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West Side Love Story - Review

Updated: Aug 9, 2022

*I received the physical copy from Montlake & Amazon Publishing. All reviews are my own.*

I don't know if the pastel-colored cover stood out or if the synopsis promised a Spanish Romeo & Juliet retelling with battling Mariachi bands as a feature. Still, I wanted to fill another one of my romance quotas and was super excited when I got approved to check out West Side Love Story by Priscilla Oliveras. I don't know what's been up with me lately with the Romeo and Juliet themes. I just did a Westside story-themed romance earlier this year; a Spanish one at that! I thought that would satisfy my Shakespeare retellings. Guess not!

"Two familias in Texas, both alike in dignity, rivalries, and passion…
Having grown up in the nurturing household of Casa Capuleta, Mariana will do anything for familia. To solve her adoptive parents’ financial problems amid their rapidly changing San Antonio comunidad, Mariana and her younger sisters are determined to win the Battle of the Mariachi Bands. That means competing against Hugo Montero, their father’s archnemesis, and his band and escalating a decades-old feud. It also raises the stakes of Mariana’s forbidden attraction for a certain dark-eyed mariachi who sets her heart racing.
To Angelo Montero’s familia, Mariana is also strictly off-limits. But that doesn’t stop him from pursuing her. As their secret affair intensifies and the competition grows fierce, they’re swept up in a brewing storm of betrayals, rivalries, and broken ties. Against the odds, they vow to bring peace. But sacrifices must be made and consequences weighed for two star-crossed lovers to make beautiful music together."

Here we follow Mariana Capuleta and Angelo Montero navigating their forbidden romance from their rivaling families. The beef, of course, started long ago between two friends over a woman. Now the lines are drawn, and entire clans are the scum of the earth to each other. That's neither here nor there. What captures this fascinating spectacle is the two lovers competing against each other in the biggest Battle of the Mariachi Bands. Bonus points are that the Capuleta band is all female. (For those that don't know, all-girl mariachi bands are rare to come by). Who's going to win the battle? Will the lovebirds' romance flourish or fizzle? Darker question: does anybody die?

I wasn't entirely in love with this book. There was so much potential and avenues the story could've gone, but at the last moment, the author switched gears and put a spotlight on something unexpected. The biggest gaffe that bothered me was the lack of Mariachi we saw. We start with the energy of the Battle of the Bands. We are engrossed with the event, talent, and snobbery being played out between the Capulets and Monteros. It's almost like watching Making the Band on MTV. But after a while, it wasn't about the competition anymore. Of course, we start to focus on the budding romance between Mariana and Angelo, but the thrill of the Mariachi starts to fade out completely. By the end of the book, it's an afterthought. I wish we would have gotten a well-blended story, including the competition, the romance, and the troubles the two lovebirds faced. I feel like we were missing out on some great imagery that could have rounded the story out.

I always appreciate the detail of imagery, but this was overly detailed. Oliveras went off on tangents describing feelings, thoughts, dreams, wishes, and aspirations, before returning to what's happening in front of our eyes. After a while, it started to slow down my retention speed. You would think the romance would have made it worth it, but no. It took 200 pages worth of teasing touch and go, only to find out its closed-door romance. We did all this hemming and hawing, trying to get to the juicy part of the book, only for it to fade to black. Boooooo!

I did like the family atmosphere and the talks about battling mental seclusion. Mariana had a habit of trying to keep everything and everyone going, robbing her of peace. I like that she had someone to lean on and slowly discarded that way of living. For Angelo, I like that he put on his big boy panties and voiced what he wanted to do with his future instead of following down a path he knew he would be miserable in.

Overall I rated this book 3-stars. It wasn't necessarily a DNF, just a slow burn. I will credit the last few chapters picking up. It got me hype to the point where I'm interested in grabbing the sequel, Kiss Me, Catalina, dropping on November 8th. Other than that, a few misspelled words and a random ICE sighting that had nothing to do with nothing, it was an okay book. I want to thank Ludivine for introducing me to the art of buddy reading. We found out I am terrible at it, but she never gave up on me! Let's check out Book 2 together when it drops!

West Side Love Story debuts June 1, 2022

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