Last Train from
Cuernavaca by Lucia St. Clair Robson
(Forge, $25.99, PG-13)† ISBN 978-0765313355
*****
Last Train from Cuernavaca is a wonderful, rich historical novel with threads of romance running throughout.† Set in 1913, at the time of the Mexican Revolution, this story follows two strong but very different women: English-born Grace Knight and young Angela Sanchez.† As their paths converge in their attempts to help the people they love, they will fight against the roles of society as well as the men who try to dictate their lives.†Robsonís careful historical research brings their struggle to life.

Itís Christmastime, 1913, and the Colonial in Cuernavaca is the place to celebrate.† Proprietess Grace Knight welcomes wealthy hacienda owners, Army officers, and tourists to her elegant old hotel on the plaza, where they can dance the night away in the ballroom.†Trouble is brewing, however.† Just a short distance away, federal soldiers arrive at the hacienda of Don Miguel Sanchez, searching for supporters of rebel leader Emiliano Zapata.† In the massacre that follows, sixteen-year-old Angela Sanchez loses her family and her home.† Vowing vengeance, she gathers up the remaining workers and what weapons she can find, disguises herself as Lieutenant Angel, and rides off to join Zapataís rebels.

Cuernavaca, the wealthy watering hole for privileged Mexicans and tourists, is also the place where local farmers and tradesmen come to sell their wares in the market.† These poverty-stricken people, with their great love for and ties to the land, are the ones Grace and Angela try to protect when Cuernavaca becomes a battleground between Zapata and his rebels, and the ruthless General Rubio and his army.† The novel follows their struggle to bring peace and prosperity back to the lands of Cuernavaca.

Grace eventually leaves Cuernavaca in the company of Angel.† Graceís lover, Rico, risks his own life to pursue her along her labyrinthine trail.† Angelís childhood sweetheart, Antonio, is a fellow rebel, giving them opportunities to stage a romance of their own.

The plot is complex, and the characters of Grace and Angela are based on two real-life women of the time.† Robsonís meticulous details bring the story to life and immerse the reader in the Mexican countryside.† The romance, while not the main thread, is strong enough to satisfy readers who enjoy historical romance.

Robson is a highly gifted storyteller, and above all, the adventures of Grace and Angela will engross readers.† Not all of the story is pretty, and the author doesnít shy away from the harsh realities of a bloody revolution and people fleeing for their lives.† It lends power to the telling.† Iím betting this is one book readers wonít be able to put down.

Robson, a former librarian, has turned her pen to various interesting time periods and historical events, from the Japan-set The Tokkaido Road to the Comanche kidnapping of Cynthia Ann Parker, mother of Quanah Parker, in Ride the Wind. Last Train from Cuernavaca is certainly a jewel in her crown.† This one is highly recommended.†

--Cathy Sova


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