Author: Chanel Cleeton
Synopsis: Barcelona, 1964. Exiled from Cuba after the revolution, Isabel Perez has learned to guard her heart and protect her family at all costs. After Isabel’s sister Beatriz disappears in Barcelona, Isabel goes to Spain in search of her. Joining forces with an unlikely ally thrusts Isabel into her sister’s dangerous world of espionage, but it’s an unearthed piece of family history that transforms Isabel’s life.
Barcelona, 1936. Alicia Perez arrives in Barcelona after a difficult voyage from Cuba, her marriage in jeopardy and her young daughter Isabel in tow. Violence brews in Spain, the country on the brink of civil war, the rise of fascism threatening the world. When Cubans journey to Spain to join the International Brigades, Alicia’s past comes back to haunt her as she is unexpectedly reunited with the man who once held her heart.
Alicia and Isabel’s lives intertwine, and the past and present collide, as a mother and daughter are forced to choose between their family’s expectations and following their hearts.
As I sit on the flight from Palm Beach to Barcelona, wondering what possessed me to embark on this misguided adventure, it's the look in Nicholas Preston's eyes from our conversation a few days earlier that I remember most. There was no doubt that this was what he wanted, that he was worried about Beatriz as I was, but given their breakup and his desire to respect the boundaries they'd set, he was reluctant to involve himself, choosing instead to appeal to my romantic and sympathetic nature so I would do his bidding for him.
It's a move Beatriz would make in a heartbeat, and it's crystal clear how two people could be both utterly perfect for each other and impossibly doomed.
It's been my experience that relationships are often about balance: one person tends to be the star, and the other is there to support them, to play those all-important background roles of advice and support. And sometimes, maybe, the roles shift a bit, although in my reality it has been almost entirely the man who is held in such a place of honor and esteem. Knowing my sister as I do, and her inevitable draw to the limelight whether intentional or otherwise, I can't see her playing the role of the-woman-behind-the-man while Nicholas Preston ascends to political greatness. And I can't imagine a man with such political ambitions and connections being happy throwing it all away for a life of relative obscurity.
If Beatriz is in Barcelona nursing a broken heart, the big sister in me wants to be there for her.
The flight is uneventful, the last hours passed staring out the window, questioning the decision to send me rather than Elisa as the family envoy, weighing the odds of Beatriz being happy to see me against the far more likely possibility that she'll be less than enthused.
"I have a four-year-old," Elisa pointed out when I suggested she would be more successful and welcomed by Beatriz. "How am I supposed to leave for Spain? Do you suggest I take Miguel with me?" She laughed at that, and given how energetic my nephew is, I can't quite blame her for not wanting to bring him on an international flight to Europe by herself.
In the end, after much prevarication, and a fair dose of pleading with Thomas, who thought it both unseemly for his wife to travel by herself and has always harbored a strong dislike for Beatriz and her reputation, he reluctantly acquiesced, giving me a week away.
Armed with the return address on Beatriz's letters to Elisa, a bit of money, my suitcase, and little else, I step off the plane when it lands at the airport in Barcelona and hire a taxi to take me to Beatriz's home.
After a few initial minutes of conversation in Spanish, the driver leaves me to my own devices, and I stare out the window of the cab as he makes the twenty-minute journey, my gaze on the city.
I thought of dialing Beatriz's number from the airport, warning her of my arrival before I showed up on her doorstep, but any attempts to call her before this trip have been met with silence, and I must admit I worried a bit that if Beatriz did answer the phone, she might tell me to turn back around and return to Palm Beach.
The farther we get from the airport, the more congested the city becomes, and I realize we're near the center of Barcelona now.
Beatriz's return address from her letter is a smart building on Las Ramblas with a beige stone facade and little balconies with red wrought iron railings. The taxi lets me off right before it.
It's the sort of place I can imagine Beatriz living—elegant with a dash of whimsy. I can envision my sister leaning over the balcony railing, her dark hair billowing around her as she calls out good-naturedly to pedestrians, her laughter ringing down Las Ramblas. It is quintessentially Beatriz, both the privilege seeped in living in one of the city's most desirable locales and the slight bohemian bent a city like Barcelona thrives on: art, music, and culture seemingly on every street corner.
It is a far cry from my life and the one our mother wanted for us in Palm Beach; no doubt, much of the allure for Beatriz was escaping to a place where there is anonymity in the crowded streets and bustling pace, where the need to see and be seen does not reign paramount.
But still, it raises the ever-important question that has been on my mind since Elisa first told me Beatriz had left:
And given the environs where she's chosen to live, who is funding this adventure?
A list of names of apartment residents is affixed near the building entry. I scan the directory until I settle on a "B. Perez."
I set my suitcase down on the ground and lift my gloved hand, my heart pounding as I press the buzzer next to Beatriz's name.
About the Author:
Chanel Cleeton is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA. She received a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Richmond, The American International University in London, and a master’s degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics & Political Science. Chanel also received her Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law. She loves to travel and has lived in the Caribbean, Europe and Asia. For more information, please visit her website, Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon Author Page, and BookBub.