A Little Love by C.C. Medina
(Warner, $7.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-4466-0976-5
*****
A Little Love is one of the most delightful books I’ve read in recent memory. Funny, wise and vibrant, this portrayal of four Latina women shouldn’t be missed.

Miami is a blend of Latin and American cultures, and our four heroines are interesting mixtures of both as well. Isabel Landon is successful engineer and single parent with a Super Mom mentality and a wounded heart, caused by the divorce from her “gringo” husband. She has no interest in re-entering the dating world, until she finds a muy simpatico guy in an unlikely place. Her party-girl cousin, Mercy Virtudes, on the other hand, has a little too much fun in her endless search for Mr. Right. After her latest boyfriend, who had earned her Mama’s seal of approval, dumps her, she too meets an unusual but promising man - but can she go against her Mama’s insistence that she marry a fellow Cubano? Isabel and Mercy’s Dominican friend Lucinda Portes de Colon seems to have it all - a successful husband, two children, wealth and comfort. But her husband’s infidelity makes her realize how far apart the two have grown and how complacent they have become. And finally Julia Velasquez, a successful Mexican-American professor and writer, wonders why her steady boyfriend’s marriage proposal leaves her so cold. When she meets someone who stirs her emotions, does she dare to risk alienating her colleagues and friends to follow her heart for the first time?

Okay, so the plots aren’t that unusual, but the book’s distinct Hispanic flavor gives it a joyous vitality. These women are no caricatures; they’re smart, successful and loyal. While they deal with the universal issues of love and work, they also are graced with unique cultural concerns. For example, each is influenced by the traditional strong Hispanic family ties. For some of the women, including Isabel, this is primarily a blessing. Her parents live with her and her two sons, making it easier for Isabel to be successful professionally. For others, such as Lucinda, this is a more of a curse. Her in-laws have such a strong influence on her husband that he has forgotten his own dreams, and his unhappiness has ultimately led to adultery.

“C.C. Medina” appears to be a combination of two authors, Carolina Hospital and Carlos Medina. I don’t know how they work together, but the four women definitely have distinct voices. Mercy is mostly played for laughs, Lucinda is the most melodramatic, Julia is the most tormented, and Isabel is the fearless leader. For some reason, Mercy and Isabel narrate in first person, while Julia and Lucinda’s chapters are told in third person, but surprisingly that doesn’t disturb the flow of the novel. Their speech is a Spanglish blend, so dust off your high school Spanish to get the full scoop.

By the time they four women find, in various guises, “a little love,” they have all grown and changed. In addition to meeting four memorable women, the reader has also learned about the evils of Castro, the reason why cock-fighting isn’t as barbaric as it seems, and the names of enough Latin musicians to keep you buying new albums for the next year. I’ve seen TRR reviewers express disappointment with some of the Encanto line of category romances, and I’m here to tell you: if you’re looking for that satisfying Hispanic romance or women’s fiction, look no further thanA Little Love. Oye meng! You’ll be happily tangoing along in no time.

--Susan Scribner


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