The daughter of a pastor and a young man on the run from a Cuban drug cartel get past their initial animosity to fall in love in this sexy romance.
Prickly, wary 18-year-old Diego is disgusted with the beautiful and collected young woman assigned to escort him through his first day of school, assuming she is a snob. Faith, also 18, finds Diego, with multiple scars and tattoos, annoyingly cocky yet attractive: “He is a boy with eyes like hope, with scars that tell stories….I don’t trust myself around him.” She has erected a carefully crafted facade to disguise her fear of abandonment and a secret year in rehab, while Diego’s past has left him ready to brutally fight when threatened. The pair tell their story in alternating, present-tense chapters. Their two families are well-drawn; Diego and his relatives speak in English with a sprinkling of Spanish, which contrasts with Faith’s Anglo background. The plot moves slowly for the first two-thirds of the novel, then presents a series of shocks. Hart’s writing in this debut conveys a lot of physical and emotional feeling but works a little too hard in places (“Under my fingertips her blood pulses fast, a one-way train on a track bound for collision”).
This riff on West Side Story is torrid and heartfelt if not at all subtle, with a sequel featuring Faith’s best friend still to come. (Romance. 14-18)