Thoughts While Reading: When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

April 10, 2019 at 7:57 p.m.

Winning! Very rarely do I pre-order books. I typically add a release I am standing by for to my Amazon Cart and just let it sit there until it releases..I can count on one hand how many pre-orders I’ve actually done. When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton is one of the few. This beauty arrived yesterday and I started it last night. I feel like I totally scored with this one because I logged into Overdrive last night and my local library had the Audiobook available, NO HOLDS! 

Ever since finishing Next Year In Havana, I couldn’t wait to get Aunt Beatriz’s story. In that one, she just came across very beautiful and powerful. Like she didn’t really care how beautiful she was, she preferred intelligence and making change. She seemed so radical and revolutionary. Having this gem in my hands right now has me feeling an excitement for a book I haven’t felt in a long time. I have been patiently waiting for this story and am thrilled it’s finally here.

The prologue ending to Beatriz’s story is Everything:

“When did she get so old? There is no note in the basket, but then again there’s no need. Who else would send her such a gift: extravagant, poignant, perfectly her? No one but him.”

I need to find out who ‘him,‘ is.

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April 16, 2019 at 9:18 a.m.

I have been making my way through When We Left Cuba since it arrived in the mail, but last night we made the four hour trip to Dallas, Texas and I got. good chunk of the audiobook listened to.

I’m currently about 63% of the way through and I have tons of feels.

“I wish I’d never met I’m at all, so I wouldn’t know what I’m missing.”

“Is this love? Who has time to worry about such things? At the moment it is everything and that’s all that matters.”

“It turns out, missing you is the most exhausting thing of all.”

I now know who “him,” is..Nicholas. I am anxious to see what becomes of the relationship between him and Beatriz.  With how it started and what it basically was, I don’t think I can really see it being anything other than…

The pacing of this book takes me back to Next Year In Havana. Cleeton’s story telling feels very slow moving while at the same time having so many moving pieces. Beatriz is a force to be reckoned with. She is a very head strong, intelligent heroine and I love her.  Beatriz paints the perfect picture of what being a woman during her time was like and how difficult it could be if you were a woman who didn’t want to conform to societal norms.

The main theme I am feeling from this book thus far, is “do something.” Beatriz has this strong urge, that drives from loyalty to her brother, her act now, to do something about what her people have went through.  All while being in love with a man who can never truly be hers, and having a man in love with her, who she realizes has been in love with her for years.

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April 18, 2019 at 7:17 p.m.

I finished the book this afternoon. I couldn’t give it anything less than 5 out of 5 stars, it was so damn good. Firstly, if you’re not a fan of slow moving stories..I say stick with this one. It’s very much worth it in the end. When We Left Cuba is very political. I loved that Cleeton set it during the time period she did, because it was so easy to imagine how tense the world was at the time. The time period also played heavily into Beatriz’s character. She was a young woman during a time when society’s expectations, her family’s expectations were for her to marry and start a family. Attending school, voicing her opinions..were totally opposite of what was expected of her. It was truly the love of her family and her love for Cuba that wouldn’t allow her to sit idly by as things were happen. She needed to do something.

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The thing about the romance between Beatriz and Nicholas is, it starts off totally wrong and with all the odds against it. Despite that, the love between these two only grows stronger with time. They always find their way back to each other. This books ending won’t be your favorite happily ever after, but it works once you get to know Beatriz. I honestly couldn’t see the ending being any other way. She was a woman who did things on her terms, when she wanted to, so the ending made total sense to me, and I absolutely loved it.

I can’t recommend this book enough. If you want a good historical novel, rich with history from a time period I think gets overlooked a lot, I definitely think you should check it out.


Book Review: The Phantom Tree

The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick

I received my copy for review thanks to the Harlequin Publicity Team

3/5 Stars

Hello Friends! A few years ago if you would’ve asked me what I was currently reading, nine times out of ten, it was more than likely an historical fiction novel. After discovering Susanna Kearsley, I became obsessed with the genre. A well written historical fiction novel can easily snatch you from your current reality and transport you to times and places you can only imagine in your dreams. I was thrilled when I signed up to receive a copy of this from the Harlequin Publicity team and actually received it.




Plot Summary:

“My name is Mary Seymour and I am the daughter of one queen and the niece of another.”

Browsing antiques shops in Wiltshire, Alison Bannister stumbles across a delicate old portrait – supposedly of Anne Boleyn. Except Alison knows better… The woman is Mary Seymour, the daughter of Katherine Parr who was taken to Wolf Hall in 1557 as an unwanted orphan and presumed dead after going missing as a child.

The painting is more than just a beautiful object from Alison’s past – it holds the key to her future, unlocking the mystery surrounding Mary’s disappearance, and the enigma of Alison’s son.

But Alison’s quest soon takes a dark and foreboding turn, as a meeting place called the Phantom Tree harbours secrets in its shadows…

phantom tree

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed The Phantom Tree. This story has the power to have you completely engrossed every time you sit down to read it.

The story has two point of views; that of Alison and Mary Seymour but we get a tad bit more of Alison’s perspective however. Alison is an historical woman who has traveled to present day. This is a spin on the historical fiction story line that I really enjoyed. Usually you have a contemporary woman who travels to the past, so this was a really interesting twist.

An ex lover of Alison’s is a pretty popular historian–kind of gave me Expedition Unknown vibes, where he seeks out historical artifacts and shares them with the world. He is insistent that the latest painting he’s found is of Anne Boleyn and where he and Alison (sort of) reconnect is when Alison tells him he is wrong. She tells him the painting is of Mary Seymour. In the painting, Alison is positive that Mary has left clues for her about Arthur, her son. Back during her time, Alison had a child with a cousin of Mary’s who had the baby taken from Alison. Even in present day, she yearns for her child. Once Alison discovered she could time jump she abused it for a while, and is now stuck and finding Arthur has really been on her heart. So she I trying to get back and find him.

I liked how Nicola Cornick made Alison feel a little detached. It’s not that she doesn’t trust people, but she chooses not to let people get too close to her. Reading from Alison’s perspective, you really feel how lonely it would be to be someone from a different time. I’ve read so many historical fiction novels but this is the first that I truly felt that sense of being alone regardless of how many people are around you and out of place.

I can’t not speak about Mary. I preferred Alison’s story line a little more but my heart went out to Mary. When reading Mary’s perspective, the scenes felt a little darker with her imaginary friend, her visions that come true.. Even though I preferred reading Alison’s perspectives, I felt Mary’s story line was needed. It filled in gaps to the story and helped weave everything together.

My only gripe with this story is kind of something I expect with historical fiction novels–at one point the story moved really slow. I felt as though no matter how much I read, I wasn’t making any progress. The pacing does pick back up but the slow for me, felt really slow.

Those are my thoughts. I definitely recommend this story if you are an historical fiction lover and want to give a story with a bit of a twist a try.