Written by: Isabel Canas
Publisher: Berkley (Hard cover – BOTM version)
Other Information that writers and/or readers may find interesting:
Genre: Paranormal, Mystery
Point of View and Tense: The story has two characters POV. Both are first person and the whole book is in past tense.
Agent: Kari Sutherland
Reviewer’s Note: Sometimes I get quite specific (or nitpicky) when I review. I do this for a reason. As a writer myself, it helps me to know what pulls readers from a story. When a reviewer says something like, “the characters don’t ring true,” I don’t know what the problem is. When a reviewer says something like, “No waitress has time to sit down with every customer for twenty minutes during the dinner rush.” That explains why the character doesn’t ring true. Simply put, I’m just putting it out there so all authors can get an idea. I’m not doing it to be mean, and i realize I may be the only person with that thought. And that’s okay. That’s why we have so many genres and authors with varied writing styles. There is something for everyone.
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The Premise of The Hacienda
Beatriz’s father was killed during the overthrow of the Mexican government. Her family held a fairly prominent position in life up until her father’s death.
Now, Beatriz is angry that she’s looked down upon by her cousin and doesn’t have her upstanding caste. She longs to be successful and have prominence again. So, she marries for status instead of love.
However, something sinister is going on in the Hacienda San Isidro. And Beatriz is determined to find out what, and she may find out that actual love is better than status.
My Personal Opinions
The Safe, no spoiler, review of The Hacienda
This was an okay read. I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars. There were moments where the paranormal stuff was pretty creepy. And there were times, I just didn’t feel the creepy. I think the “meh” feelings began when it was the same thing repeated over and over. Basically, cold and struggling to walk. Stop telling me and show me. Trust the reader with the information you’ve given. We were told and shown how cold Beatriz was. Tell me once, then show me. I’ve got it, I promise.
Sadly, this book is a perfect case study in trying to weave too much description into the story. As in trying to make it too literary. When the same descriptors are used over and over, we become numb to them, even annoyed to them at times. I liked the first description where something “winked.” By the sixth? Seventh? “winked/winking” I was rolling my eyes. Ditto for the cold and how hard it was for Beatriz to walk. Ditto for the oft repeated, “Lock box of darkness in my chest.”
Isabel can write. I do love her writing. It just appears that she got carried away a few times. We all do.
Isabel gave me a curiosity about the war for Mexican Independence.
I love when a book teaches me something or at least gives me a desire to learn more about something. That is a hard thing to do. It’s a fine line to walk. Particularly if it’s political. Most books in an attempt to show a political preference slam the side they don’t like. No one learns anything. You’ve pissed off your reader, and you’ve shown that you couldn’t be bothered to learn something about the other side. To walk the line and get interest in something, that takes talent. This book isn’t highly divisive. So that’s good.
I like the main plot of The Hacienda. I like that we have a woman leaving the city and the life she’s known to go to a smaller village. Even though she’s doing it to reclaim her status, so she feels. But we have a mystery – what happened to Rodolfo’s first wife? We have paranormal issues – cold halls, doors shutting and locking, a dark pall choking the main house. Definitely another retelling of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.
I like the initial description of Hacienda San Isidro. But I would have liked more description about the village and the land. We got a smidge of the people.
I didn’t really care for the characters. First of all, Rodolfo is such a small bit in the novel, I couldn’t decide if I liked him or not. Later we learn about something wretched he did, but it’s all secondhand information and not dealt with face-to-face. Which kept me from really knowing why this character was all bad.
As for Beatriz and Andres, they come from two vastly different backgrounds. As such, their viewpoints should clearly give away who is speaking. But the characters tones are so similar that the difference isn’t there.
The story was okay. It wasn’t bad, yet it didn’t leave me devouring it. It felt like it took longer to read than it should have. I wasn’t excited to grab the book, I only grabbed the book so I could get done with it and move on to something else.
I love ghostly hauntings and I love a different setting, this book gave me both. I’m not sure if my “eh” attitude is due to me creating some hype for myself on this book. So maybe I created something in my mind that the book couldn’t reach.
If you like paranormal, culturally different settings, then read this book. Like both of those, but this book was just okay.
I will definitely be keeping my eyes open for more of Isobel Canas’ writing. This story just wasn’t what I was expecting, or wanting, I guess.
ONE MORE THING
I love Isobel’s author’s note at the end of the book. She did say “…is not intended to be a source for the study of this period in Mexican history.” She makes that clear, but she did leave me with a great desire to learn more and I loved her insights.
AND, truly one of the most enthusiastic acknowledgements sections I’ve read. Her gratefulness burns bright. Reading that section left me very happy. I love when we can see the gratefulness and the genuine happiness of an author.
I can’t think of any books to recommend that might compare to this one, well, outside of Rebecca.