Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Sophia Rose Reviews - Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

i can't think of a better way to spend Valentine's Day then with a fantastic review from Sophia Rose, today she's reviewing Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton. Told in multiple timelines of 1958 Cuba and present day Miami, Cleeton spins a tale that is part mystery part romance. I know that when you get finished reading this review you will want this book too, I know I do.
Happy Valentine's Day 💝💝💝

Sophia take it away!

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction
Publisher:  Berkley
Published:  2.6.18
ISBN  0399586687

Pages:  336
Rating: 4.5
Format:  Trade Paperback
Source:  Penguin-Random House
Sellers:  Amazon - Barnes& Noble Kobo

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After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity--and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution...

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba's high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country's growing political unrest--until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary...

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa's last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba's tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she'll need the lessons of her grandmother's past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.

Sophia's Review

Already familiar with this author's work in her contemporary military romance trilogy, I was intrigued by this latest project with its blend of historical fiction, women's fiction, and star-crossed romance.  With a setting like modern Cuba and the Cuba of the late fifties, I was well aware this would be a bittersweet story to savor.

Next Year in Havana tells the tale of Elisa Perez in the waning years of 1950's Cuba and of her granddaughter, Marisol Ferrara in the present day.  Their stories are told in first person point of view as the book flips back and forth between them. 

Elisa's story pulled me in more deeply, I admit.  I think it was the danger of living daily with a revolution coming closer and closer and Elisa's family being on the wrong side of the wave's swell.  During this time, she falls in love and with someone she should not.  Pablo is a revolutionary and holds with ideology that she does not share and she definitely doesn't hold with the extreme ways the revolutionaries are willing to get what they want.  And yet, they are in love in the stormy last days of Batista's corrupt government, the strengthening angry sounds and voices of revolution, and talk of her family fleeing to America. 

And, paralleling Elisa's story is Marisol seeing the result of Castro's revolution, the deprivations and fear most Cubans live with even after Castro's death, and her own first real encounter with love while she is following the trail of her grandmother's past.  Marisol's story is gentler and more introspective.  I liked it, but was not exactly riveted until after the half-way point when the twists happened and things got a whole lot more exciting for her.

The historical and cultural setting along with the way the characters fit in these settings seemed quite authentic to me.  It was my first real encounter with a book centered in Cuba and about Cubans and Cuban Americans.  I felt it was balanced in how it looks on the present and the past by offering up more than one outlook which is my favorite way to experience historical fiction.  It is a complex situation and not to be treated in stark black and white just as the characters were thinking and take actions that were not simple.

There is romance- glorious, painful circumspect romance for both women.  Both were a first encounter attraction.  Elisa's was a gradual build to love after several fleeting encounters.  Marisol fell hard and fast.  I bought it because I think their family connections, her reason for the visit and similar interests made the quick transition to love easier to believe.  I also think it all worked because in my mind, Marisol's romance with Luis was the second chance that her grandmother and Pablo never got.

Though this was a bittersweet romantic story, I feel that the reader should think of it more along the lines of historical and modern women's fiction.  It's the story of Cuba told from the lives of the cast of characters.   It is introspective and thoughtful with a few moments of suspense.  It’s about discovery and growth and a smidge of hope.  I felt this book's impact from page one.  I was touched emotionally, but also it appealed to my mind.  It's a book that will challenge its readers, but also deliver a beautiful story.  I think historical fiction fans and those who enjoy reading about other people and cultures and times with a good dose of romance are the best matches.

Author’s Bio
Originally from Florida, Chanel Cleeton 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.

Chanel is represented by Kevan Lyon of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. The author of ten books, her latest novel, NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA, will be published by Penguin/Berkley in February 2018.

Sophia’s Bio:
Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate.
Sophia’s Social Media Links:


  1. Sophia Rose - wonderful review and as Debbie says, has me thinking this would make a fascinating read, especially of a part of the world I know very little about except in general terms.

    1. Thanks, Kathryn. I learned so much about Cuba and was so enthralled that I Googled tons of the people and events and places mentioned. I just couldn't get enough even afterward. Glad to discover this is part of a series.

  2. Replies
    1. It was sensational. I can't wait to get the grandmother's older sister's story next. There was this tantalizing line near the end about her going back and attempting an assassination on Castro. ;)

  3. Thanks for sharing this fantastic review Sophia Rose. Fiction featuring Cuba post and pre revolution really intrigues me.

    1. That was exactly what caught my eye, too, Debbie. :) And there's more to come.

  4. I have heard great things about this book. Great review, Sophia.

    1. I think most folks will find it totally deserves the chatter. It's definitely a captivating story. :)

  5. This sounds like a really good book, and I love your reviewe. Hugs...RO

    1. Howdy, Radiant Ro!

      It was so good that it left me with book hangover. :)