With its selection by the Literary Guild for January, this is a safe bet for the first of the year -- a long, robust, picaresque novel of Spain of the Inquisition, Mexico of Cortes, and Europe of Charles of Austria, which unfolds the story of Pedro de Vargas, young Spanish nobleman, as he emerges from superficiality to reality. His knightly love given to Luisa, it is Catana, dancer at an inn, to whom he gives his heart and who is never absent when he needs her. Pedro saves an Indian slave, rescues Catana from de Silva's thugs, aids Garcia in trying to free Garcia's mother from the Inquisitor and then finds that he and his family are to be tortured by the Inquisition because of de Silva's animosity. Catana provides for their escape and Pedro joins Garcia for the New World and service with Cortes... Catana turns up, and with Garcia, Pedro sees the long march to Mexico, the subjugation of the Indians, the Indian rebellion, La Noche Triste, and, through de Silva's treachery, they are captured. But Coatl saves and takes them to his people. They rejoin Cortes, who separates Catana and Pedro by making Pedro his envoy to their ruler. Pedro is able once again to escape de Silva's machinations and prove to Charles of Austria the loyalty of Cortes and the overseas expeditions, and clear himself of all charges. Catana is found and they set out for a permanent home in the New World... A lively, action packed historical romance, which reanimates the interlocking old and new worlds, the scourge of the Inquisition and its injustices, the history making campaigns of Cortes, the downfall of the Indian Empire, the wiles and treacheries of conqueror and conquered, the fabulous -- and unpleasant -- aspects of the new country, and the interplay of international politics. Plenty of color, drama, swordplay and escape while you may.