Boundaries, agency and trust are central themes in Adrianna Herrera’s second Dreamer novel,
, where a dashing divorced Dominican millionaire philanthropist attempts to sweep a wary and overworked Cuban-Jamaican American social worker off his feet when they are awkwardly reunited after their impulsive hook-up at a boozy gala. The novel is supremely sexy and with high emotional stakes, as they can’t resist kicking off a secret affair, complicating their lives while making them reexamine their past choices. Like in
, Herrera’s representation of modern Latinx culture is rich and nuanced, aware of how wealth, skin-color and immigration status greatly affect a person’s life as Latinx in the US. Herrera continues to fills her novels with engaging secondary characters, who feel solidly real, from Tom’s business partners and neighbors, Sanjay & Priya to Camilo’s fragile mother, Dinorah and his irrepressible co-worker Ayako.
While I really enjoyed American Dreamer, I adored American Fairytale. I loved the angst, and the sources of conflict between Tom and Milo. I particularly appreciated how Herrera contrasted the various complicated caretaking relationships in the book. Dinorah’s mental health struggles were compassionately depicted, Herrera is able to skillfully present the worry, guilt and occasional resentment Milo carries, while still presenting Dinorah as sympathetic and frankly fascinating character in her own right. Her history, choices and reactions are her own, and not simply something Milo has to respond or is able to solve for her. Likewise Tom has to learn how not swoop in and try to throw money at problems and instead learn to listen and do the harder work of being present in order to have Milo feel like a partner to a problem to be solved.