Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A review of "Sweet Mary"

Sweet Mary by Liz Balmaseda (Atria Books, ISBN 978-1-4165-4296-4)

Dulce Maria (Sweet Mary) Guevara had a good life. Not a perfect life, not one without some problems. Sharing custody of her son with a less than cooperative ex-husband, having to deal with slightly goofy Cuban parents and her deadbeat brother caused some issues, but she was successful in her South Florida real estate career and had her best friend and co-worker Gina, watching her back. That is, until the morning when the worst week of her life began.

DEA agents break into her house, arrest her and lead her out in handcuffs as her son cries and her neighbors gather to watch the spectacle. She is accused of being a high ranked drug dealer, an accusation that takes her and her lawyer more than a week to prove is no more than a case of mistaken identity. She is released but a cloud of suspicion remains in the minds of many. Her ex-husband has been awarded full custody of their son while she was in jail and it seemed her boss does not feel she should return to her old job right now...or maybe ever. In other words, her life as she knew it is falling apart and the only way she can see getting it back to the way it was is to find the real fugitive and totally clear her name. And the only person she knows that may be able to help her on her quest is her bad boy ex-fiancé Joe Pratts. His ties to certain criminal elements was the reason he became her ex-fiancé but those same connections may now hold the key to helping her restore her life.

Let's say when they head off together to the Keys, the sultry Florida heat may not be the only thing making it sizzle.

Sweet Mary is a very well written book, as one might expect from a two time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, with some very good characters and a setting that just comes alive. It's also a very visual book, betraying it's beginnings as a potential screenplay and you may find yourself wishing you had one of Mary's favorite Mango Sours to drink as you set off on this fast paced, entertaining romp with a lively cast. At times this debut novel is very funny, at other times quite touching but always with emotions that ring true.

To a degree, “Sweet Mary” puts me in mind of the best stories in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. Trade Italian-American Trenton, NJ for Cuban-American South Florida, take one sassy heroine, add a 'take no hostages' female sidekick, a family that will drive you crazy one minute and tear out your heart the next and top it all off with a handsome bad boy love interest and you have all the elements for a very entertaining read. I certainly hope this will not be the last we see of Gina and Joe, Lilia and Herminio Guevara and, most of all, Sweet Mary.


  1. That is all you really had to say...Stephanie Plum. Love that series. It satisfies the inner bad girl in me! I always vote for a romp with Ranger! This book would probably fill the same niche. On the other hand, it probably isn't too far from the truth, with the havoc that can be wreaked with a mistaken identity. Is this series?

  2. this is her first book...and has just been released, but I am hoping we see these folks again!

  3. Thanks for the great review. I got this one in the mail last week and now I'm really looking forward to reading it.

  4. Wow! You've made me want to read this one. I love sassy female characters and quirky families.

  5. Great review Caite! I admit I had no interest in reading this book, then I noticed that you had reviewed it so I came over to read your review! I want to read the book now! It sounds very intriguing and fun and I like that the author is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist! Thank you!

    Oh! I tried to get an early reviewer book from Library Thing the last time they had a list and were giving some away. I didn't succeed but I will try again. That's one thing I like about Good Reads is their First Reads program from which I got "After You"!


  6. Now this sounds like one to add to my list. How can I pass up a great lead female and a Florida setting?


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