Leticia Gomez’s Sweet Destiny has an interesting setting, but the characters’ absurd behavior spoiled it for me. I kept sighing “Yeah, right,” which isn’t a good sign. The book contains lots of laughs, but unfortunately most of the humor is unintentional.
Amparo Reyes keeps an inn called Dancing Bear in New Mexico. She’s portrayed as a spiritual character; her devotion to the beauty of nature and the importance of Native American traditions are the most interesting things about her. She has a profound sense of right and wrong, which sounds lofty – but as it means that she makes capricious decisions about her life on the basis of what she randomly imagines God’s will to be, it makes her seem like a ditz.
The handsome Enrique lives in a different world. He’s an Argentinian tycoon with “herculean” muscles, but his whiny routine turned me off. Instead of macho and sexy, which was probably intended, he often comes across as childish, smug, sexistic and prejudiced. We first meet him at the hospital, ill because he has not taken care of himself, furious for the doctor who’s just doing his job. He travels to Amparo’s inn to recuperate from work-related stress, and starts a seduction.
In a priceless moment in their relationship, Amparo thinks:
Hearing him address her by her first name took Amparo by surprise. At first it bothered her, but since he had not slashed her throat last night, she figured he had earned the right to do so.
(Huh?) Later he invites her to be his travel guide, but he’s more interested in staring at her breasts than the other sights. He dresses inadequately, catches a cold, lets Amparo feel guilty and milks out all the pampering he can get, until he finally chooses to get better because he doesn’t want her to think he’s not a burly, manly man.
One night Amparo goes out alone and Enrique sneaks after her, sure she can’t take care of herself without him (how did she survive to that advanced age without him?). Although he’s only known her for a few days, he feels jealous and possessive of her already. “He just knew that she was going to come face to face with a crazed serial killer, or, worse yet, meet a secret lover for a midnight rendezvous.” He spies on her skinnydipping, and then convinces himself that he is keeping his stalking secret out of the sheer goodness of his heart.
Enrique also self-righteously blames Amparo for the slow development of the relationship and thinks she’s a tease. When she turns down his invitation to spend the night with him because she’s tired, he realizes that “the staggering evidence indicated that she was a lying, conniving, back- stabbing heartbreaker”. Oh ye of little faith. Of course she’s in love with him. He leaves, she follows him, and though “any other man would have treated her like dirt”, he graciously decides not to.
The second half is a bit better, but not enough to drag the book out of F territory. He sends her telepathic messages and gets furious when she cannot read minds. There’s some cave-man action and an unnecessary separation which could have been avoided if Enrique and Amparo didn’t have an absurd aversion to communication. As in: “Instead of speaking up, she closed her eyes and pretended to have fallen asleep. How else was she going to get him to stop being such an insensitive clod?” Right you are. Talking is such a horrible waste of time. Amparo also uses a haphazard faith-based relationship management technique – at one point she decides that God wants her to give Enrique up. When these characters finally get their happy end, it’s difficult to believe it will last.
If Sweet Destiny was intended as a parody of a romance novel clichés it would fare pretty well, as its absurdities did make me laugh. Enrique and Amparo have unrealistic beliefs, make irrational decisions, usually expect the worst of each other, and jump to unwarranted conclusions like the top-ranking members of the Too Stupid To Live Hall Of Fame. Trust and communication are scarce commodities. I did like some of Amparo’s spirituality and enjoyed the descriptions of New Mexico sights and wonders, but I’ll look for an illustrated guidebook if I ever want to return to the atmosphere.