Contemporary Literature · Romance

American Dreamer

I first heard of this one, had it come across my awareness, from @allisonreadsdc. And as I do with all romances that have gotten great reviews from readers I trust, I bookmarked it for the next time I was in the romance mood. Well, I recently finished The Poppy War series, which is amazing but incredibly intense (that finale with The Burning God was a lot), and a few other deeper reads, and I started craving that quick, “can’t put it down,” “hot and bothered” reading escape vibe. And it was time.

American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera

“It was like watching life happen. I wanted to get close, feel what it was like to have all that joy and passion directed at me. Be the reason for it.”

Nesto has just made the major life decision to take his food truck from NYC to upstate NY. His mother and sister are up there and they were sure it was the perfect spot to chase his dream of making a living wholly through the food industry. Leaving his three best friends behind in the city was a tough call, but Nesto is ready to take this chance (though, of course, anxious and planning to spend all his energy over the next six months developing the business). Jude works at the local library, which is conveniently adjacent to the location of the new Afro-Caribbean food truck, OuNYe. Jude’s sole life focus is on his work, and his pet project to create a mobile library truck, despite the meddling negativity of the library’s fundraising lead. When a flirty interaction with Nesto during his first food truck visit turns into spending more time together, both realize that this connection they have is more than they bargained for. Nesto will have to find some work-life balance and Jude will have to open up about his family and get over some trust issues before they can make their relationship really work.

This was exactly what I was looking for. I finished it in under 24 hours and was sucked in from the very beginning. Herrera has a gift for human interaction, that genuine touch of sarcasm and support, love both tough and deep, that comes with the best relationships.  And while she, of course, nails this in regards to the development of Jude and Nesto (who, for the record have a very believably fast insta-love situation that I was deeply into – the easy way they fell into step with and roles for each other felt so right), but with many other relationships as well. Nesto and his three best friends, Nesto and his mother, Jude and his best friend/coworker Carmen – they were all spectacular, meddling and unconditional in all the ways the closest relationships are.  And this goes not just in the way they act and are around each other, but came through with Herrera’s dialogue as well. She writes such realistic verbal back and forth and I love that in a book. I was also very into the Spanish/Spanglish that was woven throughout – it was *chef’s kiss.* It all just flowed and felt so natural.

Other great things (there were so many!) included both Nesto and Jude’s jobs. The Afro-Caribbean burritos that OuNYe served (along with the sides and desserts) basically all made my mouth water. And Jude’s passion for rural reading outreach really spoke to this rural-ish library employee’s heart. Both were written well, in general, and within the context of the way Nesto and Jude both supported each other (and let each other down) in relation to them. On a more serious note, Herrera touches on a few tough topics, including myriad racist and anti-immigrant actions/words, homophobia and being disowned by family after coming out, and terminal illness. These were handled with care, presented realistically but with nuance and understanding where applicable, and they added great depth to the characters and story without overly taking over or taking away from main attraction: the romance.

And let’s talk about that. PHEW, this was STEAMY. The sexual tension and sex scenes were written so well and definitely got me tingly and breathing a little heavy. So, just a heads up there, whether you’re looking for that or looking to avoid it. And also as a warning to be careful reading it in public. Haha. That physical chemistry was a great aspect of the clear connection/fit of Nesto and Jude. But it functioned smoothly in conjunction with the other ways they developed, opening up to each other about personal things, working through tough family and business moments together, and finding the balance of work and life/love that would make their relationship work. Plus, as a personal note, I loved Nesto’s protectiveness of Jude. I know that that’s individual, and maybe it’s not for everyone, but I love the “bristling, growling, intimidating” protective thing in a partner, within safe boundaries (of course). So that worked for me too.

Overall, this was just the right book at just the right time for me. But I think even if I wasn’t fully in the mood-reader space for a romance, I still would have really enjoyed this one. Herrera’s writing is great and I got totally caught up in Nesto and Jude’s story. I am most definitely looking forward to picking up the next book in this series (what a perfect set-up there, Nesto and his three besties will all get their own stories), because having met them here, I am 100% planning to read all their individual happy endings.

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