I enjoyed Priscilla Oliveras’ Island Affair last year and was happy to be approved for an advance reader copy of the second book in the series. Anchored Hearts is a slow burn second chance romance. Anamaria, the only Navarro daughter, is our main character. She is a fire-fighter/EMT like her father and brothers, but also has a fitness and nutrition side hustle that’s starting to become a full time job. Her first love and first heartbreak, Alejandro is reluctantly back in Key West recovering from a accident that left him with a broken leg. Anamaria and Alejandro’s mothers are scheming and keep throwing them together.
The question isn’t really can Anamaria and Alejandro forgive each other, they were teens and now they are adults who bring maturity and experience to their past. The central issue is whether Alejandro can make peace with his father – or at least co-exist with him in the same city. It takes Anamaria and Alejandro a while to get there, and I appreciated it because they had a lot to work through before I would believe they could make an adult relationship work. I would have liked a little more from Alejandro’s father in the bridge building department.
One of the things I particularly liked about Anchored Hearts was the confrontations that didn’t happen. Alejandro doesn’t have to be told what he did to hurt Anamaria, he figures it out and makes an effort to act on those realizations. I like seeing a male love interest recognize where they made an error without another character leading them to it by the hand. I’d like to see more of it too.
Family is at the center of this romance. Anamaria has made choices that keep her close to home and family. Alejandro has escaped, or run away from his family, depending on how you look at it. Oliveras builds towards her resolution stone by stone. It’s not a surprise, but surprise isn’t the point. She gives her characters an emotionally satisfying resolution. There’s some good pining and yearning, but the scene fades to black when the sexy times get going.
As a fat woman with concerns about the fitness and nutrition industry I was interested to see how Oliveras handled Anamaria’s fitness and nutrition business. Anamaria’s interest comes from both her work as an EMT and as a result of the heart attack her father suffered when she was in high school. She’s focused on encouraging heart healthy eating, but not explicitly on weight. There wasn’t any fat shaming, and there was a nod to health at any size.
Priscilla Oliveras has a real gift for description. She brings Key West to life in a different way than she did in Island Affair. In that book, Key West felt very touristy, which was appropriate for Sara and Luis’ story. Here Key West is home with tree shaded neighborhoods, backyards, and the smell of diesel mixed with the sea. Alejandro is a photographer and Anamaria’s brother, Enrique, is a once and future painter. The descriptions of their work were vibrant, and I wanted to google them more than once so that I could look for myself.
There is a lot of Spanish in the book, and though my Spanish is not great, it was reminiscent of the bilingual homes I grew up around. It would have been weird to me to have a story centered on a Cuban American community that didn’t have a lot of Spanish.
I’m pretty sure Anchored Hearts has set up the romantic interest for Enrique and the conflict. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on the third book, whenever it’s ready.
I received this as an advance reader copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.