All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Under The Spanish Stars by Alli Sinclair

on February 4, 2016

Under The Spanish StarsUnder The Spanish Stars
Alli Sinclair
Harlequin MIRA AUS
2016, 352p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Charlotte Kavanagh’s beloved grandma Katarina Sanchez is gravely ill, so when she begs Charlotte to travel to her homeland in Andalucía to uncover the truth behind a mysterious painting, Charlotte agrees.  Taking leave from her soul-destroying job and stalled life in Australia, Charlotte embarks on a quest through Granada’s ancient cobble-stoned streets and vibrant neighbourhoods. There she meets Mateo Vives, a flamenco guitarist with a dark past, and through him she quickly becomes entangled in the world of flamenco and gypsies that ignites a passion she had thought lost.

But the mystery surrounding the painting deepens, reaching back in time to the war-torn Spain of the 1940s and Charlotte discovers her grandmother’s connection to the Spanish underground. Who is her grandmother, really? What is Mateo’s connection to her family history? And why is finding answers to a family mystery turning into a journey of self-discovery for Charlotte?

Weighed down by secrets, betrayals and shattered relationships, Charlotte finds herself questioning the true meaning of heritage, family and love.

Under The Spanish Stars is the second full length novel from Alli Sinclair and main character Charlotte is tasked with traveling to Spain to uncover the truth about a painting that her grandmother has kept in her possession her whole life. Although Charlotte knew her grandmother had been born in Spain and lived there until her 20s, her grandmother rarely ever spoke of her life there and discouraged questions. Charlotte is intrigued by what she could find out on her mission, although time of not something she has a lot of as her grandmother is ill in hospital and Charlotte wants to be able to deliver her the answers she seeks quickly.

And so Charlotte, who has spent the past few years being responsible, working her responsible job in the family insurance company, takes some leave and departs for Spain. There she meets with a professor about the painting who tells who she believes may have painted the painting that Charlotte seeks information on. In order to try and learn more, she is directed to seek out Mateo Vives, a flamenco guitarist who might not only be able to help Charlotte on her quest….but help her rediscover parts of herself that she has been keeping hidden.

I really enjoyed Charlotte’s journey both to find the information her grandmother needs as well as her journey in discovering her real self. Charlotte has an artist’s soul but her practical father has kind of insisted that she tamper it down because it rarely pays the bills. It’s an eternal struggle for Charlotte, who she wants to be versus who others want her to be. Before going to Spain she doesn’t have the confidence or the self-belief to give things another to, to take that step and say ok, I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do next but it doesn’t matter.

As well as Charlotte’s story, Under The Spanish Stars also takes us back in time to explore more of Charlotte’s grandmother Katarina’s past. I know next to nothing about Spanish history, so I found a lot of the snippets of life during that time somewhat fascinating and kept making little notes for myself on things to read up on further when I’d finished the novel. I actually found Katarina’s story really engaging and wished it made up a larger portion of the novel. Although I enjoyed Charlotte and her journey, I think the mystery and intrigue surrounding Katarina and her past had much more potential and could’ve been a larger part of the story.

I do have admit that both elements of romance in the book didn’t really work for me. I didn’t find much interesting about Mateo at all and I found his and Charlotte’s chemistry quite lacklustre. I think I actually enjoyed the parts of the book he wasn’t in more than the ones he was and his particular way of speaking got a bit grating after a while ie “you are doing the joking again?” and “you have done the driving in Spain?” etc. This very well may be the way Spanish people speak English, I don’t know. The only person I’ve known who spoke Spanish was an El Salvadorean married to my cousin and his English was probably better than mine. Likewise the romance wasn’t the most interesting part of Katarina’s story either, instead I found her personality and determination as well as the mystery surrounding the painting and her heritage to be the most interesting aspects of the story surrounding her. I also liked learning about the gitana families, the Spanish gypsies who have their own very particular culture and customs. Fortunately for me, the romance wasn’t a huge aspect of the book and I was able to focus on the other parts that did work for me.


Book #15 of 2016


Under The Spanish Stars is book #9 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016


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