Next Year in Havana was a delight of a read, and I was thrilled to see that Chanel Cleeton let another Perez sister tell her story. When We Left Cuba (Berkley 2019) follows Beatriz Perez, the sugar heiress turned exile turned spy. Beatriz’s role in the Cuban Revolution was touched on in Next Year in Havana and some of the rumors of her life also made the pages, but she deserved to have her own story.
Beautiful Beatriz is wild, passionate, and motivated by a love of Cuba and a desire to seek vengeance for her brother’s murder. Much to her mother’s despair, she refuses to accept any of the proposals that come her way; she doesn’t want to settle down – she wants to go home. Through a friend of her brother’s, she makes a contact with the CIA and offers her assistance as an asset; if she kills Castro, her brother’s murder will be avenged and the Perez family can return to her beloved island.
She’s beautiful and bold. Dedicated and deadly. Things become a bit complicated when she finds herself in love with an engaged man, a senator with presidential aspirations. Politics and passion fumble in the sheets as they both realize they cannot be what the other deserves, what the other needs. Beatriz will continue to fight for Cuba, putting her life on the line time and time again. Her beloved senator wants the beautiful socialite, not a deadly spy, and she cannot fit into the mold he’s carved out for his future – and they both know it.
I’ve said before that my sweet spot for historical fiction is a novel that doesn’t have its heart squeezed out by a heavy-handed romance plot, and while there is plenty of romance and passion in this novel, Cleeton doesn’t let it suck the life out of it – like Beatriz, she understands that sometimes love has to take a backseat.
It’s a delicious novel with a dangerous and delightful heroine.
Read this book.