Written by Ana Veciana-Suarez
Review by Marcy McNally

15th-16th century Spain. Dolça Llull Prat, the young, artistic daughter of a Barcelona aristocrat, lives a carefree life of luxury until she falls madly in love with Miguel Cervantes, a struggling writer of modest means who seeks literary glory and fame. Although Cervantes repeatedly woos Dolça, she refuses to commit fully to him, fearing the loss of her family’s prestigious social position, opulent lifestyle, and the chance to pursue her painting. However, neither will end the passionate liaison, creating a scandalous, decades-long affair fraught with unforeseen consequences.

After a lengthy absence, when Dolça learns that her beloved Miguel is dying, she must confess to him a secret she has concealed for years. She flees her wealthy home, dons the guise of a peasant woman, and journeys across the Spanish countryside, hopeful, at last, to reunite with her paramour, tell him the truth, and be free from guilt, shame, and obsession.

As told through the eyes of Dolça, the masterfully re-imagined heroine patterned after Dulcinea in the classic Don Quixote, this enchanting tale of Cervantes’s bold and unconventional muse provides an ingenious, captivating, and often surprising account of love, adventure, and redemption. Deftly incorporating poetic, detailed descriptions and lyrical dialogue, Veciana-Suarez vividly portrays Spain’s history, land, customs, and people during the dangerous times of the Spanish Inquisition. The clever dual timeline skillfully reveals Dolça’s emerging maturity as she reflects upon the dramatic impact of her choices. Chapter by well-paced chapter, the story switches from Dolça’s life in Barcelona to her later, harrowing trek to locate Cervantes as she defies tradition and follows her heart, regardless of risks or regrets. An entertaining, mesmerizing coming-of-age story.