This is an official Caribbean Books Foundation review http://www.caribbeanbooks.org/
Every time I do a review or have to write something not solely because I feel like it, I suffer a bit. I want to write what I want to write damnit! pouts like a 5-year-old
But every time I hit this wall I remind myself that I am an adult (puts on my big girl pants), and more importantly, I’m a professional or at least I would like to be taken seriously. This isn’t about me, it’s about letting you know the deal so you can make an informed decision. It’s about building up my rapport, finding my own unique writing voice, learrrrrning.
If you’re wondering what I’m babbling on about, this month’s review is… drum roll, please…
A romance novel. sigh
I like romance. I like novels. But somehow when the two mesh together… not so much. Most of them make no sense to my mind, but by God, I’ll do this review justice if it’s the last thing I do! I am happy to say that I started off reading this book with no hesitation though. I was a little excited getting into it. I liked the cover art and wanted to know what was behind the knowing smirk and raised eyebrow on chérie’s face.
So let’s get into the review. Yes. Spoilers. Listen. I never say anything critical about the plot, so no worries.
This story is about Shari Zamore. A woman born out of the Windrush generation in the UK, looking to figure out her life after a long-overdue ‘breakup’. So during her holidays, she jumps on a plane and heads to the lovely Caribbean on the islands where her parents were born, Trinidad and Tobago.
She arrives with little luggage ready to sightsee and shop and indulge in a quintessential island get-away. She wants to relax and clear her mind and hopefully make some decisions about where she wants her life to go after her vacation. Her cousin Wanda, who acts as confidante and regularly spirits her away to all the sexy events, is bent on hooking her up with someone while she’s there. She introduces Shari to Gaston…
… the french Martinique lover boy who literally sticks to Shari like glue.
Yes, Gaston! In the flesh. While Shari enjoys his company and his playful demeanour she’s not really interested in getting involved with anyone so soon after her breakup. Or so she thinks! Until she ends up completely bewitched (I don’t know what else to call it) by a man who loathes her… no, that doesn’t sound right. Let me try again. Instead, she ends up completely bewitched by a man who insults her every chance he gets… wait, what?
You know what, I’ll get back to that.
This story hits all the points of a romantic novel. The rollercoaster of emotions, the eye candy, the hate that I love you conundrum, the warm, masculine aromas breathes deep, the perfectly unblemished skin tones, the glistening muscles, the wonton abandon to ecstasy, the sweet, beautiful girl who fixes the brokenhearted man with passionate love, and the sultry, long-legged, busty beauties. Grrr. Everyone is gorgeous in this book by the way! Period. Is this a compliment to Caribbean people? I- yes! I’ll accept that! Very accurate.
This book is incredibly sexy. That much I can guarantee you! Read it for the hot, steamy love affairs, the gyrating bodies at the parties, the rigorous love-making in rose gardens! I said rose gardens, people! The horniness is palpable.
But what else is there? I also really liked how the sights on the island were represented in the book. Shari did so much during her time there and most of it was described beautifully by Spicer. No need for a travel or events brochure just get this book and hit all the spots. Hopefully, you’ll get stalked by a gorgeous Adonis specimen everywhere you go too. You never know.
I must nitpick on a few things here though because even though the author talked a lot about where Shari went on the island and gave lots of beautiful descriptions I can’t say that everything is entirely accurate. For instance, we all love calypso, but at a fete today or even ten years ago which is when this book was written, 90% of the songs played are soca, old school dancehall, international dance hits, and reggae.
Then there’s getting a taxi to and from Port-of-Spain. Most taxis in the Caribbean are unmarked. Which is why we have specific locations or ‘taxi stands’ where you can meet taxis that go to specified areas. If you take any one, especially on a main road, you might end up somewhere you don’t want to be. As for taking taxis in Port-of-Spain, there are so many taxi stands going to different areas from there, but the book made it seem like you can just put out your hand on any road and get a taxi. It doesn’t work like that.
The author probably didn’t want to go into all that detail. While I would love that every tourist has an easy time getting around, it just felt unrealistic that on her first day in a country she’s never visited before Shari was able to move around with no problems on her own. Had she asked for directions every now and then, taken a wrong turn here an there, it would have seemed more realistic.
The description of Frederick Street was also iffy. Cars are allowed down it but not maxis. The sidewalks there are also essentially for pedestrians, not vendors. You may find one or two vendors, but the sidewalks are more packed with people than people selling, and on slow days it’s very empty. The description of the street just felt very general, like it could have easily been a crowded shopping street in Bali or Mexico. There just wasn’t anything specific about it that stood out to say ‘ah, yeah, Port-of-Spain is really like that!’ Like I said, it’s a nitpicky thing. Wouldn’t burn the book over it.
