Arroyo Blanco, Book 1
Heat Factor: There’s a little bit of spice.
Character Chemistry: Well, she dunks him in a lagoon at their first meeting, so I think we’re off to a great start!
Plot: Emilia writes dirty stories under a pen name; Ruben writes scathing critiques of these stories under a pen name – and wants to write an exposé of the author. Banter and shenanigans ensue.
Overall: The set up is so strong, but the ending felt rushed.
I liked a lot of things about A Summer for Scandal. I loved the setting – a Spanish-speaking Caribbean island in 1911; it helps that San Andres gives enough sensory detail that there’s a really strong sense of place, which I always love in a novel (romance or otherwise). Emilia and Ruben are likable protagonists: they have stellar banter while arguing about things like the literary merit of trashy books. And the central conflict, which centers on Ruben discovering Emilia’s secret identity and then his decision about whether to reveal her, is compelling. The first chunk of the book moves slowly, but in a good way. Whenever I picked up the book, I could really settle in and live with the characters as Ruben and Emilia talked and flirted and just got to know one another in what felt like a very natural progression.
However, in the second half of the book, things start moving much more quickly. Ruben’s partner discovers Emilia’s secret and plans on running an exposé despite Ruben’s protests. So Ruben and Emilia make a plan to deal with it, and execute it – but there are a lot of moving pieces to this plan, many of which are not really fleshed out all that well. Without going into a lot of spoilery detail, some of the plan relies on last-minute revelations about secondary characters who seemed incidental to the plot. Add in the fact that at the same time, Ruben and Emilia have moved from banter to love, and all of a sudden, there was too much going on to have the meandering build up to each interaction that I loved in the first half. As a result, when Ruben and Emilia started getting hot and heavy, it didn’t really sizzle for me because it felt so sudden.
There was enough good here that I would still recommend this book to people who love historical romance but are interested in times and places beyond London in 1815.
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