by Linda Dominique Grosvenor, contemporary (2007)
Urban Echoes Entertainment, $14.95, ISBN 978-0-9774786-2-0
Spanish Lullaby is written in such a melodramatic purple manner that it is hard for me to take this book seriously, especially when the author relies on the unfortunate "Other Women Are Trying To Come Between Me And My Man - Bitches!" plot device to give the story the conflict it needs. Billed as a story with a message of love and healing, this one strikes me as odd because at the same time it doesn't portray relationship between women in a particularly positive manner.
Marsia Peterson lost her husband and daughter when those two happened to be at a gas station when an armed robbery took place. However, she is starting to take baby steps towards moving on when she falls for Max Fuentes, a Puerto Rican fellow who embodies everything cheesy and corny about the "South American lover" stereotype. He's an artist, he has naked women throwing themselves at him, he's sensitive, and I cringe whenever he speaks and spews out what is supposed to be romantic flowery metaphors and what-not. A woman from Max's past may or may not cause trouble in the budding relationship. Put in an unexpected pregnancy and plenty of Bad Mommy-In-Law issues and I get a melodramatic story of Them Bitches Ain't Gonna Steal My Man drama.
Marsia starts out pretty promising as the author seems to be trying to make her grief come off as real as possible to the reader. But once Marsia decides to hook up with Max, the story turns into a very fluffy fairytale romance where I know that the characters are in love because the author tells me so. Max decides that he's in love with Marsia. Why? I suppose it's because she's hot and it's a first sight thing. I don't know. The relationship is pretty superficial. Max is an underwritten character. He's a collection of Latin lover clichés with a touch of misogyny (which is supposed to be okay because the other women in his life are not special like Marsia) and I have no idea who he is by the last page.
Still, this could make a superficial but pretty enjoyable fairytale romance for some readers. The prose is too melodramatic for me, however, and I find an underlying message about career women in this story that is rather uncomfortable to take.
You see, Marsia is depicted as a wife and mother first, baking cookies for everyone and her work is only brought up when the bills need to be paid. There are two women who are working for the sake of a career here, and unlike Marsia, these women are portrayed as desperately bitter and unhappy. Sylvia, the evil mother-in-law, is a man-eating slut who doesn't care if her conquests are married or not. (Of course, lover boy Max isn't comparable to Sylvia because his lovers are all clearly sluts for wanting to sleep with him.) Marsia's best friend Mona is suicidal and unhappy because she is too busy with her career that she married a man for money and ambitions, and she is now paying for her "mistake". The message here seems to be that a woman's ideal role in life is to be a wife and a mother.
Spanish Lullaby ends up being too much of a Hallmark drama aimed at conservative housewife readers for my taste. I'm also not too fond of the portrayal of any woman who could offer Marsia a competition for Max's affections or pose as a threat to Marsia's happiness as jealous skanks or hateful bitches. File this one under "not my cup of tea".
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