Monday, May 13, 2019

Book Review: When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

Pages: 352
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: April 9, 2019
Source: Publisher for review
Publisher: Berkley
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "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."

In the 1960s, the infamous Fidel Castro took over Cuba leaving Beatriz and her family to flee to South Florida and essentially start over their lives with the possibility of never returning to their homeland.  Beatriz always hoped they would return, but it is looking less and less likely.  Beatriz's back story is very complicated. You see her twin brother was killed, thanks to Fidel, and she seeks revenge.  The CIA has reached out to her as she would be the perfect spy to infiltrate Fidel's inner circle and there isn't a better way for Beatriz to get close to him and then, ultimately, kill him.  Her very close friend, Eduardo, is also helping her accomplish this as he is also an exile and has many connections.  Beatriz's plans get further complicated when she meets a U.S. Senator, Nicholas Preston, who turns her world upside down.  They are instantly attracted to one another despite the obvious issues.  Could she actually have a future with a powerful American who is involved in politics? What about her plans to take back her life and her plans to take down Fidel? When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton is a whirlwind of a beach read filled with espionage, political intrigue, and romance not to mention a gorgeous setting.

I immediately liked Beatriz in When We Left Cuba. She is exactly the type of heroine I enjoy when I read historical novels. She is driven, determined, independent despite the limitations place on women during the time period, she's strong, and beautiful.  She reminded me of a female James Bond, but without all the military training.  She is able to infiltrate high society, rub shoulders with just about anyone, and she holds her own dealing with Cuban-American politics.  What isn't there to enjoy?  While I wish she would let go of her revenge plot at times that is what ultimately drives her story and the hope to return to Cuba one day.

Beatriz's relationship with Nicholas in When We Left Cuba was well done. I really liked it despite the complications and the Jack Kennedy vibe he had going for him.  I won't say too much about it, but their relationship is extremely complicated not to mention a major issue when it comes to her involvement with the CIA.  Despite all this, I found myself still rooting for him.

My only issue with When We Left Cuba is the fact that I didn't read Cleeton's first book, Next Year in Havana. While this is a stand-alone novel, I think I would have benefited from reading Next Year in Havana first as many characters that are present in it are also in When We Left Cuba and their back stories would have been helpful to know.  Nonetheless, this simple issue didn't deter my enjoyment of the novel.

If you love "historical beach reads," you must check out When We Left Cuba, especially if you enjoy the 1960s time period.  It will surely keep you on your toes and who doesn't love a female spy protagonist? Have you read this novel or Cleeton's Next Year in Havana? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


  1. The 1960s is a very fun time period, I might have to check this one out!

    1. Definitely, especially if you enjoy historical reads. I want to read the first book now! Thanks for visiting, Angela!

  2. I definitely have both of these on my radar, so it's great to see you enjoyed this one!

    1. Yes! I look forward to reading Havana as well--just wish I would have read that one first! ;) Thanks for visiting, Michele!


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