Daughter of Fortune

Written by Carla Kelly
Review by Nanette Donohue

After the death of her parents, Maria Espinosa flees Mexico City with a supply caravan headed for the Spanish colony of late 17th-century New Mexico, where her sister lives. Travel with the caravan is brutal, especially for a young woman raised in luxury. The group is close to Santa Fe when an Apache raid kills all of the travelers – except for Maria, who witnesses the brutal attack. She is found by Diego Masferrer, a local rancher, who escorts her to Santa Fe and takes Maria in when her sister rejects her. Maria soon becomes part of the Masferrer family, and Diego’s half-brother, Cristobal, falls in love with her. As tensions with the native Pueblo and Apache escalate, trouble is on the horizon for the Spanish settlers.

Maria’s ability to survive – and even thrive – among the most difficult of circumstances is impressive. She not only saves herself, but she bravely and selflessly saves those she cares about. As Diego opens his eyes to love, she is the only woman that he sees, and he learns that there is more to life than property. This isn’t a novel for the faint of heart. Kelly describes (in excruciating detail) the cruelties that people inflict on one another, and there are times when it’s overwhelmingly brutal. Though Kelly is best known for her Regency romances, this debut, originally published in 1985, is a good addition to fans’ collections.