When We Left Cuba

When We Left Cuba

by Chanel Cleeton


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Instant New York Times BestsellerIn 1960s Florida, a young Cuban exile will risk her life and her heart to take back her country in this exhilarating historical novel from the author of Next Year in Havana, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780451490865
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/09/2019
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 5,696
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Chanel Cleeton is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of When We Left Cuba and the Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick Next Year in Havana. Originally from Florida, she grew up on stories of her family's exodus from Cuba following the events of the Cuban Revolution. Her passion for politics and history continued during her years spent studying in England where she earned a bachelor's degree in international relations from Richmond, the American International University in London, and a master's degree in global politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Chanel also received her Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law. She loves to travel and has lived in the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.

Read an Excerpt

chapter one


january 1960

palm beach


The thing about collecting marriage proposals is they're much like cultivating eccentricities. One is an absolute must for being admired in polite-or slightly less-than-polite-society. Two ensure you're a sought-after guest at parties, three add a soupon of mystery, four are a scandal, and five, well, five make you a legend.


I peer down at the man making a spectacle of himself on bended knee in front of me-what is his name?-his body tipping precariously from an overabundance of champagne and folly. He's a second cousin to the venerable Preston clan, related by marriage to a former vice president, cousin to a sitting U.S. senator. His tuxedo is elegant, his fortune likely modest if not optimistic for the largesse of a bequest from a deceased aunt, his chin weak from one too many Prestons marrying Prestons.


Andrew. Maybe Albert. Adam?


We've met a handful of times at parties such as this one in Palm Beach, fetes I once would have ruled over in Havana, to which I now must bow and scrape in order to gain admittance. I likely could do worse than a second cousin to American royalty; after all, beggars can't be choosers, and exiles even less so. The prudent thing would be to accept his proposal-my auspicious fifth-and to follow my sister Elisa into the sacrament of holy matrimony.


But where's the fun in that?


Whispers brush my gown, my name-Beatriz Perez-on their lips, the weight of curious gazes on my back, words creeping toward me, clawing their way up my skirts, snatching the faux jewels from my neck and casting them to the ground.


Look at her.


Haughty. The whole family is. Someone should tell them this isn't Cuba.


Those hips. That dress.


Didn't they lose everything? Fidel Castro nationalized all those sugar fields her father used to own.


Has she no shame?


My smile brightens, flashier than the fake jewels at my neck and just as sincere. I scan the crowd, sweeping past Alexander on his knees looking like a man who hasn't quite acquired his sea legs, past the Palm Beach guard shooting daggers my way, resting on my sisters Isabel and Elisa standing in the corner, champagne flutes in hand. The sight of them, the reminder to bow to nothing and no one, emboldens me.


I turn back to Alistair.


"Thank you, but I must decline."


I keep my tone light, as though the whole thing is a jest, and a drunken one at that, which I hope it is. People don't go falling in love and proposing in one fell swoop, do they? Surely, that's . . . inconvenient.


Poor Arthur looks stunned by my answer.


Perhaps this wasn't a joke after all.


Slowly, he recovers, the same easy smile on his face that lingered moments before he fell to his knees returning with a vengeance, restoring his countenance to what is likely its natural state: perpetually pleased with himself and the world he inhabits. He grasps my outstretched hand, his palm clammy against mine, and pulls himself up with an unsteady sway. A grunt escapes his lips.


His eyes narrow once we're level-nearly level, at least, given the extra inches my sister Isabel's borrowed heels provide.


The glint in Alec's eyes reminds me of a child whose favorite toy has been taken away and who will make you pay for it later by throwing a spectacularly effective tantrum.


"Let me guess, you left someone back in Cuba?"


There's enough of a bite in his tone to nip at my skin.


My diamond smile reappears, honed at my mother's knee and so very useful in situations like these, the edges sharp and brittle, warning the recipient of the perils of coming too close.


I bite, too.


"Something like that," I lie.


Now that one of their own is back on his feet, no longer prostrate in front of the interloper they've been forced to tolerate this social season, the crowd turns their attention from us with a sniff, a sigh, and a flurry of bespoke gowns. We possess just enough money and influence-sugar is nearly as lucrative in America as it is in Cuba-that they can't afford to cut us directly, and not nearly enough to prevent them from devouring us like a sleek pack of wolves scenting red meat. Fidel Castro has made beggars of all of us, and for that alone, I'd thrust a knife through his heart.


And suddenly, the walls are too close together, the lights in the ballroom too bright, my bodice too tight.


It's been nearly a year since we left Cuba for what was supposed to be a few months away until the world realized what Fidel Castro had done to our island, and America has welcomed us into her loving embrace-almost.


I am surrounded by people who don't want me here even if their contempt hides behind a polite smile and feigned sympathy. They look down their patrician noses at me because my family hasn't been in America since the country's founding, or sailed on a boat from England, or some nonsense like that. My features are a hint too dark, my accent too foreign, my religion too Catholic, my last name too Cuban.


In a flash, an elderly woman who shares Anderson's coloring and features approaches us, sparing me a cutting look designed to knock me down a peg or two. In a flurry of Givenchy, he's swept away, and I'm alone once more.


If I had my way, we wouldn't attend these parties, save this one, wouldn't attempt to ingratiate ourselves to Palm Beach society. It isn't about what I want, though. It's about my mother, and my sisters, and my father's need to extend his business empire through these social connections so no one ever has the power to destroy us again.


And of course, as always, it's about Alejandro.


I head for one of the balconies off the ballroom, the hem of my gown gathered in hand, careful to keep from tearing the delicate fabric.


