The Double Cross ($13.95, 240 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-945-9), an historical romance by Carla Kelly, takes place at the end of the 18th Century, during the decline of the Spanish Empire in the New World. The story features a brand inspector who saves a lovely orphan from her cruel relatives and sets out to solve the mystery of her lost inheritance. The Double Cross is the first book of the all-new Spanish Brand Series.
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“[The Double Cross] packs a full story with plenty of frontier action and believable, sympathetic characters. I’m already looking forward to the next entry in the Spanish Brand series, but until then I will content myself with rereading The Double Cross.” Read more …
–Heather Stanton, All About Romance
“Each of these characters’ personalities are portrayed so endearingly that at the end of this unforgettable story of honor, love and redemption, we are sad to let them go, making us eager to see what is in store for the next installment of the series.” Read more ….
—The Historical Novel Society
“Kelly skillfully invites readers to share in this romantic adventure that is played out amidst scenes depicting the harsh landscapes and living conditions on the frontier–all punctuated with an assortment of unsavory characters pitted against the heroic.”
“The Double Cross contains clever chapter headings and endearing repartee. The characters, even the secondary ones, are real and lovable. Even through some darker themes, Kelly’s smart writing breaks through and the adventurous heart triumphs. The characters evolve and Kelly hints that the world of the Spanish Brand may be evolving as well.” Read more …
–Tara Creel, The Deseret News
“One of the things Ms. Kelly does best is show ordinary people living lives of extraordinary grace, and that’s a treat. I also enjoy how she shows widows and widowers finding love again, much as real people do. I look forward to more Spanish Brand stories in the future.” Read more ….
–Darlene Marshall’s Blog
“Engaging and highly entertaining, The Double Cross is Carla Kelly at her best. I can’t wait for the next book in what promises to be an amazing series.”
—Carla Neggers, New York Times bestselling author of Saint’s Gate
“Carla Kelly’s vivid storytelling plunges the reader into a tense, hypnotic tale of love and courage in The Double Cross. A dangerous land filled with memorable characters springs to life and stays with you long after the final paragraphs.”
—Diane Farr, bestselling author, Regency Romance and Young Adult fiction
Kelly’s twenty-nine novels have given her an impressive reputation with readers and reviewers. “Kelly has the rare ability to create realistic yet sympathetic characters that linger in the mind,” wrote Library Journal. “One of the most respected Regency writers.”
Kelly is the recipient of two RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America for Best Regency of the Year; two Spur Awards from Western Writers of America; a Whitney Award for Best Romance Fiction, 2011; and a Lifetime Achievement Award from Romantic Times.
Romantic Times, now RT Reviews, wrote, in one of its many reviews of Kelly’s romances, “It is always a joy to read a Carla Kelly love story. Always original, always superb, Ms. Kelly’s body of work is a timeless delight.”
“You remember exactly where you were for all of the important moments in your life. Your first kiss. Your first Dove Bar. And your first Carla Kelly book,” wrote The Romance Reader.
The year is 1780, and Marco Mondragón is a brand inspector in the royal Spanish colony of New Mexico. A widower and rancher, Marco lives on the edge of Comanchería, the domain of the fierce Comanche. Each autumn, he takes cattle and wool, and his district’s records of livestock transactions to the governor in Santa Fe. He is dedicated, conscientious and lonely. This year, he is looking for a little dog to keep his feet warm through cold winter nights. He finds a yellow dog but also meets a young, blue-eyed beauty named Paloma Vega. Paloma is under the thumb of relatives who might have stolen a brand belonging to Paloma’s parents, dead in a Comanche raid.
As a brand inspector, Marco has every right to be suspicious of brand thieves. If Marco has anything to do with it, Paloma’s fortunes are about to change. Meanwhile, Marco has other challenges to contend with. An elderly ranchero named Joaquin Muñoz has set in motion events that involve the ever-dangerous Comanches and threaten the uneasy peace of Marco’s jurisdiction.
Set against the mountains and high plains of northeastern New Mexico during the decline of Spanish power in the New World, The Double Cross is a story of loss and love regained, at a time when honor went hand in glove with bravery, and danger was never far away.
As for what inspired The Double Cross, Kelly says, “I’ve long been a whodunnit reader, but never quite found the perfect setting for a crime fiction series of my own. That is, until I came across a footnote description of a juez de campo (brand inspector) in an American Southwest textbook. In the Spanish empire, brand inspectors also solved petty crimes. I’m well-known for my romance fiction. Why not combine the two? And naturally, set the story on the edge of Comancheria, the most dangerous place in Spain’s vast Southwest empire.”
A well-known veteran of the romance writing field, Carla Kelly is the author of twenty-nine novels and four non-fiction works, as well as numerous short stories and articles for various publications. Carla’s interest in historical fiction is a byproduct of her lifelong interest in history. She has a BA in Latin American History from Brigham Young University and an MA in Indian Wars History from University of Louisiana-Monroe. Click here to find Carla online.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
Marco knew he had said the wrong thing when the light went out of Paloma Vega’s lovely blue eyes. The yellow dog must be her favorite. He had made a mistake. Even worse was the knowledge that he could not make it better. He glanced at her expressive eyes and saw the damage was done, so he avoided looking in them again, concentrating instead on the dog. It was eager as most pups, ever hopeful but unaware that a change was coming.
You will like me, too, he silently promised the dog, even if I disappoint your mistress.
“W-why did you name him Trece?” he stammered, wanting to erase that look of disappointment.
It disturbed him that Paloma Vega couldn’t look him in the eye, either. He knew his eyes were nothing spectacular, just brown like those of nearly everyone else he knew. He watched her, as she bowed her head over Trece, as if to smooth his puppy fur. When she raised her face to his again, her eyes glittered with unshed tears. When Felicia had done that, he’d been mush in her hands. But this was different. Paloma Vega was not Felicia and he wanted the dog.
“I named him Trece because he was the runt of the litter and his mama has only twelve teats, Señor,” she said. “When you are number thirteen, life can be hard.”
He could hardly bear to listen to her words. They were spoken so calmly, yet her eyes shone with her anguish. He realized this was a woman used to schooling her feelings. To show them must invite ridicule. His own brief glimpse of life in the Moreno household had already convinced him how necessary that skill must be to a powerless woman.
“You raised him by hand?”
“Sí, Señor, a little milk on a rag every few hours, then my finger, and then a small bowl.”
Despite her efforts, her struggle revealed itself in the way her teeth pulled in her lower lip—such lovely lips—and in her ragged breathing. He laid his hand on Trece, smoothing his fur, too. “And he follows you everywhere?”
Marco should never have asked that. Paloma Vega bowed her head over her dog and just nodded. He wasn’t sure how to redeem himself, but he wanted to try. O, Dios, how he wanted to try, but the words failed him, he who was accustomed to commanding.