The Queen of the Valley

Written by Lorena Hughes
Review by Marina Maxwell

This rollicking tale set against the colorful background of Colombia has three principal narrators: a photographer, Lucas, and two nuns, Puri and Camila, one of whom is fake. They each have hidden links to cacao plantation owner Martin Sabater, who has mysteriously disappeared after a lavish fundraiser gala. When Martin’s hacienda is turned into a cholera hospital following a disastrous earthquake and ensuing epidemic, Puri is the most determined to find out what really happened to him.

Readers familiar with the author’s earlier title, The Spanish Daughter, will have an advantage in grasping the intertwined family history and back stories of the main individuals as the drama switches from the 1910s through to 1925. For others, it will take some time to get your head around the intricate family feuds and business deals, furtive disguises, thwarted love affairs, and secret babies. The elaborate plot also features some missing emeralds and other unexplained disappearances.

The writing style is quirky but exuberant and the imaginative or perilous situations this range of eccentric characters find themselves in all contribute to a most enjoyable, escapist melodrama.