- Author: Priscilla Oliveras
- Genre: Romance
- Publication Date: April 28, 2020
- Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corp
- Series: Keys to Love #1
CONTENT WARNING: mention of cancer, trauma, mention of eating disorder, mention of death
Sought-after social media influencer Sara Vance, in recovery from an eating disorder, is coming into her own, with a potential career expansion on the horizon. Despite the good news, her successful siblings (and their perfect spouses) have a way of making her feel like the old one out. So, when her unreliable boyfriend is a no-show for a Florida family vacation, Sara recruits Luis Navarro — a firefighter paramedic and dive captain willing to play the part of her smitten fiancé…
Luis’s big Cuban familia has been in Key West for generations, and his quiet strength feeds off the island’s laidback style. Though guarded after a deep betrayal, he’ll always help someone in need — especially a spunky beauty with a surprising knowledge of Spanish curse words. Soon, he and Sara have memorized their “how we met” story and are immersed in family dinners, bike tours, private snorkeling trips … sharing secrets, and slow, melting kisses. But when it’s time for Sara to return home, will their fake relationship fade like the stunning sunset … or blossom into something beautiful?
This sounded like such a great story, and it started out really well. The book starts with the complicated relationship between Luis and his family, and then quickly shifts into him running into Sara and getting roped into her scheme. There’s obvious chemistry between the two of them right from the beginning, and it only intensifies throughout the story. However, they fail to communicate effectively even though they promise to be honest with each other even as they deceive everyone around them, leading to a lot of confusion and hurt.
I did like the relationships between Luis and (most of) his family. They’re an extremely close-knit Cuban-American family that prioritizes time with each other. They have dinner together each week, all attend church together, and are basically all up in each other’s business, but only because they care about each other. It makes me want to go to dinner at their house, to be honest, and I’d totally be willing to submit to the Cuban Inquisition for that!
I had a difficult time connecting to Sara. She had gone through intense amounts of long-term therapy, and was a little more in touch with her feelings. But throughout the entire book, she would reveal something and then really push Luis to open up and address his issues. It got tiring to see over and over, especially when he clearly wasn’t ready. The other thing I found really difficult with her was that it felt like her main motivating factor in everything she did was to gain the acceptance of her family, rather than expressing her own desires. Even though she was always focused on her career, she never once said that it was because it was what she wanted. She’s on the brink of taking a huge step forward in her professional life, and all she said about it was that it was:
“One step closer to finally making her mother, her entire family, proud of her accomplishments. Gaining their confidence that she could indeed take care of herself.”
One thing that I noticed and that grated on my nerves more and more as I read, was the overemphasis on Sara’s size. She is a character who is in recovery from an eating disorder, yet nearly every time she’s mentioned, there’s a reference to her “tiny waist,” “slim figure,” “slender hips,” “flat stomach,” or just being “slender.” None of the other characters were described this way, constantly mentioning their size, and when it came to her siblings, their size wasn’t even mentioned at all that I can remember. The repetitive nature of the descriptions of Sara got old really fast, and seemed incredibly insensitive towards eating disorders and recovery.
The pacing felt off. The whole book takes place in a 7 day period, but it felt like it was so much longer. There’s definitely some sparks that flew quickly, but I wasn’t really buying that Luis and Sara could fall in love with each other in a week. Things move pretty quickly in the beginning, then slow down a lot for such a big portion of the middle of the book, and then wrapped up a little too quickly for my taste. I didn’t feel like there was really enough closure at the end of the story, and it left me feeling a little disappointed.
Another things that left me a little disappointed was the steamy lead-up, but then when it was time for a sex scene … it just faded to black. I was a little surprised by that, since the prior scene was kind of spicy, and I thought it was setting the tone, but then it didn’t deliver.
Overall, the book wasn’t too bad, but it wasn’t really great. I actually received an ARC of the second book in the series, so I’m hoping that I click better with Anamaría’s story better!
Categories: Book Review