I slip through the open doors, stepping onto the stone terrace, the breeze blowing the skirt of my dress. There's a slight chill in the air, the sky clear, the stars shining down, the moon full. The ocean is a dull, distant roar. It's the sound of my childhood, my adulthood, calling to me like a siren song. I close my eyes, a sting there, and pretend I'm standing on another balcony, in another country, in another time. What would happen if I headed for the water now, if I left the party behind, removing the pinching shoes and curling my toes in the sand, the ocean pooling around my ankles?


A tear trickles down my cheek. I never imagined it was possible to miss a place this much.


I rub my damp skin with the back of my hand, my gaze shifting to the balcony's edge, to the palms swaying in the distance.


A man leans against the balustrade, one side of him shrouded in darkness, the rest illuminated by a shaft of moonlight.


He's tall. Blond hair-nearly reddish, really. His arms brace against the railing, his shoulders straining his tailored tuxedo.


I step back, and he moves-


I freeze.






The thing about people telling you you're beautiful your whole life is that the more you hear it, the more meaningless it becomes. What does "beautiful" even mean anyway? That your features are arranged in a shape someone, somewhere, arbitrarily decided is pleasing? "Beautiful" never quite matches up to the other things you could be: smart, interesting, brave. And yet-


He's beautiful. Shockingly so.


He appears as though he's been painted in broad strokes, his visage immortalized by exuberant sweeps and swirls of the artist's brush, a god come down to meddle in the affairs of mere mortals.


Irritatingly beautiful.


He looks like the sort of man who has never had to wonder if he'll have a roof over his head, or fear his father dying in a cage with eight other men, or flee the only life he has ever known. No, he looks like the sort of man who is told he is perfection from the moment he wakes in the morning to the moment his head hits the pillow at night.


He's noticed me, too.


Golden Boy leans against the railing, his broad arms crossed in front of his chest. His gaze begins at the top of my head where Isabel and I fussed with my coiffure for an hour, cursing the absence of a maid to help us. From my dark hair, he traverses the length of my face, down to the dŽcolletage exposed by the gown's low bodice, the gaudy fake jewels that suddenly make me feel unmistakably cheap-as though he can see I am an impostor-to my waist, hips.


I take another step back.


"Am I to call you cousin?"


His words stop my movement, holding me in place as surely as a hand coming to rest on my waist, as though he is the sort of man accustomed to bending others to his will with little to no effort at all.


I loathe such men.


His voice sounds like what I have learned passes for money in this country: smooth, crisp, devoid of even a hint of foreignness-the wrong kind, at least. A tone of voice secure in the knowledge that every word will be savored.


I arch my brow. "Excuse me?"


He pushes off from the railing, his long legs closing the distance between us. He stops once he's close enough that I have to tip my head up to meet his gaze.


His eyes are blue, the color of the deep parts of the water off the Malec—n.


Without breaking eye contact, he reaches between us, his thumb ghosting across my bare ring finger. His touch is a shock, waking me from the slumber of a party I tired of hours ago. He quirks his mouth in a smile, little lines crinkling around his eyes. How nice to see even gods have flaws.


"Andrew is my cousin," he offers by way of explanation, his tone faintly amused.


I find that most rich people who are still in fact rich manage to pull this off as though a dollop more amusement would be atrociously gauche.


Andrew. The fifth marriage proposal has a name. And the man before me likely has a prestigious one. Is he a Preston or merely related to one like Andrew?


"We were all waiting with breathless anticipation to see what you would say," he comments.


There's that faint amusement again, a weapon of sorts when honed appropriately. He possesses the same edge to him that everyone here seems to have, except I get the sense he is laughing with me, not at me, which is a welcome change.


I grace him with a smile, the edges sanded down a bit. "Your cousin has an impeccable sense of timing and an obvious appreciation for drawing a crowd."


"Not to mention excellent taste," Golden Boy counters smoothly-too smoothly-returning my smile with another one of his own, this one even more dazzling than the first.


He was handsome before, but this is simply ridiculous.


"True," I agree.


I have little use for false modesty these days; if you're not going to fight for yourself, who will?


He leans into me a bit more, as though we share a secret. "No wonder you've whipped everyone into a frenzy."


"Who? Me?"


He chuckles, the sound low, seductive, like the first sip of rum curling in your belly.


"You know the effect you have. I saw you in the ballroom."


How did I miss him? He doesn't exactly blend in with the crowd.


"And what did you see?" I ask, emboldened by the fact that his gaze has yet to drift away.




My heartbeat quickens.


"Just you." His voice is barely loud enough to be heard over the sound of the ocean and the wind.


"I didn't see you." My own voice sounds husky, like it belongs to someone else, someone who is rattled by this.


My gaze has yet to drift from him, either.


His eyes widen slightly, a dimple denting his cheek, another imperfection to hoard even if it adds more character than flaw.


"You sure know how to make a guy feel special."


I curl my fingers into a ball to keep from giving in to temptation, to resist reaching out and laying my palm against his cheek.


"I suspect plenty of people make you feel special."


There's that smile again. "That they do," he acknowledges.


I shift until we stand shoulder to shoulder, gazing out at the moonlit sky.


He shoots me a sidelong look. "I imagine it's true, then?"


"What's true?"


"They say you ruled like a queen in Havana."


"There are no queens in Havana. Only a tyrant who aims to be king."


"I take it you aren't a fan of the revolutionaries?"


