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Anchored Heart by Priscilla Oliveras book cover with a pink box.. Background is a table full of bright flowers and coconut oil in a jar, on a spoon.

I’ve been curious about Priscilla Oliveras since my Twitter list really seems to enjoy the writing. And thanks to NetGalley and Zebra for the opportunity, I was able to read Anchored Hearts. You’d be amazed how large my curation list expands because of Twitter. Brilliant tool for me.

Plus, the book’s set in Key West. Confession: I never got to visit the Keys when I lived in the U.S. Even Miami was a point not visited in almost 35 years. My cousin lived there for a while as a military spouse, but never go the chance to visit. As winter edges into spring, I’m also loving stories about warmth and summer. And Anchored Hearts delivered on atmosphere.

(Note: there may be spoilers for Anchored Hearts throughout the review.)

 

The Review

The writing absolutely brought the world alive. I could feel the breeze as it rustled the leaves, the vibrant sky as the sun burned across, the smiles as Anamaría saw her world for the beauty it held. I loved how you practically touch the houses, see the faded paint against the new buildings and looks. How the women at church actively believed in and promoted her fitness services with loud exclamations and word of mouth.

While I’m not Latina, I do the know the power of a church group’s favor. Very natural occurrence if you grow up in the South. All it takes is a few phone tree calls and the community knows what needs to happen. Chaos and life.

Miranda’s, a Cuban restaurant owned by the hero’s family, felt like home. Easy to hear the sounds of Spanish intermingling among the dishes and swinging doors as someone bustled through. Or the way the firehouse scenes showed an area in need of emergency services, filled noise, as emergency services and firefighters worked together while birds soared across the sky with echoing calls.

That’s what I saw, visually, when I read Anchored Hearts. The hearts of people who love their city, love their community, and love their life. Sorrow happens, it always will, but the Key West here felt alive.

And I loved how Oliveras incorporated the Spanish into the text. I tried to learn Spanish in high school. It’s very hard for me to just know the language so quickly without really immersing. Needless to say, I passed but just barely. Did try. Just. Hard. Same with French. And German…let’s just say I have to learn it, but pressure isn’t helping.

Yet I didn’t have that frustration in the book. The translations were integrated in such a way that I understand the messaging. It felt natural for the back and forth. Of the older Cuban characters to flip between mother tongue and second language. Easy to follow and pick up. If I had read books like this in high school, I would have really enjoyed the experience more.

Anamaría Navarro was my kind of heroine. Over thirty, headstrong, willing to work hard for her goals, finally feeling confident in her life path. The love for family and community spoke to me. Love provides deep roots. Those deep roots can keep someone grounded, or they can provide opportunities, like mangrove forests. You don’t have to leave your home in order to be successful if you have faith in yourself.

AM has this ability to see the established world in an honest way. To admit faults and hurts. I really appreciated that about her. Just because she and Alejandro were childhood friends to lovers to exes doesn’t mean she’s willing to give up his family. The Mirandas and Navarros being best friends for decades upon decades means that one tear shouldn’t completely hurt the family. And it doesn’t. Alejandro’s return due to injury recovery doesn’t mean she stops being part of the family.

The way her future sister-in-law Sara used networking resources to help out a motivated Anamaría. Contacts are precious for many people yet Sara used quick access and her knowledge of social media to help expand AM’s brand. No questions asked. How when an emergency happened, it was no question to step into a family role with Lulu, or to watch out for Ale when he was too stubborn to see what the problems really were.

Floral wall art with metal butterflies and a green background.
Image by ELLE RITTER on Pixabay.

Family is more than blood. It’s time, dedication, love. A lesson our hero really needed to learn, to be honest.

Here’s where the text gets tricky. I didn’t care for Alejandro at all. Al he did was whine for the first 65-70% of the book. All he focused on was himself. The last 15% did help boost his rating up a bit, but not enough to really enjoy the character arc.

I loved when he was talking about his artwork. I could easy visualize the elephant pair, mom and baby, as he spoke softly to his niece Lulu. The warmth as he described a secret trip the rest of the family didn’t know about. Even the loneliness of being left behind.

But the daddy issues were too much. It was all he focused on, other than realizing he was foolish to give up on AM so quickly as a hotheaded 19-year-old. That isn’t to say his dad wasn’t foolish either. Both had serious machismo streaks about their own vulnerability. It just felt like Ale expected everyone to know what wanted and do that.

No thanks. I need to be able to root for the character. Some parts I did root for him. His knowledge as a photographer and the ability to say no when pushed too far. How much Ale loved Lulu and realized the mistakes of backing away meant never seeing those first steps. I loved his growth in that. His issues with his dad were too much.

And the way he treated Anamaría wasn’t okay. Petulant blame for not listening. Focused on his own goals above all else. I didn’t believe in the romance very much. I believed they were building up, but there needed to be a lot more work on his part. AM deserved more.

I did appreciate the parts about Operación Pedro Pan, how devastating the actions were for families. A factor many families still face as they send children for better lives outside of oppression and death, of instigated politics. It was a very important element to the book. Social issues don’t end with one resolution. They always have reverberation for generations to come. I loved that Anchored Hearts included that messaging.

 

The Ratings

The question now is how does all that information break down on a scale? I use the CAWPILE method with a bonus of a ‘romance’ section. Seemed rather wise to add a section for the area this podcast talks about.

CAWPILER

  • Character: 6.75/10
  • Atmosphere: 9.5/10
  • Writing: 7.0/10
  • Plot: 5.0/10
  • Intrigue: 6.5/10
  • Logic: 6.75/10
  • Enjoyment: 7.0/10
  • Romance: 5.0/10
  • Total rating: 6.93

Overall, the romance and Alejandra kept the book at 3.5 stars. If he been 10% less petulant, I would have bumped it up to a full 4 stars. The atmosphere and community aspect blew me away. The way I could see and hear what the areas looked like. How vulnerable the artwork made both AM and Alejandro. I just needed a bit more of him feeling worthy of her attention.

Will I read Priscilla Oliveras again? Yes! Absolutely. She has a really great writing style with a lot of details that create strong worlds. And I love me a strong world. Not just in fantasy.

Do I recommend Anchored Hearts? Again, absolutely. My key issues with Alejandro may not both someone else. It’s all subjective. The skill is there. I wish I could have seen more of AM’s success. Maybe in future books we will.

Anchored Hearts is available at all major retailers on April 27, 2021.

Jessica

Owner of Deconstructing Damsels.

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