First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.


During the overthrow of the Mexican government, Beatriz’s father was executed and her home destroyed. When handsome Don Rodolfo Solórzano proposes, Beatriz ignores the rumors surrounding his first wife’s sudden demise, choosing instead to seize the security that his estate in the countryside provides. She will have her own home again, no matter the cost.

But Hacienda San Isidro is not the sanctuary she imagined.

When Rodolfo returns to work in the capital, visions and voices invade Beatriz’s sleep. The weight of invisible eyes follows her every move. Rodolfo’s sister, Juana, scoffs at Beatriz’s fears—but why does she refuse to enter the house at night? Why does the cook burn copal incense at the edge of the kitchen and mark the doorway with strange symbols? What really happened to the first Doña Solórzano?

Beatriz only knows two things for certain: Something is wrong with the hacienda. And no one there will save her.

Desperate for help, she clings to the young priest, Padre Andrés, as an ally. No ordinary priest, Andrés will have to rely on his skills as a witch to fight off the malevolent presence haunting the hacienda and protect the woman for whom he feels a powerful, forbidden attraction. But even he might not be enough to battle the darkness.

Far from a refuge, San Isidro may be Beatriz’s doom.

That’s another work week in the books! Whew. Four weeks of 2023 are done. Time does fly fast. However, who else feels like January has stretched too long? Contrary to what I usually feel during the first month of the year, I feel like January 2023 is longer than usual. I guess I have been too busy in the past few weeks because of the year-end closing and statutory activities that I didn’t notice how slowly time moved. Thankfully, my busy phase is slowly coming to an end and I can now slack at least a bit. Anyway, I hope that this year will be a great one, a year that will be brimming with blessings, healing, good news, and good tidings for everyone. I hope everyone is doing well, in mind, body, and spirit. After chalking up another work week, I hope you get to enjoy the weekend. I hope that everyone is ending the week on a high note. If your week went otherwise, I hope you get to rest and recover. Let’s jump into the weekend!

But as always, before I can jump into the weekend, let me cap the work week with a new First Impression Friday update. This is already my fourth and when I share my fifth, we will already be in the second month of the year. The first weeks of January were spent catching up on books released in 2022 I have yet to read; this is quite reminiscent of how I started my 2022 reading journey. Thankfully, I have been able to make a dent in my 2022 reading backlog although I have quite a few more to read. Isabel Cañas’ The Hacienda is my seventh read this year. This makes thirteen of my last fourteen reads 2022 releases; the only digression from this streak was Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy. The Hacienda is also the fourth straight book written by a writer who was new to me. The only familiar writers I read this year were Barbara Kingsolver and John Irving.

If my memory serves me right, it was while searching for books to look forward to during the second quarter of 2022 that I firsts came across Isabel Cañas and The Hacienda. I would eventually learn that The Hacienda was the Mexican American writer’s debut novel. This makes it the second 2022 debut novel I read this year after Cleyvis Natera’s Neruda on the Park; Natera also has a Latin American heritage. The book and its atmosphere reminded me of two books: Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic. Yes, the book belongs to a genre that I am not particularly fond of: horror fiction. But hey, I am always willing to make a concession every now and then.

The novel was set in the years immediately following the conclusion of Mexico’s War of Independence. At the heart of the novel was Beatriz Hernández Valenzuela. Beatriz was the only daughter of an insurgent general and a criollo woman. The end of the war was turmoil. Beatriz’s father was executed and their home was destroyed. Like a night in shining armor (maybe?) came Don Rodolfo Solórzano who rescued a “damsel in distress”. Damsel in distress is in question though as Beatriz possessed a strong personality. By marrying into the Solórzano clan, Beatriz has ensured her future. However, this entailed that she had to trade the comforts of the city for the security of the Mexican countryside.

Beatriz’s new home was called San Isidro, the titular “hacienda”. It was a vast estate owned by the Solórzano family, handed down from father to son. What Beatriz saw once she arrived was not the grand place she was hoping for. Hacienda San Isidro was certainly not the Manderley that Rebecca’s Maxim de Winter gave his young bride. Beatriz also had to contend with the hacienda’s ambivalent servants and Rodolfo’s enigmatic sister, Juana. Nevertheless, Beatriz was willing to put in the work to transform the hacienda into a more presentable home. However, the house held more secrets that Juana and her brother were unwilling to share with the new member of their family. Once darkness envelopes the house, an eerie presence looms. Everyone, including Juana and the other servants, retreats from the house.

Yes, without a preamble, Cañas throws the reader immediately into the heart of the action. Beatriz’s backstory unfolded as the story moved forward – time was again a relative concept, with the story weaving in and out of timelines, not that it adversely impacted the flow of the story. To help exorcise the unnamed presence, the Catholic church’s help was enlisted. Entered Padre Andrés, a young priest who grew up in the area but, like most characters in the story, was enigmatic and shrouded by a veil of mystery. At this point, a confluence of the region’s folklore and the Catholic church started to form. It is one of the novel’s interesting facets.

A lot has happened and a lot is bound to happen. I can already see how the story will evolve. I mean, there were dead giveaways. I am still interested to see how Cañas will tie up the story’s loose ends. The return of Rodolfo from his trip to the capital is bound to heighten the tension surrounding the estate. I do expect that a long-buried secret and mystery will come to a head as the story approaches its climax. I am looking at completing the book today. I hope it lives up to the hype. How about you fellow reader? What book or books are you taking with you for the weekend? I hope you get to enjoy them. Again, happy holidays everyone!