REVIEW: CHANEL CLEETON – WHEN WE LEFT CUBA

REVIEW: CHANEL CLEETON – WHEN WE LEFT CUBAWhen We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton
Also by this author: On Broken Wings, Next Year In Havana
Published by Berkley on April 9th 2019
Genres: Women's Fiction, Historical Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: Berkley, Netgalley
Buy on AmazonBuy on Audible
Length: 11 hrs and 7 mins
Goodreads

Beautiful. Daring. Deadly.

The Cuban Revolution took everything from sugar heiress Beatriz Perez--her family, her people, her country. Recruited by the CIA to infiltrate Fidel Castro's inner circle and pulled into the dangerous world of espionage, Beatriz is consumed by her quest for revenge and her desire to reclaim the life she lost.

As the Cold War swells like a hurricane over the shores of the Florida Strait, Beatriz is caught between the clash of Cuban American politics and the perils of a forbidden affair with a powerful man driven by ambitions of his own. When the ever-changing tides of history threaten everything she has fought for, she must make a choice between her past and future--but the wrong move could cost Beatriz everything--not just the island she loves, but also the man who has stolen her heart...

WHEN WE LEFT CUBA

by CHANEL CLEETON

NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA was one of my favorite books last year. The promise of Beatriz being a fantastic heroine was the proverbial dangling carrot and I was looking forward to reading her story.
Alas, WHEN WE LEFT CUBA didn’t work as well for me.

Not gonna lie, cheating isn’t something I’m comfortable with. It’s not necessarily a deal breaker if I can make sense of it. Nick and Beatriz meet at his engagement party and a while after that they start an affair. In my opinion it was unnecessary to give their relationship an illicit character. When Nick mentioned earlier affairs I had a bit of a rough time to summon understanding. So Beatriz was the last in a row of mistresses? At least that’s what it felt like at first. Nick totally made up for it.

“Will you dance with me, Beatriz Perez, kisser-of-revolutionaries and thief-of-hearts?”

But here is my next dilemma and it’s something that definitely brought my rating down. I always felt that their love was never balanced, that Nick loved Beatriz more than she loved him, that he made sacrifices for her but she always put her country first. Maybe an admirable feat for a young woman but I’m a romantic at heart and Nick loved her beyond reason – I just wished that she had made sacrifices too. Their fights in the last 20% of the book made her look like a defiant child who didn’t get what she wanted: for the US to abandon all other issues to help Cuba.

Finally – Nick was 37 when they first met. So by the time Fidel died he was 93 and Beatriz 78. Honestly, I wasn’t very thrilled with their reunion at that point. That is not to say that it wasn’t emotional and beautiful…it was, and my throat closed up with tears on the last chapter…but seriously, he was already with one foot out of the door…it just felt a little too bitter to be sweet. It wasn’t necessary to make him this old when they met.

One last niggle before I come to the good stuff: I loved the history in Next Year in Havana but this time there was a lot of excessive politics. Yes, the history was fascinating but the political events in that depth really slowed the first half down.

Now, I know this doesn’t sound super promising but what you get in this book is a strong-willed, independent, charismatic, ambitious heroine who does everything for the country she loves and to avenge her brother’s death.

“Why does everyone assume I want marriage? That if I’m not someone’s wife, I’m not worth anything.”
“It’s not about marriage. You shouldn’t be anyone’s second choice. Don’t you want to be someone’s first choice?”
“I don’t want to be anyone’s choice. I want them to be mine.”

She fights the constraints her family places on her, her mother’s constant nagging to find a suitable husband. She breaks with convention, however, she doesn’t need a husband to validate her and it’s what makes her stand out as a heroine. She’s a truly emancipated young woman. Beatriz loves Nick undeniably and although I felt that he loved her more I still felt that her love for him was one for the ages.

Nick turned out to be one of the typical Chanel Cleeton heroes: swoonworthy, sweet and completely devoted to Beatriz. His love had a desperation about it because he knew Beatriz loved her freedom above all else and who could blame her after what she and her family endured in Cuba?

“You asked me about the future I envision. What does your future look like?”
“You.”

I fell in love with Nick but this isn’t romance and I had to keep reminding me of that fact. The timing for their relationship was just always off and their divergent ambitions in the way.

WHEN WE LEFT CUBA has a little of everything: glamour of high society in the 60s, a little bit romance, a history lesson that takes you through major events of the 60s, an espionage plot and, if you will, some sort of happy ending. I felt connected to Beatriz and Nick and felt the Zeitgeist of the era. It didn’t leave me as satisfied as the first book but it still made for an intriguing read. If any of that sounds like something you enjoy, Chanel Cleeton is definitely a good choice.

About Chanel Cleeton

Chanel Cleeton is the USA Today bestselling author of Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick Next Year in Havana. 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.

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1 Comment

  • Love your honest review, my dear! I’ve been really curious about this one, although I’ve put it off (weird, I know…), because historical romance doesn’t always work for me. I’m also thinking that I might not like this one since the characters don’t end up together until they’re so old??? 😳

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