“One Year of Ugly” by Caroline Mackenzie

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Thanks to HarperCollins UK and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review. 

I am usually allergic to describing any book as “sexy” but…this book is sexy. It’s also funny, charming and has a big dollop of (mostly light-hearted) family drama stirred in too.  

The Palacios family, undocumented immigrants from Venezuela, find themselves beholden to “Ugly”, a local crime lord who was owed money by the family’s recently deceased Aunt Celia. Ugly assigns Roman, one of his employees, to keep watch on the family whilst they work away the inherited debt.  

Sparks soon fly between Roman and Yola, the main character of the story. Yola, a 24-year-old writer had a close relationship with Aunt Celia and the story is interspersed with Celia’s memoirs throughout. I didn’t enjoy these flashbacks as much as the main plot, but they were entertaining enough. 

The book features a colourful cast of diverse characters, Aunt Milagros in particular was a total hoot and there are some real laugh out loud moments throughout the story. Some of the events the family are forced to endure would be traumatic in reality but the author manages to portray these with a sense of humour whilst not losing sight of the serious point she is trying to make. 

The main romance is spicy and fun, and I liked the witty banter between Roman and Yola as well as some of the more intense moments. They were more than a match for one another, and it was refreshing to see a heroine in a Romance themed novel who didn’t take any crap from her love interest. I’ve got a bit of a weakness for the bodyguard/assassin/protector type dynamic so I was already sold on the relationship dynamic. 

The author’s portrait of a Venezuelan immigrant family and the love and warmth (and bickering!) between them was portrayed perfectly and the characterisation was a cut above what I might expect in other similar books. Sure, there were some trope-y parts but I can forgive that when everything was so fun. 

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