I’ve actually done a pretty good job of writing full reviews for most of the books I’ve read so far in 2020. I’ll have more reviews coming in the next few weeks as more spring releases coming out, but today I’ll be sharing reviews that fall into slightly different adult fiction categories and are both well-read and much-loved: Christina Lauren’s Roomies and Chanel Cleeton’s Next Year in Havana.
My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
I’ve made it my recent mission to eat up as many Christina Lauren books as possible, which led me to Roomies. I feel like anyone and everyone was reading Roomies back when it came out in 2017, and I felt like it was finally time for me to pick it up! Plus, how could I not further delay a contemporary romance with an Irish male protagonist??
Roomies follows Holland Baker, an aspiring writer who makes too many excuses to stop at the subway station near her apartment to listen to her street-musician crush, Calvin. When Holland’s musical director of an uncle is in desperate need of a lead musician for his hit Broadway show, Holland gets Calvin an audition. The problem? Calvin is in the US illegally, since his student visa expired years ago. The solution? Holland marries the Irishman.
Roomies was such a light-hearted, rom-com journey for Holland and Calvin. While Holland is absolutely head-over-heels for Calvin from the get-go, this book is really about them finding their passion and love for one another. You better believe that the Irish girl that I am absolutely squealed out loud when Calvin gives Holland a gold claddaugh ring. The symbol- love, loyalty, and friendship- sums up their relationship! I also loved the little reminders that Calvin is Irish and has an accent,like pronouncing “things” like “tings.” The book does take a while to really set the stage (no musical-puns intended) and get the plot going, but I really liked getting to know Holland her life. Yes, the marriage and romance (and yes, the romance scenes towards the end were so good!) are at its heart, but I loved Holland’s uncles and how they act as her support system. Many contemporary romance and Broadway lovers will especially enjoy Roomies’ settings, as it takes place in the NYC theater world. Holland, Calvin, and her uncle, Robert, have such a genuine love for music, and I loved seeing Holland embrace its place in her life even though she isn’t a musician. After finishing Roomies, I basically added all the Christina Lauren books I haven’t yet read to my TBR!
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
I’ve decided in 2020 that I’d like to pick up more hyped books that I have tended to stay away from for whatever reason. Okay I know the reason: the hype intimidates me and I’m afraid that I won’t like them like everyone else. I’ve been craving women’s contemporary/adult contemporary fiction lately, which led me to Chanel Cleeton’s Next Year in Havana. I’ve read Cuban literature in some of my college English classes, and it was a nice experience jumping back into the setting. The book is told in present day Cuba, with the travel ban between the US and Cuba lifted and Marisol finally getting to visit the country her beloved grandmother and her sisters fled from all those years ago. The book is also told from Marisol’s grandmother’s perspective as a nineteen year old woman, finding love against the political turmoil going on each day.
If it weren’t for my busy schedule at school, Next Year in Havana so would have been a book I devoured in a day – I’m pretty proud of the fact that I still managed to read it in 3 or 4 sittings. I did enjoy Marisol’s perspective a bit more than Elisa’s, but as major revelations regarding Elisa’s story were dropped in the latter half, I was absolutely hooked to both storylines. While there is an emphasis on romance and family, there is so much to learn about the history of Cuba. It was easy to tell that Chanel Cleeton put so much research into both new and old Havana. It really felt like we were exploring Cuba alongside Marisol and Elisa. The romance in both perspectives was fun to read, but I really loved the focus on family, including Marisol’s love and grief for her grandmother, Marisol’s complicated family life, and Luis’ own family dynamics. I definitely see myself picking up the companion novel, When We Left Cuba, and Chanel Cleeton’s July 2020 release, The Last Train to Key West.
Have you read Roomies or Next Year in Havana? What are your favorite Chanel Cleeton and Christina Lauren books? Share in the comments!