The Cuban Heiress
“Cleeton’s characters offer a beautiful pairing of tenderness and passion, anger and revenge, courage and resolution.”
This lively and twisty suspense novel from Chanel Cleeton pairs the glamour and desperation of women’s survival in the Great Depression, highlighted with a delicious Cuban American flair. Occupying different parts of the magnificent luxury liner SS Morro Castle are two women whose secrets intertwine, and two determined thieves, one charming, and the other a clear menace. Cruise ship entertainment may hide the dangers during daylight, but on the night decks, murder knows few bounds.
Elena Reyes, say one woman’s false documents. Her first mission on the boat is to retrieve a pistol that’s been smuggled aboard for her, thanks to other Cuban American allies. Her justified rage is more than sufficient for the pistol’s use—but are her other skills enough to protect her?
New York heiress Catherine Dohan can flash emerald earrings and a massive diamond engagement ring while traveling with her wealthy fiancé and his small child from an earlier marriage, with whom she’s not supposed to interact. But when the earrings turn out to be as false as her persona, that’s another revelation about the supposedly wealthy man she’s engaged to.
When the charming and insightful Harry pays too much attention to Catherine, her hunger for romance and real affection flares into an uncontrollable response. And even though she can see the hardscrabble career of seduction and theft that Harry juggles, the complications of the deception she is working mean she needs an alliance with this mysterious rogue.
She’s done her best to size him up: “Perhaps he’s hunting for a wealthy spouse as well . . . While I shouldn’t fault him, given my own ambitions, I won’t countenance anyone jeopardizing mine.” Prodded, though, she spits out her reality: “I like seeing people get what’s coming to them.” With Harry’s widened eyes, she instantly knows she’s made a mistake and revealed that she’s not the spoiled and pampered heiress she’s working so hard to portray.
Cleeton deftly alternates points of view between these two crafty, scheming women, and only gradually is the connection between them revealed: a fire, an abusive man, an escape. A false death certificate. And something about Raymond, the man Catherine’s engaged to.
As Harry becomes a more trusted ally, he shares his criminal insight with her: “There’s something about Raymond—a disregard for others, disdain for anyone he views as beneath him. . . . Whatever your game is, don’t think he doesn’t have one of his own.”
Cleeton, a Florida native with Cuban roots of her own, shows the skills she’s honed in four earlier romantic historical novels as she whips between the two women’s deceptions and risks. A tenderness for Cuban life and the way the island draws people back to their roots colors the determined women of this novel and the men who assist them. Cleeton’s characters offer a beautiful pairing of tenderness and passion, anger and revenge, courage and resolution. Not until the poignant final chapters will all the twists be satisfyingly revealed, with Catherine’s wish fulfilled: that people “get what’s coming to them.” And that includes the possibility of love, after all.