Review: The Cuban Heiress by Chanel Cleeton

I had my eye on Chanel Cleeton’s novels for years. Some of the books I have read multiple times, her books are simply solid historical fiction and I love coming back to the unique stories and characters time and again! The books have followed the Perez family for the most part and while each book follows the family, I wouldn’t necessarily call it a series. Each book can be read independently, though some of the characters carry over into other books, for the most part they all stand alone.

My knowledge of Cuba is limited to put it mildly. The things I know about Cuba can be summed up on one hand: it’s in the Caribbean, Pitbull is Cubano, Fidel Castro, Cuban Missile Crisis, and they speak Spanish. After reading Cleeton’s books I have learned so much more about Cuba, the people, the politics, and the history! I love her books for this reason! I feel like I am reading something truly new! Her books aren’t historically heavy either. They have historical substance for sure, but it’s presented in a fun and easy to access kind of way.

Naturally when this book came up for review, I couldn’t pass it up. I knew I would enjoy it and it would contain fun new history, a romance, and a story that would hook me almost instantly. I was certainly not disappointed. If you are looking for a solid historical fiction novel this spring, do not pass this one up. If you haven’t read Cleeton’s books yet but are curious, pick any of them up they are all so good and this one has a special place in my heart as it was the first book I have read by her that didn’t directly follow the Perez sisters/family, which I thought might make me sad but it was thrilling all the same!


In 1934, a luxury cruise becomes a fight for survival as two women’s pasts collide on a round-trip voyage from New York to Havana in New York Times bestselling author Chanel Cleeton’s page-turning new novel inspired by the true story of the SS Morro Castle.

New York heiress Catherine Dohan seemingly has it all. There’s only one problem. It’s a lie. As soon as the Morro Castle leaves port, Catherine’s past returns with a vengeance and threatens her life. Joining forces with a charismatic jewel thief, Catherine must discover who wants her dead—and why.

Elena Palacio is a dead woman. Or so everyone thinks. After a devastating betrayal left her penniless and on the run, Elena’s journey on the Morro Castle is her last hope. Steeped in secrecy and a burning desire for revenge, her return to Havana is a chance to right the wrong that has been done to her—and her prey is on the ship.

As danger swirls aboard the Morro Castle and their fates intertwine, Elena and Catherine must risk everything to see justice served once and for all. (summary from Goodreads)


This book had a bit of everything—romance, history, murder, hidden identities. I was so excited to read this one based on the summary. I had so many questions, why is Elena faking her death, what betrayal, what revenge? And Catherine, who wants her dead? So right away just from the description I wanted to know all the things and couldn’t wait to dive in knowing how great a writer Cleeton is! The book starts off right away with some twists that will instantly hook readers into the story and want to know more. I love books about hidden identities and secrets and this book fully delivered on that! This book was solid on the character and plot front. I loved getting to know Elena and Catherine and I think readers will enjoy them as well.

The history in this book once again shines. Cleeton does such a great job of showing off her country in a way that is exciting and beautiful. Cuba was never a place that interested me historically. Its history seems rife with conflict and political issues that I don’t understand but under Cleeton’s pen, she does a great job explaining the complication political issues and presenting the history to readers that make it user friendly and interesting. After reading her books I always walk away knowing that I learned something new and I feel more ‘worldly’ in my reading. Her historical research is top shelf and I am never disappointed in that regard. While most of this book is set on the ship, there are plenty of Cuban history nuggets for readers to enjoy.

For me personally I was more invested in Elena’s story than Catherine’s, though other readers may feel differently. At times the male interested could have been a bit more developed. For me Raymond read as too predictable so I would have liked to have had something a bit more from his character. Generally Cleeton’s characters are all well drawn and developed but in the case of Raymond, I thought he could have been a little more developed. Overall thought she does a fantastic job creating likable characters and a very interesting story for readers to devour. I know I read it in a matter of days and can’t wait for another Cleeton novel! If you are looking for a summer read in a new place, then this is going to be the author for you!

Book Info and Rating

Format 336 pages, Paperback

Expected publication April 11, 2023 by Berkley

ISBN 9780593440483 (ISBN10: 059344048X)

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: 4.5 stars

Genre: historical fiction


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