Review: The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton

Chanel Cleeton was an author who was on my radar from the release of her very first book. At first I wasn’t really that interested in the time period or Cuban history—but all the reviews of her first book, Next Year in Havana, were overwhelmingly positive and I wanted to check it out.

But many other books came before I finally picked it up and even then it was only recently.

I read When We Left Cuba last year and loved it and when I heard that Cleeton was coming out with a new book this year, I finally read Next Year in Havana and re-read When We Left Cuba so that I could be ready for this one!


Everyone journeys to Key West searching for something. For the tourists traveling on Henry Flagler’s legendary Overseas Railroad, Labor Day weekend is an opportunity to forget the economic depression gripping the nation. But one person’s paradise can be another’s prison, and Key West-native Helen Berner yearns to escape.

The Cuban Revolution of 1933 left Mirta Perez’s family in a precarious position. After an arranged wedding in Havana, Mirta arrives in the Keys on her honeymoon. While she can’t deny the growing attraction to the stranger she’s married, her new husband’s illicit business interests may threaten not only her relationship, but her life.

Elizabeth Preston’s trip from New York to Key West is a chance to save her once-wealthy family from their troubles as a result of the Wall Street crash. Her quest takes her to the camps occupied by veterans of the Great War and pairs her with an unlikely ally on a treacherous hunt of his own.

Over the course of the holiday weekend, the women’s paths cross unexpectedly, and the danger swirling around them is matched only by the terrifying force of the deadly storm threatening the Keys. (summary from Goodreads)


When I saw that this book wasn’t going to follow the other Perez sisters, I was a little disappointed but then again, I was happy to see that it does follow the Perez family, just in a new way and during a new time. But by the time I re-read When We Left Cuba, I was kind of ready to explore a new period in Cuban history. This was one of my most highly anticipated books of the summer and I have to say, I was NOT disappointed at all! It was a fantastic story!

One of the things that I have come to love about Cleeton’s books are her vivid descriptions. I instantly feel transported to Cuba, like I’ve stepped into a whole new place and time. She truly has a gift for creating special places that stand out and will remain memorable for readers. I also love how she picks new and interesting events in history. I especially loved the hurricane piece in this book because I love extreme weather and found the way the hurricane wove into the plot was great and unique. The historical fiction market isn’t exactly teeming with Cuban history which in addition really make Cleeton’s books stand out.

As always, Cleeton has crafted a believable romance that I felt fully invested in. I wasn’t exactly sure about Mirta and Anthony at first but was swooning by the end! I love how well Cleeton does romance, this book is balanced perfectly with history and romance and I couldn’t have been happier with it. All of Cleeton’s books can be read as standalones and aren’t officially part of a series so if you haven’t read anything by this author before, just know that you don’t need to read any of the other books to enjoy this one.

As I mentioned this was my most anticipated book of the year and it absolutely met all my expectations. I adored it and can’t wait to see what Cleeton comes up with next. If you are on the fence about this one, don’t be. It’s wonderful and I would gladly give it all the stars!

Book Info and Rating

Paperback, 320 pages
Expected publication: June 16th 2020 by Berkley Books
ISBN 0451490886 (ISBN13: 9780451490889)
Free review copy provided by publisher, Berkley Books, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: historical fiction, romance


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