Friday, May 17, 2019

Book Review: "Don't Date Rosa Santos" by Nina Moreno"

"We try with all we have. We fight hands we can't see. We stomp against the earth and whisper all the right prayers, but sometimes it isn't meant to be. You believe life will always be as it is, and you make plans, but the next thing you know, you're climbing into a sinking boat in the dead of night because the land you love is no longer safe. The sun sets, he doesn't swim above the water again, and time runs out."

Rosa Santos has been raised to believe that the women in her family are cursed by the sea, especially when it comes to love, and the men who get involved with them are doomed. When her grandparents migrated from Cuba when her mother was just an infant, storms hit their boat, and only Rosa's grandmother and mother survived. Eighteen years later, the young man her mother loved (and Rosa's father) left on his boat for a routine day of work and never returned.

Since then Rosa has been afraid of even going near the water—and has steered clear of relationships. She lives with her grandmother, Mimi, in a small Florida town where everyone knows everyone's business. Mimi works as a curandera, the person everyone turns to for help with illness, crises, and everything in between. Rosa's mother drifts in and out of town, unable to stay for too long in the place where her heart was broken, and causing friction with Mimi whenever she returns.

What Rosa wants more than anything is answers. She wants to know more about what Cuba was like for her grandmother, why she'll never speak of that time or of the family left behind. She wants to understand why her mother can't stay in one place, why she can't be the mother she's always needed. And more than anything, she wants to understand the whole idea of the Santos "curse," especially when she meets Alex Aquino, the brooding sailor with tattoos of the ocean and a passion for baking.

How do you get a fresh start when everyone around you knows everything about you, and is watching your every move? Can we really overcome the challenges of our past, and outrun the "curses"? Is love worth risking everything for, especially the potential that you could "doom" someone else?

Don't Date Rosa Santos is an utterly charming, sweet book about family, love, grief, and heritage, and is, in many ways, a love letter both to Cuba and to small-town America. The characters are fun and complex, and even if there aren't too many surprises to be had in the book, I got hooked pretty quickly and read the entire book in one day.

Nina Moreno has created a magical place, and her characters are quirky and memorable. It does feel a little like Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls, and the relationships between mothers and daughters are special. (Plus, Alex sounded hot.) This was a fun read without a tremendous amount of angst, which was a nice change of pace for me!

NetGalley and Disney-Hyperion provided me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making it available!


  1. I am almost done with this one, and I agree with so many of your observations. I actually smiled when I saw the comparison to Stars Hollow. You may be onto something there.