Desert Isle Keeper
Marco and the Devil’s Bargain
When I first got my hands on Marco and the Devil’s Bargain, I was a little let down. I hadn’t realized it was the second in a series, and more importantly, that it followed the same couple that had already fallen in love and gotten married in the first book. In the past, I’ve read other stories like this, and it seems to me that the sequel is rarely as good as the original. As a result, I put off reading this one for a little while, worried that it would fall into that same trap.
Silly me. I should have trusted Carla Kelly to write a wonderful book.
Marco and Paloma Mondragón are happily settled in Spanish New Mexico at the beginning of 1782. Marco is the juez de campo in Valle del Sol, the town where they live. His ranch, the Double Cross, is prosperous, and the people of Valle del Sol are peaceful and law-abiding for the most part. If he and Paloma long for children, well, that’s only a little bit of sadness to balance the many other blessings they have.
Unfortunately, this peaceful state of affairs is soon to be upset. News comes to Marco that smallpox has been sweeping through Texas, and is likely soon to reach Valle del Sol. Although Marco has been vaccinated, his beloved Paloma has not. Poor Marco lost his first wife and twin sons to cholera, and now he very much fears that he will lose his second wife to another disease.
As luck would have it, Dr. Anthony Gill finds himself in Valle del Sol soon after Marco learns that smallpox will be coming. Anthony, who recently traveled with a group of traders through Texas, has collected scabs from the diseased and is prepared to inoculate Marco’s family and friends. However, his aid comes at a price—Anthony’s daughter, Pia Maria, was taken by a group of Indians and sold to the Comanches, who live in a hidden canyon somewhat near Valle del Sol. Anthony declares that he will only help Marco if Marco will agree to take him to the Comanches after he finishes inoculating the people of Valle del Sol. Reluctantly, Marco agrees.
Paloma, of course, will not let her husband travel across the Llano Estacado to the Comanches without her, and so it is that Anthony, Paloma, Marco, and Toshua, the Comanche companion of Paloma and Marco, find themselves trekking together across snowy plains into the middle of dangerous Comanche territory.
To begin with, Marco and Paloma are a wonderful couple. They know each other very well, and in spite of not reading the first book, in which their characters were initially developed, I came to know them well too. Paloma is a strong, sweet woman, perfectly suited to her honorable, Spanish husband. They are both at their best when they’re together—not because they get outrageously maudlin when apart, but rather because they work as a team when they’re together, supporting each other as all good couples do.
However, if Marco and Paloma were the only two characters I loved, this book would only make it to B+ territory for me. What made Marco and the Devil’s Bargain a DIK for me was the cast of secondary characters. Every single one of them, from Anthony Gill down to the Comanches Marco and Paloma met, was amazingly complex and realistic. I cannot think of the last time secondary characters seemed so vivid to me.
There are some series which need to be read in order if they are to be understood. Carla Kelly’s Spanish Brand series is not one of these. Although I didn’t read The Double Cross first, as I should have, I still managed to fall head over heels for Marco and Paloma. To me, that is a good testament to Ms. Kelly’s amazing writing. I can’t wait to get my hands on another one of her books.
|Review Date:||August 15, 2014|
|Book Type:||American Historical Romance | Frontier/Western Hist Romance|
|Review Tags:||Frontier Romance | Frontier/Western Historical Romance | Southwest | Western romance|