Joint Book Review: Yours to Keep by Serena Bell

imageThis is Serena Bell’s full length book debut. It is about Ana Traveres, who is an illegal immigrant. Her deceased mom let the visas of Ana and her siblings expire. Circumstances conspired against them that 1) did not allow them to return home to the Dominican Republic and 2) renew their visas in a timely manner. Ana works a couple of jobs as a Spanish tutor and as a teacher for an English as a Second Language (ESL) class. She requests payments by cash, of course.

Ethan is a widower with a teenage son, Theo. Ethan hires Ana to help Theo. Ethan’s a pediatrician who is trying to help one of his patients with a mysterious illness.

So that’s a quick summary. Let’s dig deep into this book. My friend, Clio from Random Book Muses, is here to share her thoughts too.

Ethan-
Vi: My main complaint against him is his thoughts on the “desperate mommies.”
“Generally speaking, there were two reasons women wanted to talk to Ethan: either they wanted to ask his advice, as a pediatrician, about a medical problem or they wanted to flirt.
“Desperate mommies were an occupational hazard, like parents who asked him pediatric questions as awkward moments.”
Ethan comes across as arrogant. I’m not sure if I liked him. His interactions with his distant son help humble him. Ana definitely helped humble him.

Clio: I’m sure I didn’t like him for the majority of the book. The “desperate mommies” was also the start of my dislike. He’s a Dr., isn’t it an understandable side effect of being one that you expect those kinds of questions? How exactly were the mommies desperate? I never got that from the descriptions in the book, I definitely got the dislike of the rich mommies but was unable to put my finger on why besides that they were rich.

Ana-
Vi: I liked her a lot. She was a pillar of strength for her family. She’s been saving money so that she can attend college. When her older brother, Ricky, wanted to buy a car to start a house cleaning business, Ana, unselfishly gave him the money. I felt her agony when she agreed to help Ricky.

Ana’s thoughtfulness and kindness led Theo to open up. This helped Ethan to re-connect with Theo.

Clio: I also liked Ana for the most part. I really enjoyed her interaction with Theo and seeing how she asked him questions that led him to talking about thing he never would otherwise. I wasn’t so sure about some aspects the author included – in particular the focus on a hot pink thong she wore to entice Ethan. It did not seem like something this character would do or like something Ethan would like.

The subplot of Ethan & his patient:
Vi: I really didn’t understand why there needed to be a subplot with Ethan’s patient who might have leukemia. If this is to prove that Ethan is compassionate, then it was not needed. I see that in his actions with his son.

If it was to prove his dedication to his profession, well, it was also not needed. His dedication led to the drift between him and his son.

Clio: Ditto.
This bothered me to the point of distraction during scenes that had nothing to do with this. I was left wondering what this had to do with anything else.

The subplot of Ana & her ESL class:
Vi: I also don’t understand why I needed to see Ana with her ESL class. If it’s prove that she’s an effective teacher, well, it was not needed. I got that with her interactions with Theo. Ana cooking with Theo showed well what a great teacher Ana was.

If it was to re-inforce how painful it was to be deported, I got the message. It sucks. By the time that her student’s daughter was deported, leaving behind a grandchild, I understood the plight of the illegal immigrants. Ana’s family was enough. Why bring in another example?

Clio: I disagree with this one. I liked the interactions with the ESl class. I thought it showed how much Ana enjoyed being with others that were like her and in similar situation but at the same time showed none of them felt comfortable in revealing all of their secrets. I liked the interaction with people besides her family and Ethan’s.

The romance:
Vi: I felt like the romance, the courtship, got lost amidst the subplots. They went on a date. Then they quickly ended up in bed. I wanted to see more of how they could sustain a relationship beyond the physical. Because so much happened externally, I felt that the declaration of love happened too quickly.

Clio: I was lost amidst the subplots! I wish the author had left out Ethan’s medical practice and anything to do with the desperate mommies. She also could have cut more of the ESL classes and concentrated on developing the romance more.

Grade:
Vi: 2/5 stars. This book could almost be women’s fiction. By the end of the book, I understand better what illegal immigrants were feeling than what Ana & Ethan were feeling about each other. I wish the focus was tighter so that the HEA was more believable.

Clio: I would give it a 2.5 stars if that makes much of a difference. I enjoyed Ana’s story of her home life and Ethan’s home life as well. I really liked how Ana dealt with Theo and how that in turn affected Ethan’s relationship with him. However, for a romance, it fell very flat for me.

Thanks, Clio, for joining me. Maybe we will have better luck with next month’s book.

~Vi

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