Melting Pot Challenge: Hispanic Characters

aztec_gold My very first romance novel was Lord of La Pampa by Kay Thorpe, an old Harlequin Presents title. It starred a naïve British girl and an arrogant Argentinian cattle rancher. She had come to Argentina for a dancing job and instead found herself facing the possibility of working at a less savory profession. He had to be married in the next three days in order to inherit some land. The two make a bargain to marry without love but at some point – well, I’m sure you know what happens from there.

So it’s no exaggeration to say that romances with Hispanic characters have always been a part of my reading, even if some were drawn in somewhat stereotypical fashion. For many years Harlequin was my primary source. Along with novels by Kay Thorpe there were literally dozens of others published every year by authors like Anne Mather, Kim Lawrence, and Lynne Graham. As I began reading single titles, these characters stayed with me. From older books like Judith McNaught’s Tender Triumph to newer books like Regina Jennings’ Sixty Acres and a Bride, I’ve been able to enjoy excellent novels that celebrate the diverse cultures that make up the Latin American world.

My experience has been that the vast majority of books I find featuring Hispanic characters are contemporaries. One notable exception is Carla Kelly’s excellent Daughter of Fortune. In this richly detailed historical, Maria Espinoza meets Diego Masferrer when he rescues her from an Apache attack. Diego and Maria begin a tentative dance towards love. AAR has a review of the novel here. Some readers may want to be aware that the book contains graphic violence but it is a fantastic look at the settling of the Southwest. I couldn’t mention Hispanic characters without putting a plug in for this book. Kelly combines her outstanding writing talents with an amazing knowledge of her subject matter to deliver a unique and riveting tale.

I had already read several novels this year that would meet the requirements for this blog but I wanted to expand my horizons a bit and look for several novels written by Hispanic authors, as opposed to just revolving around Hispanic characters. The first author I found was Tracy Montoya. Back in 1999, Kensington started a line of romance novels aimed at Hispanic readers. Unfortunately, Encanto was dissolved in 2001 but several of the authors went on to publish under other imprints, Montoya among them. Her 2008 Harlequin Intrigue I’ll Be Watching You is one of the books I read specifically for the challenge.

So, what’s it about? Her fiancée had been murdered chasing down a serial killer and in some ways, Adriana (Addy) Torres had died with him. Nothing in her life or their shared home has changed since that horrific day. It is as though she is waiting for him to walk back through her door. Detective Daniel Cardenas has thought of Addy often throughout the years. But he has heeded the invisible no trespassing sign she has kept firmly around herself, until he receives news that the man who killed her fiancée may very well be back. At the very least, the police know there is a copy cat now “working” in the area. Fearful that her history will make Addy a target and determined to protect her from further harm, Daniel begins to do guard duty, watching over her as she goes about her daily routine. Daniel starts to lose his heart to Addy, but the haunted Addy doesn’t know whether she can move on or will remain living in the past.

Ms. Montoya let the culture of her two protagonists flavor the story without obvious cultural lectures, and the emphasis remained on the mystery, just as it should be. While this little gem of a tale is no longer available in paperback, it is available for Kindle. I would recommend it to any suspense fan looking for a short story with a lot of punch.

Caridad Piñeiro is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She brings Hispanic characters and their culture into the current paranormal market. She is also one of the authors that helped launch the Encanto line. When I first began looking for books with Hispanic characters, her long line of block busters drew my eye. She has several 2012 releases but it was the author’s 2011 release Aztec Gold which kept snagging my attention. I love archeological digs and ancient monsters and this book was just too tempting to resist.

The heroine, Cynthia Guerrera, does not like to leave home. A horrific event in her past has made her fearful of travelling. But when her friend, lover, and fellow archaeologist Rafael Santiago goes missing, Cynthia has to do something. Rafael had trekked into the Mexican jungle in search of one of the fabled Cities of Gold six months ago. Neither he nor any member of his party has been heard from again. When the discovery of an old journal shows new information regarding the area where Rafael disappeared Cynthia determines to follow the path provided in the hope that it will lead her to the man she loves.

When her expedition arrives at a remote village deep in the jungle, Cynthia is excited to find Rafael alive. But excitement soon turns to horror as she learns what happened to his team. And then watches as it begins to happen to hers. Cynthia must stand and fight beside the man she loves before both of them perish, victims to an endless evil. This is a fantastic treasure hunt story with a paranormal twist. I absolutely loved it and would recommend to anyone looking for a fun, sexy, swashbuckling tale.

No blog about Latin-American authors would be complete for me without mentioning Laura Esquivel. Laura burst onto the scene with her magical surrealistic romance Like Water for Chocolate back in the late ‘90’s. Her specialty is thwarted love with a reunion in eternity. Her most recent book is Malinche, a novelization of the real life story of Cortez and his Nahua interpreter. Not an HEA style romance, but still a love story richly detailed in history and the cultures it discusses.

I read one more set of books specifically for this blog. Jill Sorenson first caught my eye back in 2011. Her The Edge of Night received a DIK here. Her follow-up novel Caught in the Act also received a rave review. I was delighted at the idea of finding two melting pot reads right in my own TBR. Since we already have fantastic reviews of the books here at AAR, I will just add my own voice to the praise. Both novels were fantastic, combining that perfect mix of romance and suspense. I felt that Ms. Sorenson did a really great job of portraying her characters and their culture in the tales, and I especially loved the way she tackled the issue of immigration in Caught in the Act.

