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HFC Editorial Review of "Agustina of Aragon" by Gail Meath

Updated: Jan 14


Review

“Her reputation quickly spread across Europe and I have now seen for myself the bravery and skill that she possesses when leading her own band of guerillas into battle. I am anxious to meet her.”


Barcelona, Spain, 1803. Agustina Sargossa is not looking for a husband as she sneaks around watching the soldiers at the military compound. With her fiery, stubborn temper and her devotion to Spain, she thinks more about learning of the possible war between France and Britain; plus, she thinks very little of the arrogant soldiers who watch her as she walks barefoot through the streets.

Yet, one officer, Sergeant Juan Roca, a man with his own secret past and heartbreaks, is overcome by Agustina’s beauty and spirit. Again and again, he tries to win her affection, but she is determined not to follow the traditions of a well-bred young woman, to the dismay of her father, the local bladesmith, and her very traditional mother. The war is on between Britain and France, and Napoleon Bonaparte sets his sights on Spain to expand his empire. But the invasion is not “in the bag” as he expects, especially when Roca and Agustina join the fight as resisters, determined to bring freedom to Spain.


Yes, you will definitely want to meet this strong, resilient woman!! Agustina is smart, fiery, and set on breaking the boundaries of the traditions in early 19th-century Barcelona. But what you don’t expect is for her to not only break the glass ceiling, but to also find the love of her life in the process. I adore stories about Barcelona, and this one did not disappoint.

Agustina’s attention is drawn to the military drills and happenings in the nearby barracks, and her seeming wildness (with her running barefoot most days) is in stark contrast to her traditional sister, Elena, whose every thought is of marriage and children.


An unexpected encounter with a handsome stranger in the marketplace changes Agustina’s destiny, as well as the sudden knowledge that someone she knows is collaborating with the French soldiers who are making a daily appearance in Barcelona. At first, this stranger, Sergeant Juan Roca, irritates her, and his insistent gifts and attention pushes her away; but with the information of a possible spy for Napoleon, and Roca’s own interest in supporting Spain against a possible invasion from France, the two bind together to bring down any threat. In the meantime, they fall deeply in love.


And this is not just a fiery romance you think of when two people dance the Paso Doble, this is a deep and abiding love that stretches into the depths of Barcelona’s soul. Both Roca and Remi (Agustina’s pet name) extend their love for Spain and are determined to fight for her freedom.

And Napoleon advances, overtaking city after city in Spain, and his soldiers advance on the city of Zaragoza.


Agustina, now married to Roca, is left behind with their little boy while he joins the regiment in the attack – but Agustina, terrified of losing him, rushes to the wall to find him. When she sees him injured, she takes up the torch and lights the cannons which blast against the French. Her first taste of battle... and her efforts found incredible success. Her bravery was well rewarded... and is an episode in history I did not know and was incredibly pleased to read such a well-told story of her life.


“Your bravery has spread far and wide in our country, my love. Civilians are calling you the “Spanish Joan of Arc” while our troops and the guerillas have nicknamed you, “the Artillera”, our fierce Spanish weapon.”


The entire book was an easy read with just enough detail, intrigue, and depth to pull you into Agustina’s story. But be prepared for immeasurable grief, which the author portrays with skill and from the heart. (No spoilers)


In a word, this book is captivating and immersive about the bravery of this young woman in Spanish history, and I was astounded to learn of her incredible advancement in the military ranks and honors awarded by the King, himself, especially at a time and era when such things were unheard of for a young woman. She epitomizes a strong, bold, and courageous woman far beyond her era. Full of fight and deep, abiding love for her family, her husband, her children, and her country.


I even loved the introduction of the book which started with a mother telling her daugher about the old woman who wanders barefooted through the Portillo... a story her daughter has never heard... and a story, which in the end, bolsters the girl’s belief in love and courage. We all need books like this, a beautiful story of enduring love and sacrifice.



*****

This book is awarded five stars by The Historical Fiction Company

and the “Highly Recommended “ Award.



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