"It depends on the revolutionaries to whom you refer. Some had their uses. Fidel and his ilk are little more than vultures feasting on the carrion that has become Cuba." I walk forward, sidestepping him so the full skirt of my dress swishes against his elegant tuxedo pants. I feel him behind me, his breath on my nape, but I don't look back. "President Batista needed to be eliminated. In that, they succeeded. Now if only we could rid ourselves of the victors."


I turn, facing him.


His gaze has sharpened from an indolent gleam to something far more interesting. "And replace them with who, exactly?"


"A leader who cares about Cubans, about their future. Who is willing to remove the island from the Americans' yoke." I care little for the fact that he is an American; I am not one of them and have no desire to pretend to be. "A leader who will reduce sugar's influence," I add, my words a break from my family's position. Despite the fortune it has brought us, it's impossible to deny the destructive influence the industry has had on our island no matter how much our father attempts to do so. "One who will bring us true democracy and freedom."


He's silent, his gaze appraising once again, and I'm not sure if it's a result of the wind, or his breath against my neck, but goose bumps rise over my skin.


"You're a dangerous woman, Beatriz Perez."


My lips curve. I tilt my head to the side, studying him, trying desperately to fight the faint prick of pleasure at the phrase "dangerous woman" and the fact that he knows my name.


"Dangerous for who?" I tease.


He doesn't answer, but then again, he doesn't have to.


Another smile. Another dent in his cheeks. "I'll bet you left a trail of broken hearts behind you."

Reading Group Guide

Readers Guide for WHEN WE LEFT CUBA
Questions for Discussion

1.In the first chapter, Beatriz says that she is somewhere between the girl she was and the woman she wants to be. How do you see her character grow and change throughout the novel?

2.When Beatriz arrives in Palm Beach, she feels out of place in society and cut off from the familiar people and things she loves. Can you relate to her experience of being a fish out of water? Have you ever experienced something similar, and how did it affect you?

3.Beatriz is motivated by her desire to avenge her brother’s death as well as her love of her country. Which of these motivations is stronger for her, or do you believe they are intertwined? Do you agree with her actions or not?

4.When Beatriz becomes involved with the CIA, she acknowledges that war makes for strange bedfellows as she is now aligned with an organization she once decried. Do you agree with her decision? Do you believe in the axiom, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” or do you disagree?

5.Beatriz and Eduardo have a close relationship, and the possibility of a romance between them simmers in the background of the novel. If things had worked out differently, do you think they could have had a future together? Do you think the bond between them is bolstered by their common interests, or is it mainly a product of nostalgia for the life they lived in Cuba? What similarities do you see between their personalities? What differences?

6.Throughout the book, Beatriz struggles to understand Eduardo’s motives. Do you think he acts out of self-interest or patriotism? Do you think he has Beatriz’s best interests at heart, or do you think he uses her for his own ends?

7.Which Perez sister do you identify with: Beatriz, Elisa, Isabel, or Maria? What traits do the sisters share, and in what ways are they different?

8.Each member of Beatriz’s family takes a somewhat distinct approach to exile. Elisa builds a new life for herself in the United States; Isabel leaves her fiancé behind in Cuba; Maria adjusts to life in the United States with ease; parents become obsessed with shoring up their financial and social influence to protect themselves from future ruin. How do you think Beatriz’s feelings about exile differ from those of her family? How is the theme of exile explored in the book?

9.Beatriz chafes at the constraints placed on her by her family and their desire that she find a suitable husband. Can you relate with her desire to please her family while still following her heart? How much of the limitations placed on her are a product of the times and her background?

10.Beatriz and Nick are defined by their loyalties to their respective countries. How do you think this affects their relationship? Do you think timing plays the biggest role in their relationship, or are there other factors that keep them apart? What if they had met in Havana? Or before he was engaged?

11.Both Beatriz and Nick are shaped by war. He’s influenced by his experiences serving in World War II, Beatriz by the Cuban Revolution. How has war shaped them? Has it influenced them in different or similar ways?

12.Mr. Dwyer plays a formative role in Beatriz’s life and almost represents a paternal figure for her. How does their relationship change as the book progresses? Do you think he truly cares for Beatriz or only cares for her utility to the CIA? Is he motivated by self-interest or a sense of patriotic duty?

13.The CIA’s role in Latin America and their efforts in Cuba heavily influenced the events of the early 1960s. What do you think about their motives and policies? Do you agree with their involvement in Cuba’s affairs?

14.Beatriz’s life is defined by the time period she grows up in and the events she experiences: the Cuban Revolution, Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis, and Kennedy Assassination, to name a few. What world events have played defining roles in your life? What memories do you have of them? How have they influenced you?

