"I'm not saying no to you.."
"More like to the sane voice in my head telling me there are a hundred reasons why this is a terrible idea, and only one that makes it right."
I don't read much in the way of standard romance or 'love stories,' so when I came across this title and it happened to center around a culture that is near and dear to my heart, I decided to give it a shot. I try not to limit myself by avoiding any particular genre, but admittedly this is just one that doesn't get my attention easily.
'Island Affair' by Priscilla Oliveras is a very modern tale about a social media influencer named Sara who has had her share of difficulties. Recovering from an eating disorder as her career is starting to really take off, she heads down to Key West for a family vacation following a health scare with one of her parents.
Things with her siblings are complicated at best. They're already hugely successful, having followed in their parents footsteps, which makes her a bit of an outcast. Not only did she not go into the family business, she's also the only one without a settled life and family. She spends a lot of time on the outside looking in.
When her boyfriend tells her he isn't coming, she feels like she's going to be the disappointment again..
Lucky for her, she manages to score a last minute stand-in. A sexy firefighter named Luis Navarro overhears her argument with her boyfriend and asks if he can help. Unfortunately for him.. helping comes by the way of a pretend relationship.
"The sane part of him that had been thinking maybe she'd reevaluate her offer over lunch and together they'd come up with a Plan B shriveled up like the potted plant his mami had saved off his back porch last week. He'd been ready to toss the plant in the trash, but his mom balked. Something about it needing water, food, and conversation. Silly him, he thought he'd bought a fern, not a metaphor for a date."
Luis is absolutely the best character in the book. I love him. I adore him. He deserves everything. He's warm and funny, conflicted and intense. All the things that can make a character irresistible to me.
Coming from a big Cuban family, Luis is a local. Like Sara's family, there's a family business.. but in his case, that's firefighting. Also like Sara's family, there's a deep divide. A fissure born between Luis and his youngest brother that he won't discuss and completely refuses to mend.
He's a mostly soft-spoken, strong, steady guy. Despite the painful betrayal he keeps locked away, he's got a serious savior complex. Even the locals call him Saint Navarro.
Wow.. is he lovely though. He's patient and kind. He doesn't push sensitive topics. Mostly he just let's people get to where they need to be on their own pace.. with a little help along the way. Oh.. he might nudge.. but he doesn't push.
"I don't know how the three of us manage to fit in your truck.."
"You, me, and your ego."
"I'll be here all week. Maybe you can catch my show."
"Ha, I'm in your show, sweetheart. All the...What did you call me? Oh yeah, all the hunky parts."
Looking back.. I did like Sara most of the time, despite the character being a bit of a Barbie wrapped in a cliche. She's inherently a good person at least.. and she's fallible. She's also willing to own her mistakes, which you've got to respect.
It was enjoyable watching them try to navigate the untruths while also trying to avoid people who knew him in the area.. because that was impossible.. and left them quite the balancing act.
What I loved about the story though was that regardless of the imperfections in them.. they seemed really good for each other. Both Luis and Sara grew and benefitted from the other's presence.. and even with the lies they were telling.. their good intentions were so genuine.
If you're looking for a light romantic story with a good sense of humor, you'll enjoy this book. There are a couple of tear-jerking moments, but that just gave the story broader depth.