Sea Siren/La Sirena
The lure of the mermaid has haunted fishermen through the ages, and even though the heroine of Sea Siren is flesh and blood like the rest of us mortals, her story, and that of the man she loves, is nevertheless a pleasure to read.
A mermaid sits perched in the distance, waving to passersby, and for a moment, she smiles at fisherman Augustino Suarez, who’s sitting in a bar along with some of the other men who work the sea. No, he hasn’t had one drink too many – it’s just a reluctant Kiki Figueroa doing her part so that her family’s new restaurant, “La Sirena,” will be a success.
To ward off a group of men with less than honorable intentions, Tino steps in and makes a show of being Kiki’s boyfriend. A grateful Kiki, trapped in her mermaid costume, plays along and is stunned by her response to Tino’s kiss, and his gallantry later when he carries her to safety after it begins raining. When these two part, you know they are not easily going to forget each other, although there is some emotional baggage to be dealt with first.
Kiki (her real name is Theresa) was married to an alcoholic whose addiction destroyed her marriage. Although one meeting with Tino makes her question her attraction to him because he’s drinking a bit and not on his best behavior, Kiki does not lump him in with her ex-husband and is open to his apology when he offers it. Tino also carries scars, of the being-left-at-the-altar variety, and is reasonably tentative when it comes to making a commitment to Kiki.
And tentative he is; Tino doesn’t call soon enough after their first date, but instead shows up at Kiki’s doorstep. He is going on a fishing trip and won’t be back for a few days and tells Kiki that she’s free to see other people, although he really wants her to do nothing of the kind. Kiki wishes he wouldn’t dance around the subject so much, so she simply tells him she’ll be waiting for him when he gets back, but when she asks him to spend the night with her, he declines and leaves a slightly hurt Kiki to mope around with her best friend. The mixed signals finally stop – do they ever! – when Tino returns from the trip.
The internal conflict ends with about one-third of the book left, so the rest is filled with the obligatory appearance by someone from the past and then a last-minute fishing mishap that threatens Tino’s life. Sub-plots for filler are generally more annoying than this, but these characters made up for the padding. It was so refreshing to see characters who refused to let a potential Big Misunderstanding even happen, who actually talked to one another and who weren’t coy with each other, that I forgave the plotting problems.
Kiki is a very no-nonsense heroine. She’s a little put off by Tino’s initial obnoxious behavior but quickly sees behind the façade. She realizes she can be hurt again by putting her feelings out there, but she also understands that Tino needs a little prodding. The concept of family is important to her, and she’ll do anything to help out the new business, even putting on a silly costume.
Hardworking fisherman Tino might be a little hesitant to pledge his heart to Kiki, but she soon becomes the love of his life and he knows it. He is thoughtful and gentlemanly, rescuing Kiki at the beginning of the book and encouraging her to get over her fear of the sea without pushing her too far.
The description of Latino culture is vibrant here – neither so in-your-face that it becomes annoying nor thrown in as filler. Since a large part of the plot revolves around Kiki’s family’s restaurant, the descriptions of Puerto Rican food were appropriate and accurate. My only concern would be all the phrases in Spanish scattered throughout the book, some are pretty obvious to figure out, some less. If you can get past this hurdle, there is a nice story and delightful characters to meet in author Vasquez’ latest offering, Sea Siren/La Sirena.