A romantic and thrilling historical adventure from the internationally bestselling author whose work Diana Gabaldon has called "Enthralling".
Spain, 1748. Caridad is a recently freed Cuban slave wandering the streets of Seville. Her master is dead and she has nowhere to go. When, by chance, she meets Milagros Carmona—a spellbinding, rebellious gypsy—the two women become inseparable. Caridad is swept into an exotic fringe society full of romance and art, passion and dancing.
But their way of life changes instantly when gypsies are declared outlaws by royal mandate and their world as a free people becomes perilous. The community is split up—some are imprisoned, some forced into hiding, all fearing for their lives. After a dangerous separation, Caridad and Milagros are reunited and join in the gypsies’ struggle for sovereignty against the widespread oppression. It’s a treacherous battle that cannot, and will not, be easily won.
From the bustle of Seville to the theatres of Madrid, The Barefoot Queen is an unforgettable historical fresco filled with characters that live, suffer, and fight for the lives of those they love, and for the freedom they can’t live without.
Falcones follows The Cathedral of the Sea with a ponderous novel about two female friends, both strong and yet disenfranchised in 1748 Spain. Former slave Caridad lands penniless in Seville after her owner dies on the voyage from Cuba. Milagros Carmona is the beloved granddaughter of Melchor Vega, the gypsy who gives Caridad a temporary home that soon becomes permanent. Fearful Caridad bonds with Milagros and accustoms herself to gypsy life, finding work with the smuggled tobacco they sell, while Milagros struggles to accept the marriage her parents arrange. Milagros's fianc is killed after she urges him to take revenge on a payo, or nongypsy, who has victimized Caridad, and the clan punishes Milagros for causing his death. Then Spain's king outlaws gypsy culture, scattering the family and the community. After the decree is gradually lifted, Milagros's singing and dancing talents make her famous, but the man she loves proves to be a cruelly abusive husband. When Melchor vows vengeance against Milagros's abuser, both Melchor's life and Caridad's the deep love for him are put at risk. This story lacks the focus and momentum that made Falcones's last novel so successful. She powerfully evokes the time and place, but the narrative is overly broad and slow-moving.