Jaguar Paloma and the Caketown Bar

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
386 Pages
Reviewed on 08/19/2021
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Jaguar Paloma and the Caketown Bar is a work of fiction in the historical, magical realism and adventure sub-genres, and was penned by author Jess Wells. Set in the middle of the nineteenth century, this charming and inventive work centers on the titular Caketown, a shantytown where rogues, thieves and women down on their luck begin running a faux wedding business for wild rich people to attend a no-holds-barred party. At the heart of events is protagonist Jaguar Paloma, as intimidating and impressive as her name, and the beautiful Orietta Becerra, for whom trouble is as simple as revealing her face to anyone she meets.

Author Jess Wells has crafted a gorgeously unique work that places women at the forefront of adventure and weaves seamlessly realistic fantasy elements into the piece with flair and panache. In a novel with oodles of style, the development of the plot becomes more substantial and believable with every passing chapter, delivering an intricate web of dangerous behaviours and occurrences with some well-drawn villains who are as deeply developed (and ultimately just as enjoyable) as our heroes. The dialogue too was a big hit, showcasing the flavor of the historical time period whilst also moving the plot forward in a naturalistic way that negated the need for big chunks of clunky prose. Overall, I would certainly recommend Jaguar Paloma and the Caketown Bar to readers seeking authors with original ideas and the authoritative, confident narrative to back it up. An absolute treasure to read.

Divine Zape

Jaguar Paloma and the Caketown Bar by Jess Wells is a gripping story that invents a culture readers will be thrilled to explore. It is a tale in which the setting becomes a character in its own right. It opens with the description of Caketown Bar, and a town where morning is heralded by a rum cask being rolled across a dance floor and groggy questions about who came in the night. It is set in 1865 in a village called Tartatenango — home to spinsters, cast-off mothers with their children, runaways, and other kinds of eccentric characters. Apart from the fact that most of these characters have lived on the fringes of society, they are bound together by one thing — a vodka distillery. It is a place that is safe for women, a place of second chances, led by the tall Jaguar Paloma, and the stunning Orietta Becerra. With the arrival of a forger with a specialty in government bonds, the small village attracts the Rebel army. Can the women protect this haven and those who love it?

This is a fun read, a story filled with unusual characters, and a wonderful ride for readers who enjoy carefree laughter, quirky situations and dialogues, and magical realism. Add the drama to these qualities and you have a rollicking ride in Jaguar Paloma and the Caketown Bar. The story is like a dream, but it feels real; it is like some place you have seen and been before, but it feels so exotic and almost impossible to exist. The setting is the strongest element in this novel and the way Jess Wells describes the village gives it a soul of its own. Imagine a raucous shantytown, a place where people celebrate every day, where peacocks caw from the backs of donkeys. The flowers of unknown origin bloom in the night and then fly away and blue mist or green fog rolls in without warning. This author takes readers to such a place and gives them the most enviable company of well-developed, likable, and fun-loving characters. It is a page-turner for fans of character-driven novels and stories that excel in humor and adventure. You won’t be able to put this book down.

Liz Konkel

Jaguar Paloma and the Caketown Bar by Jess Wells is a historical tale brought to life with magical realism and the empowerment of a fierce woman. A place where outsiders such as single mothers, runaways, and the Romany can band together and bring life into a shantytown that they dubbed Caketown. This isn't like any other town with a vodka presence and a business putting on fake weddings for those that are lonely or looking to feel extravagantly special. Those that don't come for the bar come for a chance to indulge in the extravagant lifestyle of a bride. This town of misfits and castoffs creates the allure for those seeking a second chance with two powerful women at the center. Jaguar Paloma has a special gift and a tragic past that drove her to find a safer path for her life while Orietta is full of secrets and hides her beauty from those around her. While the soul of Caketown is one of a haven, this doesn't stop murderous sorts from bringing the wrong attention to the town while Paloma is dedicated to driving those forces out.

Magical realism is a breathtaking genre and Jess Wells has a unique voice in creating this quirky shantytown. Caketown is at the heart of the story and is a character in itself with its magical personality that has allowed outcasts to find a place to call home. The importance of the town is what drives characters like Paloma to defend it from corruptible forces. Two significant elements can be found in the town with the bar and the wedding business seen throughout. Both of these elements drive the quirkiness of the town while the strange qualities are grounded in the reality of the characters' emotions. One of the ideal aspects of the town is the importance of community which is seen through how these women work together and how those that live there gather together to make it something special and unique. The story is character-driven with a variety of voices explored, and it's through these voices that the magical elements are brought to life. The journeys of the characters give a voice to this town and a reason for what makes it so special. Jaguar Paloma and the Caketown Bar is a magical realism treat that has an exploration of humanity, a celebration of differences, female empowerment, and a whimsical town at the heart of a journey of loss, life, and love.

Joy Hannabass

In Jaguar Paloma and the Caketown Bar, in 1865 the small historical town of Tartatenango, better known to its residents as Caketown, is different than most towns. All thanks to Jaguar Paloma with her very long legs and extra tall height, and Orietta, a woman so beautiful that her mother made her wear disguises when she was a young girl. Paloma and Orietta both had difficult childhoods, each running away from home, surviving on their own. They worked very hard in building their village with vodka and wild faux weddings that brought many women into the village for their own wedding celebrations.

Jaguar Paloma captured my attention from the beginning. I couldn't believe what she did to survive on her own. When she meets Orietta, the story gets more interesting. I was in awe of how the ladies could build their business of weddings and the Caketown Bar from nothing. Author Jess Wells did an excellent job writing Jaguar Paloma and the Caketown Bar. Her attention to detail in each scene shows her amount of research before writing. From building some place to live to vodka making and the holy water, to building a distillery and a business of faux wild weddings, I thoroughly enjoyed the vivid details throughout the whole book. The captivating characters played their parts well and kept my attention until the last page. This story has a lot of different issues going on, many twists and turns that take you on a different trail. There is just so much here to even touch on in a review. But in the end, Wells does a fabulous job of weaving everything together and creating an ending that will stay with me for a long while. I encourage you to check out this story and all of its wonderful people.

Rabia Tanveer

Jaguar Paloma and the Caketown Bar by Jess Wells is a novel of intrigue wrapped in a beautiful mixture of historical fiction and magical realism. Set in 1865 in the eclectic town of Tartatenango (lovingly dubbed Caketown), the story follows the lives of the residents as they look for a second chance at a better life. The Caketown Bar is the perfect place for residents and newcomers to get a taste of life in the tight-knit community. At the helm of this town is Jaguar Paloma, a massive woman who can control the water, weather, flowers, and the fertility of animals in the area. However, the peaceful existence of this simple town is threatened by the mayor of a neighboring town who wants to capture this town as well for his own greed. He wants Caketown to end, and he wants to destroy it with his own hands. The only person standing in his way is Jaguar Paloma, and she does not lose.

Jess Wells found the perfect mixture of mystery and intense action to draw readers in and make them stay until the end. Contemporary writers don’t delve much into magical realism, so finding this novel was a pleasant surprise for me. Jess Wells fully explored this literary theme and exposed readers to the best of it. Jaguar Paloma is mysterious and different, yet she fits in with the rest of the residents of Caketown. Mayor Cardoso is the perfect antagonist for the story. He is cunning, and he has the resources to destroy the lives of people in Caketown. Orietta’s story and her struggles with the whole misfortune of Caketown are handled exceptionally well. The pace of the story is fast, the descriptions are incredibly rich, and the plot is magical! Perhaps the most entertaining novel I have read this year.