The Laguna family is cursed. Generation after generation of women fall hopelessly in love and bear only daughters, who, in time, suffer their own hopeless loves.
Young-adult author Barrio offers her first novel for adults. Imbued with magical realism, Barrio’s tale of lost loves sparkles. In the fall of 1897, a handsome Andalusian landowner arrives in the small Castilian town to hunt, but before he can chase the first stag, he is caught himself by the golden eyes of Clara Laguna. Her mother is the town witch, renowned for making protective amulets, repairing hymens and predicting the future by throwing cat bones. Undaunted by the townspeople who urge him to stay away from the cursed family, the Andalusian instead embarks on an impassioned love affair. Clara’s mother encourages the affair but discourages Clara’s hopes of marriage, even when he returns the following year. She’s right, of course. The Andalusian abandons Clara, leaving her pregnant with yet another Laguna girl. He also leaves her with the means to exact a strange revenge: Clara turns the house he gave her into a brothel. Behind the house grows a magical garden, lush with roses and tomatoes that defy the cycle of seasons. Named the Scarlet Manor, the house itself attracts not only clients eager to have the golden-eyed Clara, but also a bearded woman, who escapes the circus to become Clara’s enamored cook, and a wild-eyed priest, who bewitches his congregation with sermons born of war. The Laguna women’s saga continues through Clara’s daughter and granddaughter, until at last a boy is born into the family. Yet the curse may still have a few tricks to play.
A gorgeously spun and deftly told tale.