When Malena Sevilla’s tidy, carefully planned world collapses following her father’s mysterious suicide, she finds a letter—signed with an “A”—which reveals that her mother is very much alive and living in San Isidro, a quaint town tucked in the Andes Mountains. Intent on meeting her, Malena arrives at Alameda Street and meets four sisters who couldn’t be more different from one another, but who share one thing in common: all of their names begin with an A. To avoid a scandal, Malena assumes another woman’s identity and enters their home to discover the truth. Could her mother be Amanda, the iconoclastic widow who opens the first tango nightclub in a conservative town? Ana, the ideal housewife with a less-than-ideal past? Abigail, the sickly sister in love with a forbidden man? Or Alejandra, the artistic introvert scarred by her cousin’s murder? But living a lie will bring Malena additional problems, such as falling for the wrong man and loving a family she may lose when they learn of her deceit. Worse, her arrival threatens to expose long-buried secrets and a truth that may wreck her life forever.
WHAT A DELIGHT! I admit I wasn’t sure at first, since I had never read something quite like this, but the synopsis caught my attention and, mostly, the fact that it was set in Ecuador in the 60s! There was also a quote that said: “A generational saga that mixes historical fiction with the romance and intrigue of a Latin soap opera” and thought: well, for sure it’ll be entertaining! AND IT SURELY WAS. Once I started it, I couldn’t stop, I had to pack my suitcase and visit my family but I really wanted to go back to it and keep discovering the secrets of the house in Alameda street.
This was so much fun to read that I kept thinking it would make a wonderful movie, like one of those classic screwball comedies they used to make years ago… only this time set in South America. It just had everything: humor, drama, romance, mystery… Malena doesn’t know who her mother is and once she gets to Alameda Street, the plot thickens: there are four suspects. But who is it? Is it Ana, is it Amanda? Abigail? Alejandra? And yes, this was quite a soap opera. But I adored it.
The writing was wonderful and filled with Spanish expressions, which of course I enjoyed (even though in Spain we don’t talk the same way). The plot never lost its intrigue and although it wasn’t a thriller, there was always something going on. The relationships were engaging and, to be honest, quite tragic, but it made it all more interesting. The flashback scenes helped us understand what had happened to the sisters when they were young and you had to read the whole story in order to fully understand each secret.
In addition, I felt like I knew everyone even only after a few pages. In books like this where there are many characters in the same location, sometimes it’s hard to give everyone their own storyline, but Lorena Hughes manages to create a great ensemble of rich and multi-layered characters who all have their own troubles and motives. The characterization was spot on and I think that’s her greatest strength.
I can’t wait to read another one of Lorena’s books. I’m sure it’ll be as fun and addictive as this one. Perfect for the summer!
Edelweiss, Skyhorse Publishing, 2017