Resort to Love by Priscilla Oliveras is the third book in Tule’s Paradise Key multi-author series about a set of friends who return to the Floridian island where they all met for the funeral of a dear friend. Each of the books can be read as standalones. Like Oliveras’s previous novels it features a Puerto Rican heroine and it is a sweet and sexy closed door romance that is not lacking in sexual tension. Oliveras’s recurring core theme of balancing faith, family and love in order find happiness drives this story of ex-lovers reunited as rivals in a real-estate transaction.
Sofía Vargas grew up spending her summers with her Tía Mili on Paradise Key, eventually joining her aunt as a summer worker at the Paradise Key Beach Resort. It was at Paradise Key where she first met Nate Hamilton, son of the resort owners, sent to Paradise Key to learn the family business from the bottom up. Always aware of the huge gulf between them, Sofía set up the boundaries for their romance, as simply “no strings, just fun”. They spent their summers sharing picnics on the beach, and dances in the moonlight. Eventually after they both left Paradise Key for college and then careers in the hospitality industry, flirty texts, frequent phone calls, romantic getaways weekends kept their connection alive if undefined until the day that Nate came to let her know that his family expected him to propose to daughter of business partner as a way of solidifying a potential business merger. Never wanting to be the cause of division in his family she cut ties with Nate then and there.
Two years later and newly freed from the engagement he never wanted and once again on the outs with his overbearing father, Nate finds himself exiled back to Florida. Sent on fact-finding mission, to assess potential real estate targets for acquisition, Nate is sidetracked when he runs into Sofía outside the shuttered and storm-damaged Paradise Key Resort, which his family had sold off many years earlier. The awkwardness of their uncomfortable reunion is magnified when they realize they are both planning on submitting rival bids to re-open the resort. While Sofía hopes that Nate will once again walk away, the quicker the better for her hurting heart, Nathan sees it as an opportunity to re-write history and stop letting his family dictactate his actions and reclaim his life and love.
Oliveras does a wonderful job portraying Sofía’s Puerto Rican heritage, and how Sofía’s sense of family extends beyond her immediate family, to include her friends and can even encompass her relationship with her boss and business mentor Sal and his wife Vivi. By contrast, Nate’s is a loveless business venture masquerading as family, where his father seeks to dominate and micro-manages rather than encouraging and supporting. I loved how this came to play in the resolution, especially as Sofía has to reconsider how certain assumptions, omissions and decisions in both their parts were results of their very different senses of family. The reconciliation is not easy gained but Nate puts in the work through the whole novel by being there for Sofía when she most needs him, never wavering, showing his maturity and determination and taking the emotional risks. It earns him the trust that lets him pull of a big romantic gesture with a high potential for failure at the 11th hour.
The one sour note in this novel is the cartoonishly stereotypical (although not mean-spirited) portrayal of Paul, the sole gay character in the book. Paul is Sofía’s trusted assistant hotel manager, who is juggling managing several properties on his own while Sofía is away yet his flamboyant and gregarious personality is played for comic relief. Had there been more LGBT characters in the book, it wouldn’t have stood out, but there is only one other character, Vida, the spacey-hippyish town planning board member, that has their mannerisms or way of dress are singled out in this way. It was disappointing but mercifully brief.
The one stand-out supporting character in the novel is Sofía’s Tia Mili, who I hope returns in her own solo novella or novel. Widowed young, she has built a life for herself in the community she shared with her beloved husband David. Despite the loss she is vibrantly joyful and wise, and successful small business owner. I would love to see her find love again.
Resort to Love was a emotional read that balanced angst with humor for sweet and hopeful romance about valuing family and knowing when to risk it all by laying everything out on the table.
Resort to Love by Priscilla Oliveras (Book 3 in the Paradise Key Series), Tule Publishing Group, May 15,2018, ($8.99 print, 3.99 e-book). 978-1949068283 214 pp.
ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley for review consideration.
Content Warnings: Medical drama for a father figure secondary character, references to the unexpected death of a friend, subpar gay rep.
Rep: Allocishet M/F Contemporary, Latina heroine, White hero.