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Irene Watson

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A Handful of Sand by Mary Louise McCaffrey: Book Review
By Irene Watson   
Not "rated" by the Author.
Last edited: Thursday, June 05, 2008
Posted: Thursday, June 05, 2008

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Romeo and Juliet step aside. Your tragic ending does not satisfy. Just ask Mary Louise McCaffrey, who has written her own story of star- crossed lovers, Miguel and Isabella. As if class difference between the lovers is not enough, their families are on opposite sides of the French invasion of Mexico that divides the nation, further frustrating the lovers' efforts to be together. The result is a historical romance of epic proportions, "A Handful of Sand."

A Handful of Sand: A Love Story Woven Into Violent Class Struggle During the French Invasion of Mexico

Mary Louise McCaffrey
iUniverse (2007)
ISBN 9780595393480
Reviewed by Cherie Fisher for Reader Views (2/08)

Before I read this book I knew that the Civil War in Mexico had happened but I did not know much about it.  “A Handful of Sand” is a beautifully-written historical romance.  After reading this book you will walk away with the knowledge of the caste system and oppression in Mexico and have read a really good romance. 

The two main characters in the story are Isabella Escalon, the beautiful daughter of Don Pedro Escalon and Miguel Torres, handsome son of a wealthy merchant.  The two meet right before Isabella’s Quinceanera (her 15th birthday and coming out for Mexico’s elite where she becomes eligible for marrying).  She invites Miguel to the party but his father convinces him that he will end up with a broken heart because her father will never let her be with a mestizo (part Indian).  Civil war breaks out during this time and Miguel and Isabella do not see each other for a long time as they both do their part for Mexico.  Miguel is a secret fighter for Juarista’s army, the army who fights to free Mexico from the conservative caste system.  And Isabella becomes the angel con cintas (angel with ribbons) who helps the Juarista’s escape the conservative forces that her father supports. 

In time Isabella and Miguel do see each other again and fall in love.  They see each other in secret for as long as they can before Mexico City falls to the French invaders and conservatives.  During this time they do not know that they each are supporting Juarista’s army but the truth comes out about Miguel when he is called North with his troops.  With Miguel gone, Isabella tries to live in her father’s world but still does what she can for Juarista’s men. 

The author does an excellent job intertwining the romance with the story about the Civil War.  The historical information was excellent and I walked away with a lot of knowledge about the French invasion of Mexico, and the heroic response by the true Mexican people.  I would highly recommend “A Handful of Sand” to anyone who enjoys a good romance and historical novels.

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