As the eighteenth century draws to a close, the Kwahadi Comanches seem to be making their peace with the settlers of the Spanish Colony of New Mexico. No one is as relieved as Marco Mondragón and his adored wife Paloma Vega, whose ranch, the Double Cross, sits on the edge of Comanchería. Their tranquility is short-lived, however, for other Comanches are terrorizing the plains, led by the ruthless renegade, Great Owl.
At the annual fair in Taos, Marco and his Comanche friend Toshua arrange to buy a team of bays from horse traders who sometimes wink at the law. Marco can’t complete the purchase because he spends all his money to buy a slave from Great Owl, thus saving her life. Graciela accompanies them back to the Double Cross, along with Diego Diaz, one of those traders Marco still owes for the team.
Great Owl’s threat to tentative peace between the Kwahadi and the Spanish must be squelched. Marco and Toshua bolster their small army of two with an unexpected ally in Joaquim Gasca, a disgraced former lieutenant with the Royal Engineers. They are joined by Diego Diaz, who turns out to be a key figure from Paloma’s past. Adding two shady horse traders and the secretive Graciela, Marco leads his small but determined army north to land contested by both Utes and Comanches. Though woefully outnumbered, they must defeat Great Owl or die trying.
Publisher and Release Date: Camel Press, September 2015
Time and Setting: Late 1700’s, New Mexico
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 5 Stars
Review by Lady Blue
Paloma and the Horse Traders the third book in Carla Kelly’s Spanish Brand series, continues the story of Marco and Paloma Mondragon, who are forging a life together in New Mexico in the late 1700’s when times are hard and dangerous, and life uncertain. In the previous two books we witnessed their overcoming tragedy, grief, and abuse to find each other, fall in love and begin married life. Then came infertility, smallpox, and facing – up close and personal- the dreaded Comanches.
Now there is a fragile peace, and Marco and Paloma have been blessed with a son, as well as an adopted daughter. They have fallen deeply in love and are enjoying their life and their children. Everything changes in a moment when Marco makes a routine trip to the annual fair to purchase a pair of horses from the horse traders. Great Owl, a fierce Comanche who wants no part of peace, comes to the fair with a band of his warriors, looking to sell three slaves. Marco’s soft heart breaks, and he uses the money he had set aside for the horses to buy the young woman slave, who Marco knows would have suffered the greatest at the hands of Great Owl and his men. Marco then manages to convince one of the horse traders to follow him back home with the horses he wanted, where he’ll be able to pay him. On the way home, they are followed by Great Owl and his men, and eventually an arrow is shot, targeting the slave, Graciela, but hitting the horse trader instead. The group manages to make it back to Marco’s ranch without further incident or injury.
Thus the short lived peace is broken, and Marco realizes that if Great Owl isn’t stopped now, things will only escalate. Marco has no army, and he won’t take any of his men away from his ranch, because he wants to be sure Paloma and the children are protected. So he sets off with his friend Toshua and one disgraced soldier, to end Great Owl’s threat, knowing very well that he’s placing all their lives in jeopardy.
Once again, Carla Kelly has kept me up late, reading into the wee hours to finish this book. This is not usually a time and place that I like to read about, but I am totally captivated by this series. Marco and Paloma have formed such a strong love, that it’s breathtaking. The descriptions of the characters and places are vivid. The plot is riveting and the action is exciting. I am totally invested in this couple, and I’m thrilled to hear that there is at least one more book coming in the series. I would recommend reading the first two books of this series to get the maximum enjoyment. Paloma and the Horse Traders is pure artistry and a sheer delight. I give it my highest recommendation.