This book has been everywhere since it first came out in 2018, but it wasn’t a book that I was dying to read. The time period and setting really isn’t my cup of tea so while it was being met with rave reviews, I wasn’t jumping at the change to read it.
Then last year I read the book about the sister, WHEN WE LEFT CUBA, and loved it. I picked up that book on a whim and because everyone kept saying that I simply had to read these books so I read WHEN WE LEFT CUBA.
After that I was eager to go back and read this book once I realized how much I loved Cleeton’s storytelling style. But of course other books got in the way and my TBR grew. In April this book came up on my Audible list as a BOGO so I broke down and downloaded it.
After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity–and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution…
Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba’s high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country’s growing political unrest–until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary…
Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa’s last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.
Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba’s tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she’ll need the lessons of her grandmother’s past to help her understand the true meaning of courage. (summary from Goodreads)
As I mentioned, Cuba and Cuban politics are something I have next to no knowledge of. In fact I can count on one hand everything I know about Cuba and its politics: there was a Cuban missile crisis in the 1960s, Fidel Castro was dictator there until her died in 2016, It’s only recently been open to American tourists but you can’t get a direct flight there I don’t think. Besides those meager political bits and the fact that Cuba is in the Caribbean and Pitbull claims Cuban heritage, that’s about all I know. So when I picked up this book it instantly felt full of flavor and new-ness.
There is a significant amount of Cuban politics in this book but the author does a good job orientating reads with this new and probably very untapped historical narrative. In my opinion, she is taking into account that most readers are like me and know basically nothing. She spells out the difficulties the people of Cuba faced with each regime (Bautista and Castro), she also points out Cuban economics and the social struggles of the people so it was very comprehensive to say the least. Part of me was worried that this book would become clunky due to the amount of revolutionary history and politics, but she did a great job balancing the story with the history.
I recall this same style in her other book that I read, WHEN WE LEFT CUBA. I think I would like to go back and read that one again now that I have read this one first. While WHEN WE LEFT CUBA could be read as a stand alone, I feel like I understand it better after reading this one.
The story that stole the show in this book though was the romance both for Marisol and Elisa. Personally I was more invested in Marisol’s romance than Elisa’s but both were ripe with sexual tension and chemistry. I enjoyed reading about their heartaches and the moment when each woman knew they were in love with their men. It was well done and the perfect amount of tension for both romances. Though I will say that I wish that Marisol and Luis’s story was a little more flushed out in the end but it was fine where is ended in this one.
Because this book focused on a relatively untapped historical period and setting, it felt so fresh and new to me and I devoured it. If you are looking for a unique story full of love and history that you might not have read before, then you need to pick this one up. I can’t wait for Cleeton’s next book to come out in June, I hope to re-read WHEN WE LEFT CUBA before that just so I can get a new perspective now that I have read the first Perez sister book!