For our first trip away alone after becoming parents, my husband and I drove to Key West (in a sports car!) What can I say, we were younger then, ha. If I close my eyes I can still see the stunning beauty as we traveled the Overseas Highway. I can transport myself back in time and smell the frangipani and taste the key lime pie. It wasn’t the fanciest vacation we’ve ever been on, but I remember every detail of that trip. We have hesitated to go back for fear it couldn’t possibly live up to our memories.
When I saw this book was set in Key West and also featured a disaster I was eager to dig in. The chapters alternate between three main female characters: Helen, Mirta, and Elizabeth.
Helen is a Key West native, poor and pregnant with an abusive husband, Mirta is Cuban and arrives for a honeymoon with her new husband from an arranged marriage, and the newly poor Elizabeth arrives from New York on a mysterious mission. Their stories appear to be unconnected but the author eventually brings them together in surprising (and some might say, unbelievable) ways.
I appreciated learning about the historic 1935 Category 5 hurricane, and the little-known history of the plan to connect the Keys via railroad using WWI vets for labor. The storm was a monster and the vets were treated deplorably. Unfortunately, the book lightly glossed over both of these events and I went to the internet to learn more. It was the romances of these 3 women that took center stage.
It’s not a bad book by any means, it just wasn’t for me. I expect to suspend some disbelief when reading but there’s a tipping point where my eyes start to roll.
Some readers will appreciate that it was light on history and realism, and heavy on fluff. Marialyce and I buddy read this together, anticipating a more complex story but were left disappointed.
Recommended for fans of historical romance. If you’re looking for an easy feel-good story with short chapters that propel the story along at a fast pace, this would be a great one to toss in the beach bag.
The Great Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 was so powerful that it sand-blasted clothing off of people who got caught in its vicious winds, destroyed nearly every structure in the Upper Keys and killed about 500 victims.
“People were picked up and thrown around like rag dolls,” said Brad Bertelli, curator of the Keys History & Discovery Center in Islamorada. “Bodies were blown all the way across Florida Bay to Cape Sable.”
Having read and really the first two books of Ms Cleeton, I was definitely looking forward to her new book. In her previous stories, she was able to mix a wonderful story line with just the right combination of the historical, making for me, a worthwhile and enticing read. When Jan and I decided on this book, I was anxious to dig in.
For the positives, the author did present us with some historical facts, the hurricane of 1935 bringing huge devastation to the area, plus the plight of the soldiers after World War 1 being reduced to living in disheveled camps with no one really caring, especially the government, about their predicament. Anything that sends me to the internet investigating something I never knew, is such an appealing concept. The story also had those short chapters which propelled the tale along making for a quick light read perfect for a day at the beach or backyard. The characters were presented well, the women seemed to be represented with their problems and issues, and the men, at least the good ones, were dashing, emotive, and provided support and a way out of the women’s dilemmas.
However, being an historical fiction fan, I was a tad disappointed in the fact that this became a bit of an improbable love story involving three women who all were escaping from bad men who then ran right into the arms of good men. It just seemed too pat, too “Cinderellaish”, too implausible for me. Having lived on the water for a good many years, I do know what a hurricane can do. I lived through Sandy’s devastation, so when the author describes a number of incidents that occurred during this particular hurricane, I found myself rolling my eyes a bit.
I do wish that Ms Cleeton had concentrated a bit more on the circumstances of the veterans, men who had been promised that in defending their nation, they would be treated with respect and the gratefulness of a nation they defended. Surely, we all have even seen this today, although truth be told veterans today are treated better and they’re more understood than in the 1930’s setting of this book. Realizing this was during the Depression, however, I certainly can understand the veterans being pushed aside as the nation dealt with its devastation of worldwide economic obstacles and havoc. I believe she missed a chance though, to educate her readers more on this fascinating yet extremely sad occurrence.
This was a pleasant book and certainly many will enjoy this tale. As always, expectation often can be the harbinger of how a book affects the reader. For Jan and I, we went in expecting more and found in this instance our expectations were not fully met. I do recommend this story to those who enjoy romantic stories with a smidgen of the historical thrown in on the side.
Thanks to Edelweiss for an advanced copy of this book due out on June 16, 2020.
and here’s the author:
Chanel Cleeton is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick Next Year in Havana and When We Left Cuba. Originally from Florida, Chanel grew up on stories of her family’s exodus from Cuba following the events of the Cuban Revolution. Her passion for politics and history continued during her years spent studying in England where she earned a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Richmond, The American International University in London and a master’s degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics & Political Science. Chanel also received her Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law. She loves to travel and has lived in the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.