REVIEW: A Caribbean Heiress in Paris by Adriana Herrera
The Exposition Universelle is underway, drawing merchants from every corner of the globe…including Luz Alana Heith-Benzan, heiress to the Caña Brava rum empire.
Luz Alana set sail from Santo Domingo armed with three hundred casks of rum, her two best friends and one simple rule: under no circumstances is she to fall in love. In the City of Lights, she intends to expand the rum business her family built over three generations, but buyers and shippers alike can’t imagine doing business with a woman…never mind a woman of color. This, paired with being denied access to her inheritance unless she marries, leaves the heiress in a very precarious position.
Enter James Evanston Sinclair, Earl of Darnick, who has spent a decade looking for purpose outside of his father’s dirty money and dirtier dealings. Ignoring his title, he’s built a whisky brand that’s his biggest—and only—passion. That is, until he’s confronted with a Spanish-speaking force of nature who turns his life upside down.
From their first tempestuous meeting, Luz Alana is conflicted. Why is this titled—and infuriatingly charming—Scottish man so determined to help her?
For Evan, every day with Luz Alana makes him yearn for more than her ardent kisses or the marriage of convenience that might save them both. But Luz Alana sailed for Paris prepared to build her business and her future; what she wasn’t prepared for was love finding her.
Dear Ms. Herrera,
Wow what a cover. And the book had many POC in a historical setting? Yes, please. With a start that introduced heroine Luz Alana – a Dominican rum distiller – and her two best friends on their way to conquer the 1889 Paris Exposition while having a lot of fun, I was set. Some aspects of the book worked for me while others never quite made it.
Luz Alana Heith-Benzan and her two friends are sailing to Paris for fun, shopping, and to give Luz a chance to expand her business which is both family and worker owned. She’s proud of the fact that for generations, no enslaved people have been involved with making their rum. Her grandfather learned distilling from his master in Tennessee before he made it to Mexico and then to the Dominican Republic. Luz’s mother married a younger son of a Scottish aristocratic family but now that both are dead, it’s up to Luz to build the business. She plans on using women to network opportunities and knows that getting men to take her seriously will be hard.
Evan Sinclair is the heir to a Scottish Dukedom but despises almost everything to do with that. His father is an arse who holds the one thing Evan wants and uses that to make Evan dance to his bidding. But a reckoning is coming, due to a mystery man who has helped Evan acquire the documents needed to spill light on his father’s hidden dirty past.
The two have a fiery meeting but Luz impresses Evan with her “take no shit” attitude and soon he’s smitten and on sexual fire for her. This is something Luz also finds herself feeling for Evan but she must put it out of her mind and concentrate. Only she usually can’t. Lots of smoking kissing ensues – the first time while they’re both in a brothel. Yes. When Evan discovers what is being held over Luz’s head – due to secondary characters who helpfully spill a lot of her personal details – he sees a way that they can help each other. One marriage of convenience coming up!
Will their 90 day marriage (remember the changed marriage laws in the UK in the late 19th century) get them each what they want or will they discover they want more?
I loved the historical details – the debut of the Eiffel Tower, a mention of the phylloxera disease that devastated French vineyards, New World composers, French fashion designers, the number of Caribbean, Central and South American countries that were present at the Exposition. They were all carefully worked into the story and never made it feel as if I should be taking notes for a quiz.
Given the Las Leonas #1 designation, I know that Luz’s two friends will have their own books. The three friends are tight and have each other’s backs even if they have very different personalities. There is a lot of diversity in the book and not only among Luz’s female friends. There is also a Vietnamese woman married to a Frenchman, a Chilean heiress who married into the English aristocracy, as well as what Evan’s father was up to with his first marriage. As well as diversity, the book has many characters who have progressive social attitudes, although there are also some who don’t in order to show contrast, and two secondary characters are queer.
And now to what didn’t work so well for me. The (for me) dreaded insta-lust is what initially gets Luz and Evan together. There are a bunch of scenes with her “melted core,” and his “twitching cock,” and heated kissing and fingering that Luz just can’t bring herself to care that anyone might see or that perhaps she ought not to allow the only man who takes her seriously and who has helped her to so many liberties. While on the one hand I don’t have an issue with her enjoying her sexuality, on the other she is already up against a lot of prejudice due to her gender and her skin color. Should someone see her backed against a wall with Evan all over her like a rash it won’t help her business image or prospects. Readers who enjoy red hot sex scenes will be in luck though as there are quite a few.
At first Luz is presented as a woman determined to take on all comers as she works on getting new contacts and selling her rum. Only this doesn’t last long. A month during which she is belittled or ignored by businessmen brings her down but I still didn’t understand the reason for Luz to be in the exclusive brothel beyond setting up some smexy scenes. Why didn’t she just send a letter of introduction and ask the owners (one of whom is a woman) for a meeting to discuss selling her rum there as she had planned when she was thinking of using women as her network?
While I love the idea that Luz has to market her distilled products by using a female network by the 1/3 mark there wasn’t much of this. Instead, when Luz is almost continually rebuffed by men as she attempts to set up shipping or sell her rum, it’s Evan to the rescue as he takes her along to his meetings with his distributors and in one case, he literally strongarms someone at a ball into agreeing to a meeting with Luz (which she finds humiliating). So – not so much female networking.
Evan’s father is a piece of work – something which is revealed fairly early in the book. He’s been working with someone to hold his father to account for many varied and awful past deeds. When these deeds are described, I’m all with Evan and the other person because daddy needs to be brought down. Still Evan, for all his determination to see justice done, scares me at times. His standard reaction to anyone making him mad is to jump straight to issuing threats of bodily harm – knocking out all a person’s teeth, thrashing someone, “putting them in the ground.” Evan began to make me think of bodice ripping alpha heroes of old – although mixed with progressive social thinking. And though wrecking justice in these moments is usually a good thing by the end of the book he was just too “beating on his chest” much for me.
I found parts of the second half of the book to be rather slow though Evan makes a decision late in the story to let Luz in on something because he can’t stand for her to be broadsided since too many men in her life have let her down. Evan does have to be basically hit over the head with his feelings before acknowledging them but he does treat Luz lovingly and takes great care of her. Parts of the book were great and wonderful to see but some of it just didn’t work well for me. C+