The Spanish Daughter by Lorena Hughes

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The Spanish Daughter by Lorena Hughes
Publisher: Kensington Books
Genre: Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Set against the lush backdrop of early twentieth century Ecuador and inspired by the real-life history of the coastal town known as the birthplace of cacao, this captivating #OwnVoices novel from the award-winning author of The Sisters of Alameda Street tells the story of a resourceful young chocolatier who must impersonate a man in order to claim her birthright…

As a child in Spain, Puri always knew her passion for chocolate was inherited from her father. But it’s not until his death that she learns of something else she’s inherited—a cocoa estate in Vinces, Ecuador, a town nicknamed “París Chiquito.” Eager to claim her birthright and filled with hope for a new life after the devastation of World War I, she and her husband Cristóbal set out across the Atlantic Ocean. But it soon becomes clear someone is angered by Puri’s claim to the estate…

When a mercenary sent to murder her aboard the ship accidentally kills Cristóbal instead, Puri dons her husband’s clothes and assumes his identity, hoping to stay safe while she searches for the truth of her father’s legacy in Ecuador. Though freed from the rules that women are expected to follow, Puri confronts other challenges at the estate—newfound siblings, hidden affairs, and her father’s dark secrets. Then there are the dangers awakened by her attraction to an enigmatic man as she tries to learn the identity of an enemy who is still at large, threatening the future she is determined to claim.

Eager to claim her birthright after her father’s passing, Puri Maria Purification de Lafont y Toledo and her husband Cristóbal de Balboa set out across the Atlantic Ocean soon to discover their travels won’t go as smoothly as planned. Has she made a mistake by giving away everything to chase after her father’s dream?

For her safety she disguises herself as Cristobal and tells her siblings that Puri died on the ship. This is a bit far-fetched to me but a good telling on the author’s part. I was wondering how long she would be able to carry out this gender swap of wearing facial hair, sounding like a man all the while maintaining male characteristics. The author explained that Puri has always been naturally thin and tall as well as details on her transformation from female to male.

This is a fresh and unique read of family drama and secrets. The author did a fantastic job creating a storyline that kept me guessing. Three very different sisters united by loss and all wanting their share of their father’s cocoa estate in Vinces, Ecuador. There’s dialogue and backstory from multiple characters that help set the foundation for readers to understand the present scenes in the book.

I must mention with such descriptive writing I was able to picture in my mind vivid images of the surrounding scenes on the ship, Puri horseback riding and also the architectural structures and decor of the homes. I was also captivated by the enchanting setting and history of the cacao plantation.

My favorite character of the book would be Puri. I admire her bravery, passion, smarts, strength and kind heart. She has faced many obstacles and her life didn’t seem to be an easy one compared to her sister’s easy lifestyle. Puri hasn’t seen her father since she was two years of age. My least favorite character would be the father, the one who created this family drama and secrets. Everyone seems to admire and respect Don Armand Lafont but I on the other hand couldn’t help but vocalize while reading that he seems to have been a lady’s man fathering children and then had remorse for leaving Puri all those years ago. The sisters have an interesting story of their own and so does Martin Sabater.

The ending was satisfying but I felt like it could have had more to it. I was able to piece together the ending, but it seems it was abbreviated. The author gave us this full and lively story only to shorten and rush the outcome of what happened to the characters.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It’s richly woven into an entertaining read that I would recommend to readers that desire something different. It’s historical, and if you enjoy a good family secret and drama mixed with suspense that gives you closure in the end this is the book for you.

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