Review: His Perfect Partner by Priscilla Oliveras

Aidee’s review of His Perfect Partner by Priscilla Oliveras
Contemporary romance released by Zebra Shout on September 26, 2017

Book CoverAd executive Tomás Garcia shouldn’t even be thinking about his daughter’s alluring dance teacher, Yazmine Fernandez. Burned by a shattering divorce, he’s laser-focused on his career—and giving his young daughter, Maria, the secure home she deserves. Plus, he’s certain that with her talent, Yaz will be leaving Chicago and heading back to Broadway as soon as she can. But Yaz’s generous spirit and caring concern are sparking a desire Tomás can’t resist—and doesn’t want to let go . . .

For Yaz, good-looking workaholics like Tomás simply can’t be part of her life ever again. She owes it to herself to get back her confidence and fulfill the dreams her papá could not. She’s glad to spend time with Maria—and taste the family life she feels she can never have. And she’s sure that she and Tomás can keep their attraction under control because there’s so much at stake. But each unexpected intimacy, each self-revelation, makes the fire between them grow hotter with every step—and every risk to their hearts . . .

I picked up His Perfect Partner because of two things: I was looking for a contemporary romance, and I’m always curious how Latinx characters are portrayed in books, regardless of the genre. I loved the way the families of both of the main characters are an integral part of the story, the obvious growth both main characters have to go through before the HEA, and the way food is woven into the setting. That being said, I did find myself demanding that Yazmine and Tomás get it together already on more than one occasion, so if being frustrated by a character’s inability to see how happy they would be if they made different choices until the very end of the book isn’t your preferred story arc, be warned.

Yazmine is a professional dancer who is teaching at her old dance school while she’s in town. She is funny, caring, and loyal to her family. However, she makes many of her choices while misinterpreting the expectations of those around her. Not because she is oblivious or selfish, but because she is the opposite, and because sometimes, people are confusing.

Tomás is similar to Yazmine in many ways. He is driven to succeed, but he loves his daughter and wants the very best for her. These two forces are sometimes at counter purposes, which sets up the first mini-conflict in the book. However, through Yazmine’s perspective, as well as his own actions and inner thoughts, we get to see that he is not entirely a workaholic—he just has workaholic tendencies.

Both Yazmine and Tomás’s families play an important role in the story. A line that comes up often in the book is “familia primero” which translates to “family first.” Yazmine and Tomás make choices that are frequently driven by the belief that they are putting their respective family first. Sometimes this is true, and sometimes they fall into the trap of living for what they believe are others’ expectations. What I liked about this is that you do see how much pressure the characters—particularly Yazmine—feel from their families to do certain things. For example, in what reminds me of a comment I heard when I was younger, Yazmine’s father says the following:

“I might even have a pair of Yazmine’s old ballet shoes. I am saving them to put on display when she wins her first Tony award. Some day soon, right, nena?”

These kinds of comments are peppered throughout the book, although this is probably the most obvious one. In this case, it is coming from Yazmine’s father, but other people in her community express similar, high expectations.

On a smaller scale, we see this play out with Yazmine’s sister Rosa. Rosa believes that all she is good at is keeping the family dynamic running smoothly, and when Yazmine steps up and takes on more responsibility for that, Rosa feels insecure of her place and her worth.

Tomás feels pressure, which is mostly expressed in his drive to be a successful ad executive, with the ability to provide a stable home for his daughter. He moves to the suburbs to provide the “comfortable family lifestyle he wanted for Maria” and the city is where he is able to achieve the financial security he lacked as a child. We don’t get to see as much of Tomás’s family, but we do get to see his daughter. She’s young, generally happy, and is a motivating factor in why Yazmine and Tomás spend more time with each other. However, I don’t think that she was used as a poppet. We see Tomás being a parent to her, in small ways—he reminds her to come back for her jacket if she gets cold playing by a jukebox in a restaurant, and he keeps an eye on her even while talking with Yazmine. It is probably safe to say that Yazmine likes to spend time with children, given that she is a dance teacher and voluntarily chooses to spend more time with Maria.

Both Yazmine and Tomás grow throughout the novel. I think that Yazmine grew more than Tomás—or at least, it felt that her growth resulted in her making a bigger life-changing decision than Tomás. The choices are spoiler-y, so I can’t say much here other than that. However, by the end of the book, both of them have made major choices that prioritize their happiness.

I mentioned delicious food. Food comes up a lot in the story, to the point where it’s kind of part of the setting. In Latinx cultures, food is the way people show that they care for you; it is a sign of good manners to offer someone something to eat and drink when they visit your home, and special occasions are celebrated with food. So, there was asopao, which is a kind of Puerto Rican stew, which appears several times, as do yummy Puerto Rican cookies. But we also see Yazmine making sure that Tomás eats throughout the book, which seems small, but it isn’t something I clearly remember happening a lot in other romance novels. (I have been known to have the memory of a sieve, though.)

A lot of this book has to do with expectations, and how they color our perceptions. However, because the book is told in alternating close third-person, the readers understand the problems with these perceptions more quickly than the characters do. This is kind of fun for a while, but for me, the book dragged it out longer than I was interested, so that by the end of the novel, I really wanted Yazmine and Tomás to let go of their skewed perceptions and get on with being happy with each other.

I enjoyed getting a chance to spend time with these characters and their families, and their HEA is great when it finally happens, I just feel it could have happened a lot sooner. It’s a sweet contemporary, with nice characters that have extended lives beyond their respective love interests.

Grade: B-

You can buy a copy of His Perfect Partner here. *And as of the time of this posting, the kindle copy is on sale for $0.99!

*Editor’s note: We actually were lucky enough to have Priscilla as a guest during Hispanic Heritage Month, and she talked about His Perfect Partner, if you’d like some more background on the book, etc. <3

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