by Isabel Cañas
Mexican Gothic meets Rebecca in this debut supernatural suspense novel, set in the aftermath of the Mexican War of Independence, about a remote house, a sinister haunting, and the woman pulled into their clutches…
In the overthrow of the Mexican government, Beatriz’s father is executed and her home destroyed. When handsome Don Rodolfo Solórzano proposes, Beatriz ignores the rumors surrounding his first wife’s sudden demise, choosing instead to seize the security his estate in the countryside provides. She will have her own home again, no matter the cost.
But Hacienda San Isidro is not the sanctuary she imagined.
When Rodolfo returns to work in the capital, visions and voices invade Beatriz’s sleep. The weight of invisible eyes follows her every move. Rodolfo’s sister, Juana, scoffs at Beatriz’s fears—but why does she refuse to enter the house at night? Why does the cook burn copal incense at the edge of the kitchen and mark its doorway with strange symbols? What really happened to the first Doña Solórzano?
Beatriz only knows two things for certain: Something is wrong with the hacienda. And no one there will help her.
Desperate for help, she clings to the young priest, Padre Andrés, as an ally. No ordinary priest, Andrés will have to rely on his skills as a witch to fight off the malevolent presence haunting the hacienda and protect the woman for whom he feels a powerful, forbidden attraction. But even he might not be enough to battle the darkness.
Far from a refuge, San Isidro may be Beatriz’s doom.
I inhaled The Hacienda. Like, ignored my entire life to finish it in one sitting.
I’m not usually a fan of comparing one book to another, especially a classic or mega-bestseller because inevitably the new release doesn’t live up to expectations. Let me tell you, this book lives up to the Rebecca hype. The writing is lyrical without ever veering into purple prose territory, and it’s so atmospheric that from the very first page, I swear I felt the sweltering heat pressing down on me.
“I stood with my back to Hacienda San Isidro. Behind me, high white stucco walls rose like the bones of a long-dead beast jutting from dark, cracked earth.”
I don’t read much horror – because nightmares – but someone I follow on BookTok described this as “horror light” so I figured I’d give it a shot. I think they were right. While there are definitely some spooky elements and terrifying supernatural events in this, what really drives it is the mystery. I was less afraid of the monster and more wondering why it was a monster, how it came to be.
Beatriz knows something is off with the house almost as soon as she crosses over the threshold. She can feel it in her bones that something is deeply wrong within its walls, and she spends the rest of the book trying to a) survive it, and b) discover its dark secrets.
I loved the way the author wove in certain themes throughout this story, like the sexism, racism, and classism from the time/place (right after the Mexican War for Independence). Beatriz is at once a woman of the times, and also ahead of them, internally balking against the restrictions placed upon her because of her gender while smiling in the face of her oppressors like the gentlewoman she was raised to be.
There is also a romantic subplot with a priest who is more than what he seems, and since I just finished Priest by Sierra Simone, my mind went to all sorts of unholy places with this. Don’t worry, it was really well done – not too sacrilegious (unfortunately, lol).
So if you’re not typically a horror person (or especially if you are) add this to your TBR because it is one hell of a good story.
I cannot wait to see what Isabel Cañas comes up with next!