Customer Reviews

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When We Left Cuba 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
wendm_ccbh More than 1 year ago
Beautiful. Daring. Deadly. When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton takes place in Palm Beach, Florida. The year is 1960. One year ago, the Perez family was exiled from their beloved home country of Cuba. This story explores Beatriz's side. The heartbreaker. The socialite who will stop at nothing to try and kill Castro and regain entry to her home. We watch Beatriz fall in love and get her heartbroken. The forbidden love affair she had with the Senator, Nicholas Randolph Preston III was beautiful and tumultuous. Not the happiest love story but not the saddest either for love can last forever. These two prove it! We also witness her growth and see the tides of change through her eyes. Beatriz comes to realize that she may not have been able to save Cuba like she wanted, but she was brave and fought for other injustices in the world. She never married. She never had children. She traveled the world, making the world her oyster as she made a name for herself. She's the embodiment of #GirlPower ✊ Also, it needs to be said that Chanel is a genius. The way she weaves fiction with real historical events and people is truly magical! I was sucked in and utterly captivated! Once again, I was transported back in time. These stories Chanel has penned are timeless and heartwarming. My first historical fiction reads, they planted a seed for me to continue to explore this newfound genre. Another job well done by Chanel! Take me to Cuba, please .
Anonymous 11 months ago
HistoricalFictionChick More than 1 year ago
"You're a dangerous woman, Beatriz Perez." Gosh, how to even begin this review. Why is it so hard to write a review for a book you love without sounding like a complete fan-girl nerd :) I'm not sure, but I will try my best! When I finished reading Next Year in Havana last year I immediately wrote to Chanel telling her how much I loved the read and how much I adored Elisa's aunt Beatriz. So you can imagine my excitement when she told me that a Beatriz book was in the works! I've been impatiently awaiting this release for a while. And it was just as amazing as I thought it would be. Beatriz will win your heart, just you wait and see! Once again, it's the passion for the people and land of Cuba that shines through when you read the book. Since reading these books I have added Cuba to my travel wishlist. It must be a gorgeous country. You can see why Beatriz longs to be home again. I can't imagine being forced from the only home that you know and never knowing when you can go back again, or if you ever will. I like to think that I would have the courage to be like Beatriz and to try and fight for my country. Political intrigue, spying, danger, and forbidden love all combine masterfully in When We Left Cuba! Cleeton has fast become one of my favorite historical writers. I will automatically pick up anything she releases because I know I'm going to learn a lot and be entertained at the same time. Beatriz is a heroine after my own heart - formidable, stubborn, passionate, and brave. I highly recommend When We Left Cuba if you're looking for a gripping and exciting read!
BrittsBookClub 4 months ago
4.5 out of 5 stars! Have you ever read a book simply for the cover? I decided to read When We Left Cuba, written by Chanel Cleeton, because the colors, picture, and vibes of the cover totally caught my eye! I was not disappointed in the least! When We Left Cuba is about Beatriz Perez, a sugar heiress who had to flee Cuba with her family when Fidel Castro took power. They find themselves in Florida trying and failing to fit in with the socialites and high society. Beatriz meets with a CIA agent about her desire to take Castro down and soon finds herself in the dangerous world of espionage for the American government. Not only that, she is having an affair with a very powerful man who’s ambitions and desires do not match her own. Beatriz must choose between her love for this man and her love for Cuba. I read this book without reading Chanel Cleeton’s other book, Next Year in Havana, and I absolutely loved it. I can tell you that you do not need to read the other book in order to read and enjoy this one! I loved that Beatriz Perez was a female lead character that was strong, independent, and complex, but also, prone to experience her emotions. I think this helped her to seem more human and relatable. I felt like, when reading this book, I was completely transported into the story. The vivid details and writing style Chanel Cleeton utilizes places you right in the pages of the book, as if you are really there. I couldn’t get enough of this book and the story of Beatriz Perez! For fans of historical fiction with a little romance on the side, grab this book and give it a go!
Anonymous 6 months ago
I loved Ms. Cleeton's "Next Year in Havana". Beatriz stood out in that book and I was so glad to find out there was a second book about this family! I loved Beatriz' character. Such a strong, passionate woman. The way the author weaves fiction into historical events is brilliant. I'm not sure which book I liked better, but I was sad when I finished each of them.
Anonymous 6 months ago
As someone very interested in Cuban history, I took the decent reviews as an indicator that it might be both educatonal amd entertaing. Unfortunately, it is an insipid romance novel whose main character is a self-involved, spoiled narcicist withput any depth or believability as a spy. Her great beauty (which she keeps reminding the reader of) is her only resource and becomes tiresome quickly. Her great love--- named 'Nick' of all things is equally ridiculous. I am giving up after 3 evenings of telling myaelf it has to get better. It hasn't and I'm betting it won't.
Anonymous 8 months ago
Sara Saladrigas 9 months ago
I bought this book in the New Orleans airport while waiting on my delayed flight to arrive. I read the first 5 chapters on the plane and was hooked. This is a story that is so intense with the then current events, the passion of love, and the strength of Beatriz and her love for her country. I stayed up every night for the next two weeks to read chapters before bed. I highly recommend this book. I cried when it was over. I won't give away the ending but this is a MUST read.
taramichelle 9 months ago
