REVIEW: American Dreamer (Dreamers #1) by Adriana Herrera
No one ever said big dreams come easy
For Nesto Vasquez, moving his Afro-Caribbean food truck from New York City to the wilds of Upstate New York is a huge gamble. If it works? He’ll be a big fish in a little pond. If it doesn’t? He’ll have to give up the hustle and return to the day job he hates. He’s got six months to make it happen—the last thing he needs is a distraction.
Jude Fuller is proud of the life he’s built on the banks of Cayuga Lake. He has a job he loves and good friends. It’s safe. It’s quiet. And it’s damn lonely. Until he tries Ithaca’s most-talked-about new lunch spot and works up the courage to flirt with the handsome owner. Soon he can’t get enough—of Nesto’s food or of Nesto. For the first time in his life, Jude can finally taste the kind of happiness that’s always been just out of reach.
An opportunity too good to pass up could mean a way to stay together and an incredible future for them both…if Nesto can remember happiness isn’t always measured by business success. And if Jude can overcome his past and trust his man will never let him down.
Dear Adriana Herrera,
I liked your book a lot, but it was not a complete hit for me. When somebody who read the ARC (I did not, I bought the book) mentioned this story to me, I could not wait till the publication day because I was so eager to read it. Ernesto (AKA Nesto) and Jude narrate the book in turns, and from the first pages we learn how much Ernesto loves to cook the food he grew up with and how much he wants to make it in the culinary world. He wants to make it so much that he decides to leave his beloved NY City and three best friends in order to attempt to make a name for himself on the Ithaca culinary scene where his family lives.
Of course, Ernesto does not really leave his best friends, his brothers behind.They come to help him move, and during the course of the book they come to Ithaca several times to help him when he is invited to cook at large culinary events. I also suspect that Nesto’s friends are going to be getting their own love stories in the next books of this series. There is a reason I suspect that. Camillo’s story is already announced at the end of this book and we get to read preview chapters, so my prediction has a basis for it ;-).
But in this book Ernesto and Jude are the stars of the story, even though it is clear how much Nesto loves his friends and they are a big part of the story. Ernesto and Jude meet when Jude decides to try his food during his lunch break and very slowly, with two steps forward and one step back, they develop a relationship.
As much time as they have to develop a relationship, that is. Ernesto is single-mindedly focused on developing his business, and Jude is eager to get his library project off the ground. He is doing a lot of writing and talking to convince people to fund it. May I just say how very happy I was with how the characters’ work and that the book describes how passionate they were about their work?. I do not have direct experience with either working on a food truck or grant writing in the non-profits ( friend used to do something similar though), but everything described in the book made perfect sense to me.
Ernesto does what any owner of a small business who actually wants to see their business grow would do: he works off the chart hours, lives and breathes his work and his family and friends who love him do everything they can to help out. Jude is no less passionate about helping kids in the hard-to-reach parts of their country to get access to books. Of course the challenge for them is to remember that a [romantic?] relationship can be a part of their lives too, especially since Ernesto and Jude had a less than supportive family, which hurt him a lot in the past, so that was part of his baggage too. Was Jude the one with the less supportive family? You wrote in both names.
I just really loved these men and rooted for them. Of course the very prominent part of the book is the treatment of the immigrants in America today (and specifically immigrants from the Carribbean because Ernesto was born in The Dominican Republic). I could certainly relate to some thoughts as a first generation immigrant to the US, but overall I am not commenting on how well Ernesto and his friends were portrayed. I do not know a word of Spanish either, so I do not know how well the Spanish language is represented. The author talks about presenting the experiences of people like her in the books, so I am going to assume it was presented well, unless I read otherwise in the reviews of people who know what they are talking about.
What bothered me? The villain. No, I was not bothered that the villain was a woman. There were a lot of women supporting characters who were awesome and likeable, so of course female villains do exist in life and should exist in the stories as long as it’s not the only woman in the story, imo. It is not a mystery so I do not think I am spoiling anything; she was just an annoying shit to both Jude and Ernesto throughout the year that passes in this story. Why was I bothered? Because she felt almost like a caricature. I know that massively horrible people exist in life, but it felt like she was everywhere, especially in the first half of the book, and I was just thinking huh, why? And do you have time to be such a miserable, awful person? I do not know what I would need to like her portrayal more – for her to do less overall? I am not even sure. I just know that I was not happy with her characterization.
Moreover, as much as I loved Jude and Ernesto, I did not feel much chemistry from them. The author did everything right – slow burn romance, the men behaving as adults even when they did the mandatory breakup. And the breakup made perfect sense and did not even feel like something that should happen in every romance book; instead it felt like something happened between these two men because of who they were and what their priorities in life were.
“If looks could kill, I’d be bleeding out on the floor from the one Camilo shot me. ‘Why can’t you ever fucking relax, Nesto? You like him. He likes you, you see each other all the time. You’re fucking—’ I balked at that. Camilo threw his hand up, and spoke in a low voice, his eyes trained on Jude. ‘Okay technically not fucking, but together all the time and by the looks of it, you both enjoy each other. Why not let yourself have this?'”
I guess chemistry is something one either feels or does not and sadly for me, there was not much.