This historical novel is set in the West Texas of the 1870s. Renaldo and his twin sister Candelaria, along with others from their large Mexican-American family, have moved their ranching operation from the San Antonio area. Renaldo is sent to apprentice with Henry, a post-Civil War freed slave. Their job is to find and tame wild horses. Both men are gay, but much time passes before they come together, in an era when it was not acceptable to be homosexual.
Renaldo and Henry finally reveal themselves to each other and fall in love. Their next challenge is to come out to Renaldo’s family, but they manage to do so successfully, for the most part.
This is a very moving novel, expertly written with much dialogue, and sage third-person commentary. The author’s character development is superb, especially regarding Renaldo and Henry, but also including Renaldo’s many relatives. She also offers fine and technically-accurate descriptions of the horses in their midst.
Bitter Springs is a wonderful depiction of a lost period of gay life and history in the rural West of the 1800s. It is highly recommended for historical fiction collections and for individuals interested in novels of that place and time.
James Doig Anderson
Professor Emeritus of Library and Information Science, Rutgers University