Once I started this book, I just wanted to be left in peace to finish it, and everything else—including preparing Sunday dinner—became an annoying distraction.
We have all heard of Simón Bolívar, a leader in the struggle to free Hispanic-America, but A Storm Hits Valparaiso introduces a host of other characters—some real, some fictional—that contributed to the liberation of South America from the Spanish.
There are many unsung heroes and heroines in any war of independence, and Gaughran introduces the reader to a few of them: The escaped slave Zé and freed slaves of South America seeking to consolidated their freedom; María de los Remedios, wife of San Martin, who encouraged the women of Argentina to raise funds, buy guns, and sew uniforms for the soldiers; Diego and Jorge, brothers who have lost all and become embroiled in the war; Pacha, a native enslaved in the mines of Peru by the Spanish, seeking to free his people and get home to his family; Madam Feliz, whose gambling house/brothel provided distraction from the ravages of war for the soldiers; Lord Captain Thomas Cochrane, the disgraced British naval officer and MP, seeking to clear his name and revive his fortune by enlisting as a mercenary; and of course José de San Martin, a deserter from the Spanish army who ends up commanding Argentine forces.
This is far more than a historical novel about war. It is an account of the lives and loves of a large cast of disparate characters and the circumstances that led them to be in that part of the world at the height of the struggle for independence. Gaughran’s deft touch seamlessly blends all the characters together into the heart of the story.
If I can single out one character, Catalina, sent by her father to stay with her pious spinster aunt in Santiago, to avoid the rising dangers at their tavern in Valparaiso. The headstrong Catalina escapes the boring old woman’s clutches. But as the war unfolds, tragedy leaves Catalina displaced, and desperately trying to forge a new life.
I loved this book and highly recommend it. I googled the characters and searched out the locations on google earth, and you’ll be doing the same. This is an interweaving of history and fiction at its best.