Desert Isle Keeper
Their Perfect Melody
This book contains explicit descriptions of domestic violence, and there are references to it in this review.
When I put out a call on my Twitter for Latinx OwnVoices romances, I didn’t hear from many people – but my curiosity googling led me to the work of Priscilla Oliveras and her new Matched to Perfection series about the Illinois-based Fernandez sisters. I loved the first two books in the series, so I was delighted to read Lilí’s story in Their Perfect Melody.
An advocate at a local shelter for victims of domestic violence, Lilí Fernandez is furious, frustrated and scared when an admittedly cute police officer stops her from entering the apartment belonging to her friend and client, Melba. Melba had called Lilí panicked and afraid for her life because her abusive and alcoholic husband Tito was trying to break down the bathroom door intending to beat her, and all Lilí wants to do is be sure that Melba’s safe. Pushing past the officer, she barges her way into the apartment, finding Melba has sustained only a few minor injuries, and Tito long gone.
Officer Diego Reyes has become somewhat hardened to the unfairness of the world courtesy of his job, but he still believes in justice, which is why he starts protectively hovering over Melba and Lilí. He also has a guilt complex over what happened to his older sister, whose descent into addiction also badly affected their mother’s health; he is determined not to let another woman down. When Lilí sweeps Melba off to her condo in The Loop instead of letting her stay home where Tito might assault her, Diego flat out wonders if she’s crazy. He loves Chicago and his middle-class lifestyle on the West Side, and Lilí’s classy manner, tough as heck attitude and designer outfits raise his eyebrows (and other portions of his anatomy). What Diego doesn’t know is that Lilí grew up lower-middle-class in a close-knit, Catholic Puerto Rican community and has only recently become a part of the fancy elite due to her sister Rosa’s marriage into the upper crust (in Her Perfect Affair); Chicago flows through her blood as heavily as it does his.
Already bound together and invested in Melba’s fate, Diego and Lilí work to bring Tito to justice as he takes to stalking Lilí to figure out Melba’s whereabouts. At the same time, Diego and Lilí are drawn together and discover a number of shared interests – helping abuse victims, teaching the vulnerable… and music. Lilí, once a wild child who would dance every dance at every club in Chicago, finds herself muted, unable to enjoy the music as she once did, her reaction – like Rosa’s self-blame and Yazmine’s (her other sister and heroine of His Perfect Partner) intense drive toward dancing perfection – to their mother’s tragic death in a car accident and their father’s failure as a dancer. In Lilí’s case she’s also struggling with the aftermath of the rape of a close friend years ago, which is what drew her to her line of advocacy. Diego plays guitar, and his music is the best connection he has back to roots that were shaken apart after his mother’s death and his sister’s struggles with addiction. Moved by one another and touched by a sense of emotional affinity, Lilí and Diego are slowly falling for each other – but are they too stubborn and scarred to allow romance to touch their hearts? Or will Tito strike and rip them apart forever?
Their Perfect Melody is an undeniable bite of delight; part tender romance, part thriller, it combines a beautifully realized sense of cultural identity with a beautiful, steamy romance.
Lilí is smart, spirited and conscientious; family means everything to her, she’s a Cubs devotee and she cares a lot about the people whose safety and trust are placed in her hands. A similar sense of devotion comes from Diego, whose cynicism clashes interestingly with his intractable faith in order and justice. They share many similarities and a lot of bedrock commonality that causes their pairing to make a lot of sense; their romance is easy to root for right from the start, and each is allowed their moment of frailty and weakness.
The book has a beautifully strong cultural identity that made me nod my head eagerly in familiar recognition; that’s what dinners I’ve attended feel like, happy nights with my family and music. There’s also a grit provided by Diego’s sister’s addiction and Melba’s abuse that doesn’t clash with the happy, hopeful storyline. There are no easy answers for any of the characters involved.
The books’ flaws are minor, and most of them don’t relate to its structure. The blurb doesn’t mention how much of the domestic violence plot absorbs the narrative – it’s actually a much more prominent plot element for the first half of the book than the shared musical interest that is played up in the synopsis. Speaking of, it’s really awkward to watch our hero and heroine have their first stirrings of lust for one another at the scene of a domestic violence incident. I’d rather that had waited just a tiny bit, at least until they had gotten Melba off to safety. But otherwise I liked the spark and heat between the two of them, and all of the various plot elements come together well.
Their Perfect Melody is a very nice, well-balanced romance. More importantly, I recognized myself and my family in this story, which was a beautiful thing to see and feel that made the story a rich reward to read.