After reading Next Year in Havana, I couldn't wait for Chanel Cleeton's next book. Her writing is absolutely enchanting and the characters leap off the page. I had high expectations after reading Next Year in Havana and this one absolutely met my expectations. When We Left Cuba was a wonderful companion novel that delved into Beatriz's story. Beatriz was an incredible character. She was intelligent, charming, and determined to forge her own path. I loved that Beatriz was so nuanced and vibrant. Plus I loved how her affair unfolded, it was fascinating to see the careful dance between the two characters. When We Left Cuba also does a fantastic job of making the history of that time easily to understand. This book not only shows the events that happened but how they affected various individuals and communities. Cleeton also does a great job of making Beatriz's spying seem realistic. The entire plot was engaging, it was a struggle to put this book down. When We Left Cuba is a fantastic historical fiction novel. I'd recommend reading Next Year in Havana first but this one can also be read as a stand-alone. If you're looking for captivating characters and an intriguing story, definitely pick this one up. *Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
rendezvous_with_reading 11 months ago
Castro, Kennedy, Khrushchev, Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis. #partner Thank you @Berkleypub for this free copy to review. I have learned so much about Cuba's history during this time frame from Chanel Cleeton's two books. In her novels, she presents multiple facets of the revolution, how it changed Cuba, what it meant for those that fled the island and for those that remained. By placing Beatriz in a world of espionage, the reader gets to examine all the players in the Cuban Missile Crisis. The novel is historical fiction and romance combined, and while I may not have liked all Beatriz's decisions, she was a strong, intriguing character. I felt as though the author perfect captured the atmosphere of the early 1960's, the optimism of the Camelot years and the dark workings of the CIA in the background. And while this could be read as a stand alone novel, I think its beneficial to have read Next Year in Havana first, so as to have the full scope of Cuba's revolution in mind when you start this novel.
Book_and_recipe_Examiner 12 months ago
Beatriz Perez is determined to set the world on fire to regain all she’s lost it would be thrilling and fascinating to be—clever, curvy, and more powerful than she realizes, with an insatiable ambition driving her, yet vulnerable when the right equally clever and wounded man comes along, who also lives “with ghosts in his eyes.” Her mother desires her to be a simple debutante and marry a rich man while the girls’ father seeks to rebuild his sugar fortune, lost in Cuba. But for Beatriz, no matter how many men, no matter which men propose, she refuses to be confined the background of a man’s life—cooking, attending social parties,and sitting around—useless. Not with a dead twin brother to avenge. So she begins aiding her old family friend Eduardo in his secret missions, and is eventually put in contact with a head at the CIA, Mr. Dwyer. But timing couldn't be worse, as she also just met the one man who might make her give it all up, a powerful senator named Nick Preston who’s been to war and seen the havoc it wreaks, who still lives with the ghosts of his memories left on battlefields. Nick is one of perhaps only two men still alive who truly understand Beatriz and the passion that drives her, above all, her need to kill Fidel Castro. He too is a man with drive, who seeks to one day become President, like his good friend Jack Kennedy. With powerful imagery and a tangible, understandable need for vengeance and retribution as a result of the poignant losses she and her family have suffered, the voice of Beatriz Perez is fascinating and compelling. When We Left Cuba is about what it means to be a woman in the 1960s, craving power and usefulness, yet torn by the desire for love, but above all, what it means to be a Cuban etching a place in America, and above all, resilient. For discussion questions, similar books to read, and a themed recipe for Mimosa Orange and Champagne Cupcakes with Orange frosting, visit: https://owlcation.com/humanities/When-We-Left-Cuba-Book-Discussion-and-Recipe.
Candice_S More than 1 year ago
Let’s start off with the facts - Chanel Cleeton has a masterful talent at bringing characters and locations to vivid, screaming life on the page. And this book is magnificent. I am just so excited for this book to be in the world - I loved Next Year in Havana, and Beatriz was my very favourite character when that book launched, so to have a whole book dedicated to her story is SO EXCITING. It doesn’t disappoint either - Beatriz is my spirit animal. Everything about this story is magic - picking up from the Perez family having fled Cuba after the revolution and Castro coming into power, a young Beatriz is coming to terms with her new reality in America - and her desperation for wanting to continue to fight for a country she loves so passionately. I LOVE how Chanel writes her characters, they are so full of life and vibrant, I genuinely feel like Beatriz is someone I know in this world. I connect with her so deeply that watching her story unfold, I felt every single emotion she was feeling - the anger, frustration, love, joy, sadness, relief - all of it. Everything that I loved about Beatriz in the first book is simply reinforced in this book - she is just as feisty and wild as she was before, rebellious and determined, smart, strong, beautiful, vulnerable, assured and relentless in seeking justice for her country falling apart. I could not have asked for more from this second installment. Most importantly, Chanel stayed true to the core of Beatriz - even when I was so maddeningly frustrated with some of her choices and decisions, I knew at my heart that it would have been exactly what Beatriz would have done, that she never would have faltered in her faith or her conviction, and that she would have stood her ground even in the face of enormous personal loss. I absolutely respect this in an author and a character - Chanel did not take the easy way out, she didn’t write the predictable love story, she didn’t relent in seeking the life that Beatriz knew she needed to lead, despite all the consequences of those choices. As with all books, I am hesitant to say too much, as it truly is the readers singular joy to get to devour a story whole and with minimal spoiler. So I won’t let on any more, except to say that this book is everything I hoped it would be, and then some. Its one that you can read as a standalone, but I promise, you won’t want to miss the magic of Next Year in Havana either. These are beautiful stories that reflect such a tumultuous time in the world, and do so with humanity, empathy and true passion for a country and a culture. Books that should be on every bookworms pile. I laughed, I cried and I celebrated with Beatriz all the days of her life. I loved every single page, and I cannot WAIT to see what other bookworms think of this one.
Bex-NightOwlReader More than 1 year ago