So now it is your turn. Have you read any of the books I listed? Do you have any favorites of your own to recommend?

- Maggie Boyd

16 thoughts on “Melting Pot Challenge: Hispanic Characters

  1. Sorry to say I haven’t read any. But I certainly will check them out. The first contemporary romance that I can remember with a hispanic character is Tender Triump by Judith McNaught – Submerging her painful past in a promising career, beautiful but wary Katie Connelly keeps all men at a distance until she meets the courtly and passionate Ramon Galverra. Which has a 1983 publication date. I don’t think I read it then because I went back and glommed Ms. McNaught’s books but even still it is a reminder of how long I have been reading romance books (grin).

    And of course the first historical was probably by Georgette Heyer – either the Spanish Bride or Beauvallent

    • Love Tender Triumph. I lived in St. Louis back when I read it and was stunned by how well she captured that setting. My mom is from Puerto Rico and I felt she did a great job with that culture as well.

  2. I too read Lord of LaPampa though I don’t remember much about it – I do remember reading a book taking place in South America though that had twin brother’s, an arranged marriage and a debutante – can’t remember the name though. I haven’t read Like Water For Chocolate – but I did see the movie ….I also have Caridad’s books and they are excellent – I highly recommend them. I need to find some more Hispanic books to try out and I’m going to give some of the one’s you mentioned a try.

  3. Love Jill Sorenson’s books! I’d love to see stories on some of the other characters she introduced in those two books.

    • I want to see Jill do Maria and the other cop. I am so glad I “found” this author, she really is fantastic.

  4. Thank you so much for mentioning me and AZTEC GOLD. I loved writing the story and including elements of the Aztec culture to share with others. I tried to do the same in THE FIFTH KINGDOM, which revolves an ancient Aztec relic. Both stories were inspired by a trip to Mexico. As for me, the first romance story with Hispanic characters that grabbed my attention was Barbara Faith’s THE SUN DANCERS which was about a female matador! It was a wonderful book and I just fell in love with it. It’s one of my few keepers that I’ve read many times. Thanks again for this discussion!

  5. P.S. – The Encanto line may be gone, but many of the Encantadoras have gone on to write for various publishers. Readers can check out works by Lara Rios, Julia Amante, Sylvia Mendoza, Berta Platas and Lynda Sandoval, just to name a few. Thanks again!

    • Thank you so much for coming by! I will have to check out The Fifth Kingdom, it sounds like something I would really enjoy. And thank you also for telling me about the other writers from Encanto who are still active. I will look into rheir books.

  6. I love Caridad’s book also, and I need to read your recommendations– except for hers, I hadn’t read any of these. I started reading romance late– not until my 40′s-so that’s probably why. I do have a couple of good reads for you though– Julie Leto has Dirty Little Secrets, and Dirty Little Lies with her heroine Marisela Morales and I LOVED the first one– have the second one on my kindle. She’s a former bounty hunter– has a sexy ex-boyfriend she still is hot for. Yikes:)

    Also The Sexorcist by Vivi Andrews– the title is part of a joke involving an exorcist named Luis Rodriguez who has a reputation he doesn’t deserve. I LOVED this novella. It’s funny and sexy.

    Those are the first two that pop into my head:)

  7. Haven’t read these, except the Kelly, which I remember finding much too violent. I did recently read The Superheroes Union: Dynama, a fun book with a Latina superhero heroine.

  8. Thanks for the Daughter of Fortune mention. Yes, it’s violent, but the event was violent, and I toned it down for readers, believe it or not. I just finished writing a historical mystery set in 1780 northern New Mexico, about a brand inspector ( juez de campo) living on the scary edge of Comancheria, as the Spanish are slowly pulling back from that frontier. (little knowing that there
    would someday be great skiing there…)

  9. I read Judith McNaught’s “Tender Triumph,” which was one of my favorites. I haven’t read the others, but I do remember reading a historical featuring Hispanic characters but I’m having trouble remembering the title or the author. The plot and characters stick in my mind…the heroine worked as a maid in a house of prostitution and had a crush on the hero. They meet again 10 years later but she doesn’t tell him about her past (because by then the madam has died and the madam who takes over wants the heroine to become a prostitute). It sounds corny the way I’m describing it, but it was a wonderful book.

  10. Latin american here, so please excuse my english.

    I would recommend Isabel Allende, her historicals were the books that broke all my prejudices about romance novels. The quality of her writing, the research and study of the periods make her one of the most recognized authors in Latinamerica.
    House of the Spirits and Daughter of Fortune are my favourites.

    http://www.amazon.com/Isabel-Allende/e/B000APY7B8

  11. “Daughter of Valdoro” by Evelyn Stewart Armstrong was set in Brazil after Land Reform Laws. The hero was a general come to enforce the new laws and the heroine was a landowners daughter. It was quite a lovely romance and a dance scene I loved! …. It was published in 1977. The cover of the book I have is very plain – a woman in profile – but later covers were pretty dopey.

  12. Umm . . . Frank Yerby, The Golden Hawk (1952 or so). It’s been a while. The Hispanic girl didn’t get the hero, but she wasn’t a villainess, either.

    • From the blurb of the 1982 reprint: They called him the Golden Hawk, Kit Gerado, whose tawny mane and fierce hungers were know and feared thoughout the Caribbean. As ruthless as he was passionate, he plundered the seas on a savage quest for vengeance and love.”

      As for Yerby: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Yerby

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