The Barefoot Queen is the story of Caridad and Milagros, two different woman who meet by chance and tragedy in 1979 in Seville, Spain. Caridad is a freed African slave who is sent to Spain as a free woman. However, due to a lifetime of enslavement, she is clueless and alone is preyed upon by the wicked who roam the street of Seville.
Milagros Carmona Vega grew up with her proud Gypsy family ( I don’t mean that in a derogatory way that is how they are referred to in the book)who believe in family before dishonor or something like that. Seriously do not mess with these people they will cut you. Literally. Milagros ended, or better yet prolonged a life long feud between her family and their life long enemies, the Garcias. Their feud has lasted generations, and eventually it starts again. This time at the expense of innocents.
Spain in the 1700’s is a bad time to be a gypsy, a former African slave, and a woman. Caridad and Milagros learn this the hard way. This is a tough book to read for anyone especially if you’re a woman. There is so much violence, and much it aimed at women. Perhaps that’s accurate and reflective of the time, but it’s still difficult to stomach. I had to set the book aside. Several times.
On to the historical aspect of it, I will say that’s it’s really well researched. There is so much information regarding the laws and regulations and events of the time that the author tends to fill the novel with pages and pages of it. Being a history buff, I appreciated all the info, however, much of it was written in dry text book fashion that just made the book drag. I have a short attention, so I need this kind of information to be as short and simple as possible so that I can learn something, and then continue with the story. Does that make sense? Anyways, I would have enjoyed it more had it been integrated seamlessly into the story.
As for the characters, God did I ever want to give these people some much needed hugs. Their stories could rival a Shakespearean tragedy.
Caridad comes to Spain on the heels of one traumatic event, only to find her self worse off than she started.
Melchor thinks he’s finally found freedom and peace, only to be psyched out of it.
Milagros gets everything she ever wants, but finds that everything she ever wanted was one nasty lie.
And the list goes on and on…
The ending is bitter sweet, and it makes up a bit for all of the darkness I had to put up with while reading this one. Note that it isn’t a hearts and flowers skipping off into the sunset ending, but the author gives us a statisfyung ending, and he leaves the characters in a good place.
Overall, despite the heaviness of the story I did like it, but I felt it could have been condensed some. If you love Spanish historical fiction than you’ll really like this one.
I received a copy of this book from Crown Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.