cover image The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba

The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba

Chanel Cleeton. Berkley, $17 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-593-19781-3

Cleeton (The Last Train to Key West) spins an enchanting historical novel based on the story of Cuban rebel Evangelina Cisneros. In 1896 New York City, journalist Grace Harrington, aspiring to be the next Nellie Bly, wangles a job with William Randolph Hearst’s publication, the New York Journal. As Grace is settling in as a “stunt girl” reporter, a parallel narrative follows Evangelina in Cuba, where she is imprisoned for refusing the advances of an enemy Spanish soldier. The incident prompts Hearst to turn Evangelina’s story into a plea for American involvement in Cuba’s fight for independence, and he gives Grace the assignment. The Journal’s go-between is Marina Perez, disowned by her wealthy family after marrying a farmer turned revolutionary and trying to make ends meet for her and her daughter by taking in laundry, which provides the perfect cover for covert messaging between Evangelina and Grace. Further intrigue emerges when Grace turns out to be a spy for Hearst’s rival Joseph Pulitzer, an allegiance she gives up after Hearst entrusts her with the story. Cleeton skillfully brings off the three strong women’s heartbreaking stories with intriguing twists and turns and a delightful finale. With impeccable research and perfect pacing, Cleeton makes the most of her subject. (May)