Couldn’t somebody have come up with a better title for this book? Spanish Disco has nothing to do with Spain, and very little to do with disco. But don’t let the title put you off this engaging story about a woman who has to learn that the lines between personal and professional lives are sometimes supposed to blur.
Thirtysomething Cassie Hayes admits she’s a caffeine addict and a slob (I warmed up to her immediately) who drinks like a fish and swears like a sailor. She works as a book editor for a small, prestigious press and has a stable of writers under her, one of whom is the successful British author Michael Pearton. Cassie and Michael have never met face-to-face, but they spend hours on the phone (mostly Michael waking Cassie up in the middle of the night to be coaxed through his too-frequent writer’s blocks, plus a little bit of mild phone sex thrown in). Lately Michael’s been pressing Cassie to come to London, but commitment-shy Cassie keeps fobbing him off: why ruin a perfectly good relationship, she reasons, by actually meeting the guy? She might do something stupid like fall in love with him.
When her boss tells her that Roland Riggs, the legendary and reclusive author of the seminal book for the Viet Nam generation, has asked for her personally to edit his next book, Cassie’s thrilled, until she learns that Riggs’s terms include her living under his roof while the book is finished. Cassie really doesn’t want to leave Boca Raton – and the assisted-living facility where her father is an Alzheimer’s resident – for the Gulf Coast. But landing the book will save the company, so Cassie reluctantly packs up her laptop and her Mr. Coffee and heads off for the Gulf Coast, where a truly strange household awaits her.
Roland’s managed to guard his privacy pretty well since his wife’s death years ago, but now he’s become infatuated with his housekeeper Maria, a beautiful and sad young woman with amazing gardening skills and the worst cooking in the Western hemisphere. Knowing how desperate Cassie is to get her hands on his manuscript, Roland blackmails her: if she’ll help him win Maria’s heart, she can have the book. Cassie has to fend off a nosy journalist who’s hot on Roland’s trail, as well as deal with her growing feelings for Michael.
In spite of her deplorable habits – or maybe because of them – Cassie is a sympathetic character, brassy and sassy. She’s a no-nonsense, unsentimental, balls-to-the-wall kind of chick who hates mornings and loves tequila. Yet there’s a teeny tiny marshmallow hidden at her center, protected by some pretty thick armor, just waiting for someone to help her find the courage to let it show. She’s spent a lifetime avoiding some hard truths, and now she’s got to face up to them. It’s not pretty, but it does make for a good story, and an interesting protagonist.
The other characters are pretty interesting, too, especially Michael, pining away for Cassie on the other side of the Atlantic. The dialogue is snappy and clever, and the plot moves along at a fairly good pace. There were a couple of subplots that never quite came together for me: one deals with Cassie’s mother and the (non)relationship between the two women, and the other involves the pesky reporter I mentioned earlier. I got the feeling that most of Cassie’s interactions with him could have been cut and the book wouldn’t have suffered for it.
Although I’m still baffled by the title, I did like this book. I was even humming a Bee Gees tune by the time I’d finished it.