In this Christmas-themed novel from Valdes-Rodriquez (The Husband Habit, 2009, etc.), a newly single interior designer tests the tenets of The Rules on three potential mates.
Christy de la Cruz was shocked when her perfect husband, Zach, announced he was gay. Now divorced, Christy juggles her busy schedule as designer to Albuquerque’s rich and famous with the demands of her large, socio-economically disadvantaged but warm and outspoken Mexican-American clan. At a family pig roast in the barrio neighborhood where she grew up, Christy is challenged by her cousin Maggie to put Zach behind her—in addition to being gay, he’s an Anglo and an outsider. Maggie bets Christy that three dates each with three handsome homeboys who have made good will heal her broken heart. The caballeros in question, named after the Three Kings, are Balthazar, who bullied the once chubby Christy in grade school, Caspar, a wealthy music agent, and Melchior, a nationally known authority on chimpanzee behavior. To placate Maggie, and to alleviate her own guilt for not helping her relatives out financially, Christy takes the wager. Melchior is too wrapped up in his primates to appeal to her. She’s still resentful of Balthazar’s earlier bullying, and as a lowly high-school teacher, he’s not exactly prosperous. The most likely prospect is Caspar, who is in Christy’s income bracket and has the Beemer to prove it. She’s also powerfully attracted to him. Will she be able to resist his allure enough to feign indifference and to keep their three dates platonic, as dictated by The Rules? Will she come to realize that loyalty to her family sometimes demands generosity of more than spirit? Is there more to Balthazar than her suppositions about him, and less to Casper? The answers are predictable and clichéd. The chief pleasures, besides descriptions of outfits, food and local color, lie in the banter between Christy and the other characters—and in the contrast between her Rules-dictated demureness and her unvoiced opinions.
Witty but slight.