Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2022
Source: Book of the Month Club
Content warning: arson, murder, gore, rape (mentioned, not depicted), vomiting, financial abuse
Beatriz lost everything when her father was executed during the Mexican War of Independence. She and her mother go to live with reluctant relatives, until Beatriz sees an opportunity to return to some form of personal security in marrying Don Rodolfo Solórzano. It takes her to his family estate in the countryside, Hacienda San Isidro. But the promised security is quickly dashed when things start going bump in the night and there is more truth to the rumors surrounding Rodolfo than initially ignored.
This book has everything: 1800’s Mexican history, political tensions, a haunted house, a restless spirit, and a priest who’s also a witch. An incredible blend of historical fiction and gothic horror, I simply could not put this one down until the very last page.
Beatriz is the primary POV character in this book. She’s driven and has a strong sense of conviction, but has an open mind. I enjoyed the duality of her being receptive to those around her, though they might be turning a cold shoulder (Juana), but also having good instincts and keeping her heart closed off. I really enjoyed how open and proactive she was about seeking help and relying on those who also have to work and live in the house.
(The one lingering question I have is around Rodolfo’s motivation for marrying Beatriz. Perhaps I had missed it in how quickly I devoured this book.)
There are moments that are also very aware of the cultural and racial tensions that inform attitudes within the book both of a macro (historical) and micro (personal) level. Most of these are highlighted in the moments Beatriz spends with Ana Luisa and Paloma. There’s mutual respect but also a respect of station. She’s presented as the foil to the previous Doña Solórzano. Though Beatriz isn’t at all verbally abusive to the staff like Rodolfo’s first wife, there is still a healthy mistrust and distance in that relationship. It does a lot for the world-building and informs the relations between Andrés and the people he serves as their priest.
This horror is also layered in the way it presents the idea of home and family. Every single character, I think, has a terribly strained relationship with their birth family. Rodolfo and Juana have nothing but coldness to each other. Beatriz escapes the family who begrudgingly took in her and her mother in. Andrés has a hard time reconciling his priestly practices with his family’s folk beliefs and magic. It’s engaging and as intriguing as the mystery of what exactly is the entity putting Beatriz in danger.