As I was reading Next Year in Havana (read my review here) last year, I was so intrigued by the fiery and outspoken sister, Beatriz, and hoped that we would get to hear her story. Well, I got my wish and When We Left Cuba is all about Beatriz and what happened after her family was exiled from Cuba to southern Florida by the Castro regime in the 1960s. This striking story about a woman who makes it her mission to avenge her brother’s death and bring down the man responsible is riveting from beginning to end. Beatriz’s tale is full of espionage, covert operations, and dangerous missions—but aside from her desire for revenge, she’s a woman who falls in love with a man who will never be able to leave his own sense of duty and obligation for her, she’s a woman who fights for her place in a society that looks down on her for being an outsider, and she’s a daughter who will never be a placid and demure wallflower looking to be taken care of by a husband. Beatriz is formidable and fierce and she doesn’t need a man to rescue her, thankyouverymuch. Cleeton does such an amazing job of bringing both the United States and Cuba of the 1960s to life. The descriptions and imagery are vivid, the storytelling is sharp, and the characters pop off the page. There were a couple of places where the pacing felt heavy, but this is the kind of story that you can feel how much love and history has been poured into each chapter. If you love historical fiction with a side of glamour, romance, and intrigue, When We Left Cuba will be right up your alley and I highly recommend it.
Fredreeca2001 More than 1 year ago
Beatriz lost everything during the Cuban revolution. She lost her home, her country but the worst was losing her brother. She and her family are trying to make a new life in Florida. It has not been as easy as Beatriz expected. She is a beautiful young lady with a fierce love of Cuba and this gets her into a heap of trouble. Beatriz is one tough lady and y’all know…I love tough women characters! She is determined to fight back regardless of the cost. And believe me, it cost her plenty. Between the CIA, a friend who is possibly the enemy and a political, married love interest, Beatriz’s reputation is shattered. This does not stop her in the least! This story is so compelling. I don’t think I have read many books set in Cuba during this time period. Fidel Castro and the tragedy of the Cuban revolution is absolutely riveting. However, the CIA part of this story seemed a little far fetched to me. But, that is just a minor issue. The tale and the characters are woven together so strategically and the author has crafted such a unique storyline that no one needs to miss this one. Plus the cover is fabulous! I received this novel from the author for a honest review.
Caroles_Random_Life More than 1 year ago
This was such a wonderful story! I really enjoyed Chanel Cleeton's Next Year in Havana so I was really excited to learn that one of my favorite characters in that book would get to tell her own story. This is that story. The events in this book take place after those in Next Year in Havana and while I enjoyed seeing all of the characters again, this story stands on its own. I was hooked by this story from the very beginning and had a fantastic time with this book. This is really a big story. Beatriz and her family are living in Florida after fleeing Cuba when Castro came into power. The family has suffered a lot of losses and it has been a difficult adjustment. Beatriz and her family hope to go back to Cuba but are also trying to make a life in Florida. Beatriz's mother would like to see all of her daughters married but Beatriz has other ideas. She has turned down quite a few marriage proposals and is more focused on revenge. This story was filled with excitement. Beatriz works with the CIA and let's just say that her life is far from boring. She was passionate about the cause that she was working towards and it was really quite interesting to see her in action. Some of her missions were more exciting than others but it was great to see her in action. I was really taken by the romance in this story. It was not your average romance and I am actually somewhat surprised that I was so taken with it but I just found myself swept away by their chemistry. Nick and Beatriz were just great together. They were incredibly attracted to each other and couldn't seem to stay apart even when they tried. There were so many things that seemed to work against the possibility of a relationship between them but they just couldn't stay away from each other. There were things about their relationship that made me sad and I wouldn't necessarily say everything turns out well but I think they were both better for knowing each other. I really enjoyed the politics and history that were a part of this book. This was such an eventful period of time and I loved seeing some of the events that I have learned about worked into this story. I thought that all of the little details that the author included really added to the authenticity of the story. I would highly recommend this book to others. This was a captivating story about a passionate character working to make a difference in the world while trying to find some happiness for herself. I cannot wait to read more from this talented author. I received a digital review copy of this book from Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley.
LeighKramer More than 1 year ago
This story had as much glitz, glamour, and intrigue as I hoped! We got a glimpse of Beatriz Perez in Next Year In Havana and I immediately wanted to know her story. Whereas NYIH anchored a past storyline within the context of its present day heroine, When We Left Cuba largely centers on a 20-something Beatriz living in Palm Beach, Florida in the early 1960s and then gives us brief glimpses of her on November 26, 2016, the day Fidel Castro died. The structure works well.The past storyline is written in first person present, while the present day (2016) storyline is written in 3rd person present, to great effect. I don’t always notice which tense is being used, unless it’s not done well, but I noticed here and it allowed the story to breathe in some interesting ways. We’re right there in Beatriz’s world as she adjusts to living in the US after her family had to flee Cuba but when we’re brought back to the present, we’re at a bit of remove, as she is too. She’s figuring out not only how she feels about Castro’s death, but about all the things that happened in her life leading up to this day. Beatriz is such a vibrant, gutsy character and I absolutely adored her. She is so confident about what she wants out of life, no matter what her family or society says. She’s resolved and she goes after what she wants and what she wants is revenge for her twin brother’s murder under Fidel Castro’s regime.I could not get enough of this story, even though on the surface it has one of my reading dealbreakers: infidelity. When Beatriz and Nick meet, they are undeniably drawn to one another. The only catch: he announces his engagement the same night they meet. It’s a society wedding and they both know the score, although Beatriz is mostly going on his word and the way he and his fiancée are never together. But Cleeton handled this aspect with such compassion and nuance and the characters reckon with their decisions in a way that felt honest and true.It was fascinating to see Kennedy’s election and assassination and the Bay of Pigs crisis from a Cuban lens. The focus on dictators at that time and all the intrigue behind the scenes, especially the vying powers, has a lot of lessons for us now in the present. The spying aspects didn’t always seem realistic but it never detracted from my enjoyment of the story. Beatriz has a lot to make sense of and often has to react on the fly and I loved the way she was able to rise to the occasion, no matter what. Plus, I’d never considered how a socialite could make a perfect spy but it made perfect sense.One of my favorite aspects of this book was how adamant Beatriz was about not wanting to get married or have kids and that she so clearly has no regrets later. She lives life on her own terms and this was so refreshing to see. The ending was deeply satisfying and I sure would not mind getting another book about her adventures. I also hope the reference at the end to Isabella Perez and her corsair is a clue for Cleeton’s next story. It sounds fascinating! Disclosure: I received an advanced copy from Berkley Books in exchange for an honest review.
