A New York philanthropist and Caribbean ex-stripper with a dying daughter discover new love and purpose together in this debut novel, the first installment of a trilogy.
While his sassy girlfriend (and work colleague) Donna Cruz derides him for being pompous, there is no denying that Robert Beaufort, 50, has suffered grievous loss, with his wife and twin daughters tragically killed in a train accident. The newspaper printing executive has since turned his life to philanthropy, forming the Kids of the World charity. He travels to San Cristobal, a small Caribbean island, hoping to get its president’s guarantee that a Kids of the World donation will be used to help those in need in its oppressed slum region. During his stay on the island, Robert witnesses the horrific injury of a man resulting from the slum’s ridiculous and hazardous infrastructure conditions (there is an uncompleted pedestrian bridge). Robert also gets hurt and ends up entering the slum for treatment, where he meets Julianna Miranda, 27, who has just left her job as a stripper to run her own store in the slum. She’s also the unhappy wife of Pedro Miranda, the man Robert saw injured, and the mother of Alba, dealing with a deadly heart condition. Robert is increasingly drawn to Julianna and determined to help Alba. Through various machinations, he secures funding for Alba’s care. By the novel’s end, Robert and Julianna admit and express their love, but various factors, including island politics and Pedro’s further incapacitation, pose new challenges for this unlikely pair. Carroll, who has newspaper and Caribbean humanitarian experience, has crafted a tale that has somewhat annoying male-fantasy elements (ah, the middle-aged man gets the former stripper!), but ultimately elicits sympathy and rooting for his lead characters as well as colorful secondary cohorts. The author also defies expectations in several key places in this narrative (Donna and Julianna, for example, never engage in battling-for-Robert catfights), making this novel an admirably nuanced read. Carroll also ends this work by offering a teaser of upcoming twists, including island-wide upheaval and a new pregnancy, thus whetting interest in the main couple’s further adventures.
A surprisingly engaging soap-opera romance with a slum setting.