Content warning: rape, violence, financial abuse
Want to threaten me with a good time? Tell me there’s a book that blends historical fiction, gothic themes, and features a woman in historic dress in front of what appears to be a burning building on its cover. It’s fair to say from the premise and cover alone, I was prepared to be entranced by The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas.
It’s 1823 in rural Mexico and Beatriz has recently married into the well-to-do Solórzano family in order to escape the ire of her extended family who had taken her and her mother in after the untimely death of her ill-fated father. His position as a general for the right side of the Mexican War for independence wins him no favor as the new government convenes, leaving Beatriz no choice but to take the first chance she can to move back into an exalted place within society—even if her husband is allied with the men who endangered her family. So while she may not have the greatest hopes for her future as part of the Solórzano family, she is not at all prepared for the eerie vibes she encounters as she first makes her home at their hacienda in San Isidro. Her sister-in-law and housekeeper are distant and calculating, her husband is frequently away from home, and her neighbors are beholden to the family’s holdings and not sure what to make of Rodolfo Solórzano’s latest wife. All Beatriz knows is that no one can give her an answer about how his first wife died and she has no other option but to make the hacienda the home she and her mother desperately need, regardless of the circumstances. As she spends more time in San Isidro, she learns there is much more than meets the eye in each of these dynamics.
A historical fiction tale with supernatural twists and recognition of where women can find independence and power within a war-torn patriarchal system, The Hacienda is a novel worth reading when you want a mystery as wrapped up in personal ambitions as it is a reflection of societal failures.