The Spanish Promise by Karen Swan: the plot is a rollercoaster, emotion-packed journey - book review -

The Spanish Promise
The Spanish Promise

As one of Spain’s richest men lies dying, his shocked family discovers that his entire estate has been earmarked for an unknown waitress working in a back street café in Madrid

As one of Spain’s richest men lies dying, his shocked family discovers that his entire estate has been earmarked for an unknown waitress working in a back street café in Madrid.

Welcome to an intriguing sunshine puzzler-cum-sizzler from former fashion journalist Karen Swan, the queen of beach reads who knows how to put romance, razzle-dazzle and a slice of real life into the long days of summer.

The Spanish Promise is a gripping, multi-layered page-turner full of history, mystery and heart-pounding passion as family dramas in the past and present unfold against the dark days of the Spanish Civil War and the rolling hills, scented orange groves and flowing rivers of sun-soaked Andalusia.

And it’s a tale to bask in as Swan blends renowned aspects of Andalusian history and folklore – its bullfighting pride and prowess, its spirit and passion, and the wounds inflicted during the bitter civil war – with a compelling story in the present starring a young wealth counsellor from London.

Carlos Mendoza, a Spanish multimillionaire who owns acres of land in the Andalusian countryside, is dying. But as preparations are made for his estate, his family is shocked to discover he is planning to give away his wealth to a young woman they have never even heard of. Who is she and what hold does she have over him?

Charlotte Fairfax, a wealth counsellor for the London bank which invests Mendoza’s £750million fortune, is asked to travel to the troubled family’s home in Spain to get to the bottom of the 98-year-old man’s mysterious ‘donation.’

It’s the week before her wedding to her ex-army fiancé Stephen but she is confident she has time because there’s usually only one reason an older man leaves his money to a woman and her job is to stall Mendoza’s plan before he dies.

But in Madrid, things don’t go to plan when the woman, 45-year-old waitress Marina Quincy, denies being Carlos Mendoza’s mistress or knowing anything about the gift. Charlotte is convinced that ‘something is not adding up’ and decides to investigate further.

Looking for clues, Charlotte digs into the history of the Mendoza family, who made their money out of bullfighting, and unearths a dark and shocking past in which two people were torn apart by the Spanish Civil War.

Now their long-buried secrets are starting to reach into the present and Charlotte – who knows in her heart of hearts that she is marrying Stephen for the wrong reasons – begins to wonder whether love does not need to forgive or forget in order to endure… but just two hearts to keep beating.

And as fragments from her own tragic past start ‘bubbling up like secrets sunken in a lake,’ it threatens to overturn everything in her life that she has worked so hard to build.

Swan’s novels always deliver so much more than just a regulation romantic escape, and The Spanish Promise is no exception. There is a hard edge to this beautifully created, time-slip story which weaves effortlessly between a heartbreaking love affair caught in the firing line of the Spanish conflict, and the mysteries which play out in contemporary Madrid.

As always, Swan’s plotting is a work of art as the two storylines – brimming with love and loss, secrets and betrayal, honour and tragedy – slowly unravel and converge into a bittersweet and emotional final act.

And in trademark style, the characters are beautifully portrayed, the plot is a rollercoaster, emotion-packed journey, and the stunning, sun-soaked landscapes of breathtaking Andalusia and cosmopolitan Madrid steal the show.

Summer reading at its best…

(Pan, paperback, £7.99)