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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Puerto Rican Love Stories by C.P. Florez is a collection of short stories steeped in love and romance that carry the unique thread of their Puerto Rican flavor and culture. The stories are many and varied. In The Oligarch and the Poet, we see an in-depth exploration of the political and cultural intrigues on the island. This is through the eyes of a visitor from the U.S. with Puerto Rican heritage and her burgeoning relationship with one of the political, old-money sons of Puerto Rico, who is involved in subversion and seeking independence for the island. Priscilla is a bitter-sweet and simple tale of a boy who is lovestruck with a poor island girl who is already promised to another and how it affects the young man’s future. In Carmelo, we meet the archetypal hardworking, deeply family-oriented Puerto Rican, who initially moves to the U.S. to try to build a better future for his family but ultimately returns to the island still seeking that security and better future for his family - only to discover that nothing is easy, no matter where you live but that family is everything. In total there are ten short stories that make up this collection and apart from the Puerto Rican thread that runs through them all, they are tied together by the strands of love, romance, and family.
I found Puerto Rican Love Stories a nice break from my usual reading fare. I’m not a giant fan of short stories, but author C.P. Florez has done a good job of presenting what essentially is a cultural smorgasbord of Puerto Rican customs, mores and emotions that will pull at anyone’s heartstrings. The writing style is easy, comfortable and highly descriptive but as with any short story, character development is necessarily light. In any collection of stories, there are always some that grab the reader more than others. For me, the standout story in this collection is actually the first one; The Oligarch and the Poet. Two things that attracted me to this story were the wealth of information on Puerto Rico’s culture and history that was uncovered in the telling of the narrative, along with a beautifully crafted and written love affair. I enjoyed this story immensely. Similarly, the story of Isabel was sweet, heartrending, and inspiring, as we see the courage of a young, incredibly smart girl growing up in a rough neighborhood of New York and the struggles she faced every day just to attend school and to keep safe. This story was one of the highlights of the book. Finally, the tale of unrequited love that was Ventura’s story was sad, sweet, and poignant. All the stories in this book have something to commend them but those three certainly stood out for me.