The year is 1780, and Marco Mondragon is a brand inspector in the royal Spanish colony of New Mexico. A widower and rancher, Marco lives on the edge of Comancheria, the domain of the fierce Comanche. Each autumn, he takes cattle and wool, and his district’s records of livestock transactions to the governor in Santa Fe. he is dedicated, conscientious and lonely. This year, he is looking for a little dog to keep his feet warm through cold winter nights. He finds a yellow dog but also meets a young, blue-eyed beauty named Paloma Vega. Paloma is under the thumb of relatives who might have stolen a brand belonging to Paloma’s parents, dead in a Comanche raid. As a brand inspector, Marco has every right to be suspicious of brand thieves. If Marco has anything to do with it, Paloma’s fortunes are about to change. Meanwhile, Marco has other challenges to contend with. An elderly ranchero named Joaquin Munoz has set in motion events that involve the ever-dangerous Comanches and threaten the uneasy peace of Marco’s jurisdiction. Set against the mountains and high plains of northeastern New Mexico during the decline of Spanish power in the New World, The Double Cross is a story of loss and love regained, at a time when honor went hand in glove with bravery, and danger was never far away.
Publisher and release date: Camel Press 1 August 2013
Time and Setting: New Mexico, 1780
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lady Blue
If I were to choose a time and place to read about, it would not be New Mexico in 1780. I prefer my locations and society to be settled and civilized. Why then, would I choose this book? Two words – Carla Kelly. I have yet to be disappointed by anything she has written, and this is no exception. She weaves historical facts so tightly and so interestingly into her stories, you don’t even realize how much information you’re absorbing.
Marco is thirty one years old. His wife and twin sons died of an illness when he was only twenty-three, and was on his annual trip. He has lived a solitary life since then. This year, his trip includes an extra stop to meet the betrothed of his friend and neighbor. Said betrothed appears to be a shrew, with a horrible family, with the exception of her cousin. Paloma (the cousin) is living with her relatives because she is orphaned. Her family was brutally killed by Comanches during a raid on her home. Her mother managed to hide her so she would be safe. Her relatives treat her as a servant, and barely feed her. We later learn that they may have done even worse.
Marco and Paloma meet. He thinks of her as the girl with the beautiful blue eyes, and she thinks of him as the handsome man with the light brown eyes. Although Marco has no initial plans to further their acquaintance, a small yellow dog, and a couple of unusual priests set events in motion to bring them together. The plan works. The couple marry, and we get to share their burgeoning romance. The bedroom door is basically closed to us, but the implication is that much time is spent behind those doors, and it’s quality time.
Along with the good, comes the bad. Marco has to deal with his fear of ever being away from Paloma, worrying that she may become ill, as his first wife did. Paloma, of course, is going to come face to face with a Comanche, and have to make a life or death decision. Life at this time was hard and unpredictable, and this beautiful love story interwoven with history makes for an outstanding read.