A good, old-fashioned Texas tale with a twist.
Blending fiction and history with forbidden love, family honor and underdog heroism, Sargent tells the story of how an ordinary man became a legend. In Texas of the late 19th century, tensions are rising between Texan and Mexican ranchers. The story starts at the end, with the funeral of Primo, an infamous outlaw whose death drew droves of mourners from around the country. Then, as the casket is lowered, a slip of the hand results in it tumbling open to reveal, for just a few seconds, what many believed to be a different man. The story then jumps back six years, when the man who became known as the legendary Primo was simply Juan Miguel, an earnest teenager with a terrible crush. For reasons unknown to himself, Juan was suddenly consumed with thoughts of the beautiful and older Senora Barone. It wasn’t the easiest of loves, since she was also married to his father's rival, a bristly white rancher who looked down on Hispanics. Initially unsure of himself, Juan started off easily embarrassed by simple encounters with her. However, his innocent affections and good-natured tendencies slowly wooed the unhappily married señora, and his confidence grew. Sargent does a fine job of showing how this unlikely love develops, and her writing has a cadence that is both elegant and charming: “He opened her heart barely a crack. Only a sliver of light came through, but it was enough. She got a glimpse of another world, like a half line of poetry plopped down in a dry brittle tome of prose.” Budding love story aside, this is also a compelling tale of the growing tensions between whites and Hispanics over dwindling property and how the hardships of life turned that sweet young man into an outlaw.
A fun Western romp with a decent balance of romance and mystery.