cover image The Spanish Daughter

The Spanish Daughter

Lorena Hughes. Kensington, $15.95 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-4967-3624-6

Hughes follows The Sisters of Alameda Street with an engrossing mystery/romance set in early 20th-century Ecuador and Spain. In 1920, Spanish chocolate shop proprietor María Purificación “Puri” de Lafont y Toledo learns that her father, who left when she was two, has willed his cacao plantation in Ecuador to her and, to her surprise, to children from his secret other marriage. As Puri and her husband, Cristóbal, sail to Ecuador to claim her inheritance, a stranger attempts to strangle her on the ship, and in the struggle both the assailant and Puri’s mortally wounded husband fall overboard. For her protection, Puri dons a beard and disguises herself as Cristóbal. Legalities buy Puri time to investigate who killed her husband and targeted her. Fans of historicals will appreciate the descriptions of dress, local foods and customs, social stratification, and the cacao industry, a source of an economic boom and bust in early 20th-century Ecuador. In the end, Puri predictably finds romance (as a woman, with a man) and prosperity, but Hughes shakes up the formula by showing how Puri wins out by adopting Cristóbal’s assertive traits, which help her as she figures out what to do with the plantation and navigates the business world. As addictive as chocolate, this ends on a modern and satisfying note. Agent: Rachel Brooks, BookEnds Literary Agency. (Jan.)