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?
Publisher and Release Date: Camel Press, February 2017
Time and Setting: New Mexico, 1785
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars
Review by Lady Blue
With this fourth book of the Spanish Brand Series, Carla Kelly concludes the ongoing saga of Marco Mondragon, an Spanish official in 1780’s New Mexico. When we first met him, he was heartbroken over the deaths of his beloved wife and twin sons. After a time, he found happiness with a new love, Paloma, and they began to build a future together. They now have two children, and Paloma has just given birth to their second son. Although she is overjoyed at having been delivered of a healthy child, Paloma doesn’t bounce back. She is restless, overwhelmed, tired, and confused. She tries to put on a brave front, but Marco realizes something is wrong. After learning that this condition happens occasionally to a woman after giving birth, Marco decides to send Paloma away to his sister’s home for a couple of weeks, where she can just relax and have no responsibilities.
Disaster strikes when Paloma and her companion are kidnapped while travelling. The kidnappers originally targeted someone else, but upon learning that Paloma is Marco’s wife, they decide to keep her, as they have a grudge against him. To make matters worse, Marco is scheduled to attend a very important meeting with the Comanche to discuss peace. Marco has earned their respect, and there will be no talks without him there. While he desperately wants to search for his missing wife, he is forced to let others search while he attends the gathering.
While the previous books in this series have been fraught with conflict and danger, I found The Star in the Meadow to be the most heartbreaking. Marco and Paloma are apart for most of the book, and both have to make hard and distressing decisions, including one about their newborn child. Throughout all this darkness, Carla Kelly manages to inject moments of light humor, and when the lovers are finally reunited, each unsure of their reception from the other, their love and passion burns brighter than ever. This couple has a genuine goodness about them, which seems to enfold their family and friends, and makes them all the better for it. The Star in the Meadow is beautifully written, and a satisfying conclusion to the series, though I hate to see it end. I was left with a great feeling of warmth and optimism for their future, and I recommend this series highly.