The story itself was not bad. When it comes to romance novels I try to take out all the romps and if the story is still compelling without them, then we have a success. So where the plot points and the tone are concerned, in that aspect it was a well thought out story. I do feel like the story overplayed the ‘destiny’, ‘meant to be’, ‘instant unexplainable attraction’ cards a bit which made Shari and her lover boy feel and act crazily over each other even though they barely knew each other.
Did I mention Gaston was featured in this?
As for the other characters, they were well developed and engaging. They made an impact. Descriptions were well thought out. This book was very visual. The characters weren’t monochrome blobs in my mind at all. They had personality and backstories that made them make sense, well, most of them.
Shari, however, well… At a glance, she made sense. But then the author tried to make you believe that she was supposed to be this rational person that didn’t do impulsive things and never took a chance. But I’m not buying that she was bitten by some intoxicating Caribbean dream love bug and was acting outside of her normal behaviour.
Nowhere in her back story is she rational. Her previous relationship was anything but rational. She comes off as open-hearted, a little naive, forgiving and definitely reserved, but rational? Nah. The only thing I agreed with is that she’s clearly confused.
Let me talk about this Caribbean Eros specimen now who according to the description in the book must look like the male model in that Mentos Gum teaser video. Watch at your own risk. You have been warned.
Now, the reasons for him acting the way he did wasn’t that bad. People CAN get bitter and angry when they go through a bad relationship, but I just hated the fact that Shati made it so easy for him. It’s fine to feel passionate, sensual need for someone. I’m not even concerned with the fact that he was being an ass to her. Not all characters need to be nice! My problem was her reaction to his disgusting behaviour.
This man showed Shari nothing but contempt and dislike since the first time he met her. He actually likened her to a bad penny once (ouch!) and she’s upset about his behaviour, she’s hugely miffed at the ‘bloody sod!’. But she succumbs to his forced interactions anyway which are clearly misguided by his own messed up feelings and she allows herself to get even further mixed up in his manipulation of her even though she knows that’s what he’s doing! I just…
She’s just completely mystified by his hotness and then feels bad about being an idiot and playing into his hands later on. How, just HOW does his sexy voice and immaculately toned body make up for the fact that he is judging you according to his own standards and is bent on using you to fulfill his own twisted needs? Is it that, ‘made for each other’ thing again? It seems so nonsensical to pin it down to that. I mean it all turned out fine in the end and I guess all’s well that ends well, but she didn’t make him work for it AT ALL after all his shit! And I was really pissed about that.
But you know, when you’re horny, I guess all’s easily forgiven. Neither of them could stop thinking about ripping each other’s clothes off even when they were at odds with each other. So I guess maybe they are meant for each other! I’m done!
There were a few fun cliché things in here! A jealous crazy ex, a misunderstanding over trust issues, wait, spoilers, must not say more! There was even a ‘I’m a woman and scared of small animals’ moment and he saved her. sighss And then she saved him from a life of misery, resentment, and heartache through the power of love. Doesn’t quite seem even, but the drama!! I tell you, if you’re a romance junkie you WILL love this book!
And I didn’t miss certain references to a classic romance we all know. Let’s see… woman perceives man to be rude and arrogant and he makes it clear he’s not interested in her. He’s much more well endowed financially than she is and is revered by society. Every woman thinks he’s a great catch but she’s determined not to like him but they keep meeting in the same company and eventually realise they’re made for each other. There was even a scene where he asks her to dance out of the blue and she accepts because it was so unexpected. I mean, this man doesn’t like me, right?
Yes. Café Au Liat seems to follow the Pride and Prejudice story notes A LOT but instead of conversation while dancing (Geez, I sound like Mary) trying to figure each other out, our leading man INSULTS AND ASSAULTS the leading lady! And she’s putty in his arms because she cannot resist his foine-ness! Damnit, girl, get it together!! I even remember the chapter (seveeen), I was so frustrated.
I can never understand suddenly losing your common sense, and to an extent dignity, in the presence of someone mind-blowingly attractive. Have I ever been completely taken off guard by a pretty face? Of course! But I get even calmer in situations like that cause fools of myself I will not make. Nobody is that mesmerising. What can I say, I’m a sphynx. But attractive people are just people at the end of the day and the last thing I want to do is come off as utterly desperate. He’s seen it before. Trust me.
There were some questionable things, but there were also soft, beautiful, honest and funny moments that had merit and it was very well written. As I said I had no problems with the actual plot. It flowed well. Please give this book a try!
As well as the Café Au Liat book page on Caribbean Books where you can find purchase links. And I’ll see you next month for another review!
– N. Gomes, Caribbean Books Foundation