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In 1960s Florida, a young Cuban exile will risk her life--and heart--to take back her country in this exhilarating historical novel from the author of Next Year in Havana, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick.
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...
Source: advance e-galley provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review
I fell in love with Next Year In Havana telling anyone and everyone that they had to read it. At the end of it was a little snippet from Beatriz's perspective that kind of dropped a bombshell on readers. Waiting for an entire year to get the whole story was not easy but it was so worth it!
Where Next Year In Havana played on nostalgia, When We Left Cuba is all about malcontent followed by action. Beatriz was never satisfied being a socialite and behaving like a proper lady - much to her mother's chagrin - in the hopes of capturing a husband. It wasn't what she enjoyed doing in Cuba either and it certainly is not something she likes doing in America even if means securing her status here. Her end goal has always been to go back home. America is a temporary stop. Most of her passion and hatred for Castro is fueled by her twin brother's murder at the hands of the man who controls her beloved country. She has deigned to take on her brother's mantel and work with rebels who seek to depose Castro. It's a dangerous road to go down on but Beatriz has never been a rule follower and signs on to work covertly with the CIA. She's not going to sit idly by while her country suffers. In a case of bad timing, Beatriz has attracted the attention of a young US senator, Nicholas "Nick" Preston whose star is on the rise. Only he's spoken for but it doesn't stop those longing gazes and brief stolen moments they steal for themselves.
There's a recurring theme throughout the novel (other than Castro must go) and it's Beatriz's determination to not be defined by the men in her life. She adamantly refuses to be controlled by anyone and demands to be seen as an equal capable of making her own decisions and taking on danger should she choose to do so. There's also a relative amount of suspense considering the espionage and political climate of the era, and she finds herself in the midst of some incredibly sensitive or volatile situations. Her affair with Nick provides a counterbalance to all the plotting she gets embroiled in. Their contrasting perspectives on Cuba and the American government's involvement are the constant background to their own drama.
At some point Beatriz's fierce declarations of revenge against Castro become repetitive but it's also understandable. Her body is in Palm Beach but her heart is in Cuba so she's never felt truly at home in America. She feels displaced and helpless, so her anger is what she can hold on to to give her purpose. Granted, she and her family are financially in far better shape than many of their countryman who escaped. I think she comes to realize it as time wears on and she sees how in some ways she was insulated from what a lot of Cubans faced.
Cleeton's writing evokes the glamourous and tense atmosphere of that era. She had me envisioning the vibrant settings and sounds, and more than that, she gave me a history lesson. What I knew of the Cold War was solely from history class and honestly, I don't remember much of it. What she's done here is personalize these events, seeing them through the eyes of those displaced by the revolution. I remember from Next Year in Havana the mention of a sense of heavy guilt for leaving and also for not staying to fight. Cleeton made these challenges personal and reminded me of the people who were affected, whose lives were uprooted and who had to lay down new roots uncertain of what the future would hold, uncertain of whether to call America home or hold out hope that they would go home.
Enter the fabulous giveaway here! You could win a $50 Barnes & Noble gift card, a Lilly Putlizer Swell water bottle, palm tree notepad and matching pen, Besame Cosmetics vintage-inspired lipstick, signed WHEN WE LEFT CUBA bookmarks & signed Cuban recipe cards!