Look of Love/
Miradas de Amor

 
One Perfect Man by Lynda Sandoval
(Silh. Sp. Ed. # 1620, $4.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-24620-X
***
Set in Las Vegas, New Mexico and Santa Fe, this story offers some insight into the Hispanic culture, but the culture is not the highlight. One Perfect Man highlights two people who have a vision of their life and these visions get turned upside down when they meet.

Career minded Erica Goncalves is determined to make her name as an event planner and save enough to open her own business. She has vowed to remain single – based on the fact that her mother wanted to be a folk singer, but hung up her guitar to get married and raise a daughter. Erica has convinced herself her mother has lived a life of regrets and she never wants to do that. Her latest assignment is for a Cultural Arts festival celebrating New Mexico. Here she meets an artisan who hires her to plan a traditional Mexican coming-out party for his fourteen-year-old daughter, Hope.

The artisan is a talented musician and piñata maker. Tomas Garza specializes in designing works of art, not just the kind you break at a party. Hope is the love of his life, her mother having abandoned them shortly after her birth. Tomas was just 17, and Hope’s mother just 15 when Hope was born. Tomas has raised Hope with the help of his grandmother Ruby and he wants this quinceanera to be the best that money can buy. He has hired Erica because of her professional skills, but he is also attracted to her as a woman.

Erica is attracted to Tomas too. But she is afraid of children and has no idea how she is going to plan an event with a fourteen-year-old girl. But Erica and Hope hit it off and soon become friends. Erica and Tomas become more than friends, then spend the rest of the book convincing themselves that it means nothing and they both still want what they said they want…no involvements and no attachments.

While I enjoyed the story line and the glimpse into the New Mexican traditions, I struggled with this denial of feelings for what seemed a long time. Erica is generally smart and engaging. She knows what she wants and her evolving relationship with Hope shows that she is more personable and capable than she gives herself credit for. Tomas has done a fantastic job raising his daughter. He is sexy and a nice man. But he is struggling with his daughter growing up and with her teenage moods. While he wants help and loves that Erica and Hope get along, he laments that Hope no longer shares everything with him and resents Erica’s close friendship.

Following a night of hot sex and lust, which both come away from feeling like they are falling in love, the two act like teenagers. They shy away from each other, they argue over inconsequential things, they avoid each other and they each reach the decision to end things now before they get hurt. Been there – done that. Sandoval keeps everyone true to form, but it is definitely a form that has been traveled before. The sentimentality of the ending comes close to overkill, but manages to bring all the loose ends together without crossing the line.

One Perfect Man is a story that engages and is a heartwarming and sentimental romance of two people finding love when they are certain they never will. But it is not breaking any new ground in the telling.

--Shirley Lyons


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