The heroine of The Spanish Smile, Lucinda de Cabrillo y Benvides, is the sheltered only daughter of the proud descendant of Spanish conquistadors, Don Enrique. Cloistered away in a gloomy castle, Lucinda is allowed no radio, television, newspapers or even any book written in the 20th Century. Her father pursues a deranged dream of restoring Spanish rule to California. All of the gothic machinery is in place in this story: the castle with its mysterious crypt guarded by deadly serpents, the young girl in distress and the charming young man who comes to her aid; and O'Dell's fluid style moves it along crisply.
Readers who are put off by a plethora of literary and historical references may get bogged down in a few spots. There are times also when credulity is stretched almost to the breaking point, even for a gothic. In spite of overwhelming evidence, it takes two thirds of the book for Lucinda to realize the depth of her father's madness and to begin to assert herself. Still, O'Dell has written a story that is several cuts above others in the genre.
David N. Pauli, in a review of "The Spanish Smile," in School Library Journal, Vol. 29, No. 2, October, 1982, p. 163.