GoABraves More than 1 year ago
"When We Left Cuba" is a side story of Chanel Cleeton's " Next Year In Havana" which was part of the Hello Sunshine Book Club. I enjoyed Beatiz' story, her need to return to Havana but her heart is torn between Havana and a gentleman who steals her heart. During the Fidel Castro's take over of Havana and the tension of the US/Cuba relations her family is in US. Her family is now settling into their new lives, but Beatriz wants to return to Cuba and the life they had before. She will do just about anything to accomplish her goal. Both are historical in nature and delightful reads with a mix of fiction and facts. Thanks to Penguin and First To Read for the ARC.
Honolulubelle More than 1 year ago
Favorite Quotes: War has a way of sanding down your virtue. I reenact my own Cinderella routine sans the discarded pump. If Cinderella had paid what I did for these shoes, she’d have made sure she left the ball with both, too. If I’m going to have regrets in this life, I’d rather them be for the chances I took and not the opportunities I let slip away. The line between villain and hero is whisper thin, and, very frequently, a matter of perspective. Gray, Miss Perez. We operate in the gray. My Review: I was completely sucked into Ms. Cleeton’s well-crafted and deftly written cloak and dagger vortex as I zigzagged the globe while she brilliantly unfolded her impressive tale of Beatriz Perez, Cuban femme fatale. Her captivating storylines sparkled with intrigue, betrayals, passion, family drama, an epic love, patriotism, scandal, and tropical heat. The engaging plot was quickly paced and highly eventful while blending fact and fiction with stunning agility in an informative yet entertaining and evocative manner. Ms. Cleeton’s writing activated a long forgotten grade school memory flash of participating in those ridiculous duck and cover drills and being reprimanded for giggling while sitting under my desk. And I am proud to exclaim that I finally, yes finally, have a grasp on the atrocity of the Bay of Pigs and the disgraceful betrayals of the US government that caused such butchery, which is nothing new and probably even worse now, yet still, so disheartening. The 60s really were a mess!
miareese More than 1 year ago
3.5 stars This book was a really interesting look into the state of Cuba in the 1960s and was told from the perspective of a fascinating woman. Beatriz was a woman ahead of her time, not being interested in becoming a wife and mother. She wanted more out of life and wanted to make positive changes for her country, which I really admired. The romance between her and Nick was so good- the perfect amounts of angst and heartache and longing and passion. The arguments Beatriz had with him and others in her life could be repetitive, and the story did feel like it was building up to something huge, but the ending didn't really quite live up to that, but this still was a really enjoyable read.
Sandy-thereadingcafe More than 1 year ago
WHEN WE LEFT CUBA is the second instalment in Chanel Cleeton’s historical, fictionalized account focusing on the Perez family, and the Cuban Revolution. Told from first person point of view (past 1960-1963) and present day (2016), third person (Beatriz Perez) WHEN WE LEFT CUBA following two timelines, focuses on Beatriz Perez, a Cuban immigrant to America, in the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution that destroyed her family, and everyone she loved. Desperate to avenge the death of her beloved brother Alejandro, Beatriz Perez’ political ideology becomes known to the American government, and is eventually recruited by the CIA, to infiltrate anti-Castro organizations in an attempt to ferret out information concerning the Cuban dictator. Determined to return to her homeland once Fidel is deposed, Beatriz finds herself part of an international espionage group headed by the CIA. Meeting US senator Nicholas ‘Nick’ Preston finds our heroine caught between her head and heart knowing her actions will reflect poorly on the people she loves. What ensues is Beatriz’ resolve to avenge her brother’s death, and the multi-decade love affair with a man who is destined for greatness at the cost of her love. WHEN WE LEFT CUBA is a story of family, politics, relationships and love: of betrayal and vengeance, power and control; of one woman’s fight for freedom and independence, and one man’s love that was never enough. WHEN WE LEFT CUBA is not a story of romance but a love story between a man and a woman; between a woman and the country she lost. Beatriz Perez grew up surrounded by riches and money, and for her parents, it was all about perception and presentation, but our heroine refuses to follow tradition including society’s expectations of a woman, a Cuban immigrant woman, who struggles to be accepted for her ideals, her self-determination and personal autonomy. WHEN WE LEFT CUBA is a detailed, multi-faceted, and engaging story line that follows the build up to cold war between the US and Cuba, and the ramifications of the Bay of Pigs, the assassination of John F Kennedy, and the consequences of Beatriz’s commitment to Cuba, to vengeance, and to her self-reliance. WHEN WE LEFT CUBA is a powerful, dynamic and imaginative story of one family’s battle to remain true to themselves in spite of the increasing break down of ethical, moral and personal beliefs.
Katie__B More than 1 year ago
