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Starting the 2019 Phonics Challenge:

N for new — Read a romance by a debut author or a romance by any author you haven’t read before. Or read a New Adult romance.

A Summer for Scandal by Lydia San Andres, published in 2015, is an e-read story chosen by my book group. It looked interesting to me, as well, because of its unusual setting and diverse characters.

San Andres’ story is set in 1911 in a fictional Caribbean island country. Emilia Cruz and her older sister Susana are trying to keep a roof over their heads in light of their poet father’s submersion into alcoholism after their mother died. Both women have jobs outside the home, but Emilia is not only a typist at a local company, she also secretly writes “salacious” stories about a courtesan that has been serialized in a local literary magazine. Although scandalous, the stories are extremely popular. Emilia, however, has been writing them under a pseudonym and quietly bristles at some of the criticism, especially by noted writer Ruben Torres. What Emilia does not know is that Ruben not only publicly questions the value of these stories, but, under his own pseudonym, he edits a competing journal and has published blistering reviews of Emilia’s work.

As the story opens, Ruben has recently moved to Emilia’s town of Arroyo Blanco. He has left his home in the city behind in a dispute with his father and decides to take up residence in the small town of a school friend, Luis. However, Ruben is struggling financially and is having difficulty with his new book. So, he decides — in order to boost his fortunes — that he needs to land a coup for his magazine and find out who the mystery writer is. The problem is, he’s beginning to suspect Emilia, but he’s also beginning to fall in love with a woman he has vowed to expose.

This is a gem of a story that has some unfortunate problems. First, I so appreciated the Caribbean setting and the focus on the local townspeople. In fact, I kind of liked the ensemble feel of the story as we get to know family, various friends, and foes. I felt the author did a good job of fleshing out some of these characters without diminishing the central story. We even spend a little time in the city from which Reuben hailed, with his family, exploring the issues that drove him away. However, some of the characters suffered from the relatively huge cast. It would’ve been nice to know more about both Emilia’s and Reuben’s fathers who are the driving forces for their children’s actions. Also, Reuben’s sister and his partner Manuel could’ve used a little more substance. So, on the one hand, I felt some characters were well drawn but others were sketchy. But, the biggest problem with the story were the numerous typographical errors that had to be the result of poor proofreading. At one point Reuben is even referred to as Roberto, so I’m guessing the author changed his name along the way. A couple of errors are okay, but when I began to lose count … that irritates me. I’d give this a “C”.


The Alphabet Variation Challenge – 8 down, 11 to go (A, D, E, G, H, I, M, S …)

The Phonics Challenge – 1 down, 18 to go