In recent years, Cinco de Mayo has become a popular holiday, rivaling St. Patrick's Day for drunken revelry. But it wasn't always an international holiday. It started in the Mexican state of Puebla and Mexican-American communities in the US to celebrate the victory of Mexican forces over the invading French army May 5, 1862. A triumph of New World democracy over Old World tyranny.
For Cinco de Mayo, I want to share one of my favorite Western romances, written by my friend Dee Ann Palmer, even though it predates Cinco de Mayo by about 30 years. The book takes place in the rancho period before California became a state and I think the author does a great job of re-creating the culture and lifestyle of the rancheros and their families, as well as the dangers from a harsh climate and roving bands of the native Americans displaced by the Europeans.
Where Eagles Cry is not just a Western, though. I like to think of it as California Gothic: Jane Eyre meets Zorro.
By Dee Ann Palmer
Western Historical Romance
Jilted by love in 1834, Cara Lindsay sails from Boston to Mexico’s rugged California to begin a new life with a favorite aunt. Heartbroken to learn her aunt has died, she takes a companionship position to the wife of Don Miguel Navarro, the tough and irresistible owner of a major inland rancho.
Prior to her arrival, Miguel’s wife had suffered a permanent brain injury in a suspicious fall, and the lonely ranchero’s heart opens to Cara’s kindness and beauty like parched earth to rain. Yet love may break Cara’s heart again, for she would never be any man’s mistress. Until ships sail for Boston months away, she’s trapped in the midst of danger and an impossible love.
When the bells ring and the eagle cries, will she be the next to die?
A fire flamed orange in the grate on the far side of the room. Don Miguel Navarro, her new employer, stood near it, the light dancing off the dark surface of one boot as it rested on the hearth. He gazed into the fire, his thoughts apparently elsewhere for he was not aware of her presence.
Cara stood quietly just inside the door, studying this man who looked every inch the noble in black velvet breeches and a close fitting jacket that ended at the waist. The tails of the wide, scarlet sash he wore lay on his lifted thigh, and there was a sensuality about him she could not deny. It drew her in, tugged at her, interested her. He was younger than she'd expected, tall and broad shouldered. The flickering firelight below locked his finely chiseled profile in mystery, and his lashes cast a shadow on the sculptured cheek nearest her.
She drew closer, speaking in the soft Spanish of the gentry, just as Papa had taught her. "Excuse me, señor. Your aunt said you wanted to see me."
Withdrawing his foot from the hearth, he straightened, turning with a fluid grace of movement that stopped her breath in her throat and made her heart race. But then her hand flew to her mouth to hide the tiny gasp that escaped her, for the face she had just seen in profile, and which now she saw fully, was the face of the man on the roan. She stood with her mouth open, seeing in her mind's eye the wide hand raised once more, feeling the sharp slap of a glove across the other vaquero’s face. She completely forgot her intention of keeping her eyes decorously lowered.
In those brief moments of shock, his dark gaze bored into hers, and she wondered if he could read her thoughts and knew the distaste she'd felt at his action that day.
Yet Cara could not look away. His eyes held her, pulling her into their depths, their darkness, and the attraction she had felt when she first saw him on the roan flooded her now. Now, she realized with shock that if he motioned with just one finger to come to him, she would go into his arms.
The worst of it was she sensed he would welcome her there.
Horrified at her feelings, she closed her mouth and pushed the thoughts away. She was behaving like a school girl besotted by a man she did not even know.
"Welcome to Rancho Navarro, Señorita Lindsay. Our house is your house." He inclined his head slightly in recognition.
His voice matched his body, unintentionally yet unaccountably sensual, and the Spanish invitation of welcome was sincere. He motioned to her now, but it was an invitation to be seated, and she moved forward as if drawn by him. It was as if his hand had touched hers, searing it with sensations she had never known before. Not even with Baird, who was once her fiancé.
She could not sit. Instead, she stood behind the chair and gripped its back for courage.
He turned again to the fire and spoke. "You have met my...wife?"
The spell broke.
Available at Amazon, BN/Nook and Smashwords.
Add to your To Read shelf at Goodreads.
What will you be doing for Cinco de Mayo? It's a pretty big deal here in So. California, but me? I'll be watching my favorite competition show, The Voice on NBC, una cerveza in hand. The exciting life of an author...