If you enjoyed the historical fiction novel, Next Year in Havana, you'll want to check this one out as it features Beatriz Perez. I'm so glad the author decided to write a book about her because she's a fascinating character. Really liked this one as it had a little bit of everything including romance, espionage, and family drama. While this book could be read as standalone novel, I highly recommend checking out the previous book so you can get a better understanding of not just Beatriz but also her family and everything that took place in Cuba. It's the 1960s and Beatriz and the Perez family are living in Florida after the Cuban Revolution forced them to leave everything behind in Cuba. Beatriz has a lot of anger towards the man responsible for all of the turmoil in her home country, Fidel Castro, and so she agrees to work as a spy for the CIA and infiltrate Castro's inner circle. She soon gets quite an education on the dirty side of politics for both countries and also manages to get caught up in a forbidden love affair. It's fair to say she will be forced to make a lot of tough choices, some with lasting consequences. I was slightly worried before reading this that it was going to read too much like a spy novel, which isn't really my thing. However, while Beatriz working for the CIA is definitely part of the story, there are other facets of her life that are explored as well. Overall there really was a nice balance to the story. I was drawn the most to Beatriz and her love life but I also enjoyed learning some of the historical facts regarding what was going on between Cuba and the United States during this time. It was also nice to revisit characters from the previous book. Definitely an enjoyable read and I would love to see the author continue on with featuring Perez family members in future books. Thank you to First to Read for the free advance digital copy! I was under no obligation to post a review and all views expressed are my honest opinion.
joansreviews More than 1 year ago
When We Left Cuba has it all - adventure, history, suspense and romance all wrapped into a beautiful and atmospheric novel. It’s 1960s Palm Beach Florida and the Perez family has settled into a new life after being forced to leave their beloved Cuba. Rebellious daughter Beatriz, along with her sisters, is expected to insinuate herself into this new society and marry well to help bring back the family’s status and wealth. Beatriz however has other ideas. Spurred on by her hatred of Fidel Castro, thoughts of revenge for all that he took from her family, as well as a longing for independence; Beatriz sets out to pave her own path. With the help of an old family friend, Eduardo Diaz, she is recruited into the CIA and the world of espionage. To complicate matters she is captivated by Senator Nicholas Randolph Preston III, a scion of Palm Beach society with ambitions of his own. Despite his engagement to another woman and the risks to his career; the two become embroiled in a passionate affair that could shock the staid world around them. Cleeton transports her readers to another time and place. The events of the era such as the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy’s assassination, and the Cold War unfold through plot twists and turns in this spectacular read! I was swept up into this story from the first scene and held captive until the last words. Although I loved Cleeton’s first novel about the Perez family, Next Year in Havana, this second installment surpassed my expectations. Readers of historical fiction, politics, romance and intrigue will be delighted with this novel. Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for the Advanced Reader Galley.
teachlz More than 1 year ago
I Recommend This Book Strongly Chanel Cleeton , Author of “When We Left Cuba” has written an intense, captivating, enthralling, riveting, emotional, page-turning, and thought-provoking novel. I loved everything about Chanel Cleeton’s novel. The Genres for this Novel are Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance, and Suspense. The time-line for this story is from the Cuban Revolution , the Cold War, the Bay of Pigs, President Kennedy’s election and so much more. I appreciate the historical details and research the author has done to provide such an intoxicating background and part of the story. Chanel Cleeton describes her colorful cast of characters as complex, complicated and dramatic. This novel would make a wonderful screen play, movie or series. I also appreciate Chanel Cleeton’s vivid description of the characters and landscape. After the Cuban Revolution, the Perez family is forced to come to America. The family is trying to regain the loss of their sugar empire they had in Cuba.Beatriz Perez especially feels the loss of her country, , her friends, and the death of her brother. Beatriz has blamed the old regime, and now holds Fidel Castro responsible. The CIA wants Beatriz to infiltrate Castro’s regime. Beatriz’s strong-willed mother wants her to get married. Beatriz faces danger and death if she pursues her revenge. What will she decide to do? There are betrayals, espionage, and spies as the Cold War intensifies. Also the Perez family is slowly adjusting to the American way of life. Is there any way the problems of the past can be worked out so Beatriz can live safely in the present? I love that Beatriz is a strong-willed, brave and resourceful woman who tries to own her decisions. I highly recommend this unpredictable and suspenseful novel to those readers who love Historical Fiction. I received an ARC. Happy Reading!
Betul90 More than 1 year ago
"How differently would my life have turned out if I'd been born in this country, if I hadn't come into a fractured and divided island caught in never-ending turmoil?" When We Left Cuba was one of my most anticipated reads of 2019. After falling in love with Chanel Cleeton's beautiful and touching words and sentences in Next Year in Havana, I couldn't wait to see what else she had in store for us. Beatriz, the main character of this book, is introduced in Next Year in Havana and I just knew her story would be adventurous and mysterious. So I was pretty excited when the author announced that she was writing her book. I was hooked from start 'til finish, and I read this book in two sittings. I just couldn't put it down. The ability of this author to tell a story is just magical, I was Beatriz while I was reading this book, and I was feeling everything she was. I understood why she did certain things, and couldn't let it go. She isn't your typical heroine, and I loved that she stayed true to herself until the end. "Love ebbs and flows, a low-level hum in the background, but anger sinks its claws in you and refuses to let go." Like with Next Year in Havana, the history and politics regarding Cuba was told perfectly. It was so interesting and engaging, and it piqued my interest even more. I mostly read romance books, and even though the romance in this book is a bit in the background, it still plays an important role in my opinion. The balance between the espionage and romance scenes was really good. I can't believe I am saying this, but I wanted a bit more espionage scenes. I was totally hooked on them, and it is definitely a genre I need to read. The main characters were amazing and thankfully not perfect, they had their flaws and they were very realistic. This book wasn't predictable and I really loved that. It was suspenseful, mysterious, romantic, and heartbreaking at times. I absolutely loved this book, and I hope Chanel Cleeton will continue to write more Historical Fiction set in Cuba or any other country.