Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: March 4, 2019
Received From: NetGalley
No one ever said big dreams come easy
For Nesto Vasquez, moving his Afro-Caribbean food truck from New York City to the wilds of Upstate New York is a huge gamble. If it works? He’ll be a big fish in a little pond. If it doesn’t? He’ll have to give up the hustle and return to the day job he hates. He’s got six months to make it happen—the last thing he needs is a distraction.
Jude Fuller is proud of the life he’s built on the banks of Cayuga Lake. He has a job he loves and good friends. It’s safe. It’s quiet. And it’s damn lonely. Until he tries Ithaca’s most-talked-about new lunch spot and works up the courage to flirt with the handsome owner. Soon he can’t get enough—of Nesto’s food orof Nesto. For the first time in his life, Jude can finally taste the kind of happiness that’s always been just out of reach.
An opportunity too good to pass up could mean a way to stay together and an incredible future for them both…if Nesto can remember happiness isn’t always measured by business success. And if Jude can overcome his past and trust his man will never let him down.
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: homoromantic
TROPES: height difference
TAGS: adult, ownvoices, contemporary, romance, queer romance, queer characters, Dominican characters, Caribbean characters, Jamaican characters, Haitian characters, Puerto Rican characters, Cuban characters, Afro-Latinx characters, Afro-Caribbean characters, immigrant characters, interracial relationship
WARNINGS: ableism, slurs, gendered slurs, anti-aro language, slutshaming, racism, racist antagonism, religion, misogyny, parental illness mention, cancer, parental death mention, anti-queer family, hospital visit, anti-enby language, suicide mention
(Note: There will be brief spoilers towards the end of the review as I talk about the main issue I had with part of the plot.)
Based on all the hype I’ve seen on social media, I went into this book expecting to love it and I was not disappointed!
All of the characters are absolutely incredible. Nesto and Jude, the main characters, are both passionate and determined people who put their all into achieving their dreams but who are also deeply devoted to their family and friends. I very much enjoyed watching the two of them both separately and together as they navigated life in their small town–Nesto trying to get his food truck up and running and eventually turned into a restaurant, Jude trying to get a mobile library funded, and the two of them trying to make a relationship work. They both struggle, but over all, each of them are so incredibly supportive of the other and ready to do anything to help how they can, and it was a satisfying relationship to read about. Additionally, the sexual aspect of their relationship was hot, hot, hot! Nesto’s dirty talk, the way Jude falls apart for him, and the kissing…all of it was exciting and fun to read.
And the secondary cast was just as amazing. I loved the friendship between Jude and his coworker and friend, Carmen, and how she was always on his side and a hundred percent ready to chew someone out for him, but at the same time, she didn’t take any of his nonsense and gave him straightforward advice on what he should do. Similarly, I absolutely loved the relationship between Nesto and his three childhood best friends–Milo, Juanpa, and Patrice. The four of them have a camaraderie that’s undeniable and wonderful. They’re able to joke around and drag each other, but they also give each other all the advice and support the others need. One of my favorite aspects of the book was the fact that the three of them were always willing to drop everything and drive up to help Nesto with anything, whenever necessary. Those kinds of deep relationships are my bread and butter, and I could read about them day and night. Finally, Nesto’s mom was one of the best characters. She’s feisty and irreverent and an incredibly supportive parent who is determined to help her children succeed in any way she can.
My only issue with the book was how Jude’s relationship with his family was handled towards the end of the book. Throughout the course of the novel, we find out that Jude’s family was very conservative and religious, and they all essentially disowned him when he came out to them four years prior to the events of the novel. It’s a wound that is clearly still open after 4 years and miles of distance, and yet, when he gets a call that his sister’s cancer is back, he’s so quick to jump at the chance to be around the people who’ve abused him. While I definitely think that forgiveness arcs are important, because it’s a reality for some queer people, it’s tiresome when that’s the only story arc we get with queer characters estranged from family. It’s not our job to forgive them, it’s their job to apologize. But even more than that, I took issue with the way a certain scene was utilized. On the last visit to see her before she’s moved into hospice, Mary, Jude’s sister, ambushes him with their old preacher in an attempt to convince him again to pray the gay away and makes it clear that it’s essentially her last dying wish. When Jude tells her that he won’t do that, she tells him not to come see her again, and then he’s aggressively cornered by his brother in the hallway as he’s leaving. This scene obviously, and understandably, causes Jude a lot of pain, and when he calls for support, Nesto is busy in the middle of something and doesn’t take the time to talk to him, which results in their break up. Obviously, they eventually get back together by the end, but I didn’t care for the fact that Jude’s pain and trauma at the hands of his family is used as a prop for the romance. It’s used as a way for Nesto to break out of his business induced tunnel vision and make him realize that Jude is the most important thing in his life and he needs to win him back. Queer trauma didn’t have to be backbone of the reunion arc.
Despite this, though, I really did enjoy this novel as a whole, and I’m very excited to see what comes next from Adriana Herrera and this series!
Adriana was born and raised in the Caribbean, but for the last 15 years has let her job (and her spouse) take her all over the world. She loves writing stories about people who look and sound like her people, getting unapologetic happy endings.
When she’s not dreaming up love stories, planning logistically complex vacations with her family or hunting for discount Broadway tickets, she’s a social worker in New York City, working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
She’s one of the co-creators of the Queer Romance PoC Collective and serves as the VP of Programs for the Romance Writers of America New York City Chapter.