When Mauro Larrea is bankrupted by a business deal shattered by the American Civil War, he embarks on a great adventure to build his fortunes anew.
From Mexico City to Havana to Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, Dueñas’ (The Heart Has Its Reasons, 2012, etc.) sweeping tale of fortunes made and lost abounds with dramatic characters and operatic plot twists. Damsels in distress, devious femme fatales, conniving gamblers—all beset Mauro on his quest to make enough money in four months to pay off the uxorious moneylender Tadeo Carrús. Mauro is a self-made man, shaped by working the silver mines of Mexico. Tenacious and shrewd, he swiftly learned how to gamble on shady financing that enabled him to found his own companies. Losing everything doesn’t frighten Mauro. Yet at 47, he has more than himself to worry about: his daughter, Mariana, can fend for herself, concealing the bankruptcy from her mother-in-law, the Countess of Colima, until Mauro’s fortunes turn again, but his son, Nicolás, has not yet married Teresita, the daughter of Don Gorostiza, and the scandal may ruin his prospects. Mauro’s plans to seek a lucrative business deal in Cuba are complicated immediately by the Countess’ meddling and by Don Gorostiza’s insistence that Mauro deliver a small fortune to his sister, Carola. Carola wants Mauro to secretly invest it for her in an unsavory deal, but Mauro balks. Meanwhile, her husband, Zayas, challenges him to a duel at the billiard table. At stake are access to Carola and the possession of an estate and vineyard in the south of Spain, an estate Zayas inherited from his cousin Luisito, who died abruptly. Soon Mauro owns the estate, which introduces him to not only the bewitching and enigmatic Soledad Montalvo, but also the mysteries of the Montalvo-Gorostiza family saga.
Though sometimes buckling under its own weight, this sprawling tale will charm fans of historical romance.