Hannah of Santiago: The Adventures of an English Woman in a Spanish Colony

Written by Esther Barbour
Review by Susan McDuffie

In 1626, Englishwoman Hannah Fisk accompanies her father to the New World, but the voyage ends tragically. Pirates attack their vessel, Hannah’s father is slain and Hannah nearly raped. Rescued in the nick of time by a Spanish vessel, Hannah meets two men, Sebastian Maldonado and Diego Sarmiento. Both desire Hannah, but Sebastian proposes marriage and Hannah eventually accompanies him to Santiago, the capital of the Guatemala colony. There she is accepted by his family and begins a new life as Sebastian’s wife. Eventually Diego Sarmiento becomes governor of the colony and continues to lust after Hannah, endangering her marriage and her family.

This is a sweeping novel, covering a great deal of territory. The author has carefully researched the era, the setting and period are unusual and interesting, and her love of the subject is clearly evident. The book includes reference material on the actual historical characters and locations featured in the novel. However the characters could use more development. Traumatic events occur, barely leaving a ripple; they don’t seem to affect the characters very deeply. The story is told too quickly and was not really felt by this reader; events seem glossed over. Although I enjoyed learning more about a country and an era I knew little about, I couldn’t help but feel that such a big canvas could have benefitted from a deeper, more complex layer of paint.