hangs in the balance. This situation forces Marco to make a heartbreaking decision, as well.
The SPANISH BRAND series by Carla Kelly takes place in a time and setting that would normally not appeal to me. Yet, because I love her writing so much, I took a chance on the first book, and I’ve been hooked right through this final book four. I’ve become quite invested in Marco and Paloma and their extended circle of family and friends. Their love for each other and their kindness and generosity seems to have an almost magical, healing quality that enfolds their loved ones, bringing happiness and second chances. I found STAR IN THE MEADOW to be somewhat darker than previous books, and therefore more intense. I hated what Paloma and Marco had to endure, yet I admit that I was totally enmeshed in the story. Carla Kelly’s writing is masterful, and I can wholeheartedly recommend this whole series, and I believe you would enjoy each book more if you read them all. STAR IN THE MEADOW is a stellar conclusion which will reside on my keeper shelf. I’m sad to see this magnificent series end.