Monday, 14 March 2016

Aussie Book Review: Under the Spanish Stars by Alli Sinclair


“A family mystery, a passionate encounter, a life-changing journey into the past …

Charlotte Kavanagh’s beloved grandma Katarina Sanchez is gravely ill, so when she begs Charlotte to travel to her homeland in Andalucía to uncover the truth behind a mysterious painting, Charlotte agrees.

Taking leave from her soul-destroying job and stalled life in Australia, Charlotte embarks on a quest through Granada’s ancient cobblestoned streets and vibrant neighbourhoods. There she meets Mateo Vives, a flamenco guitarist with a dark past, and quickly becomes entangled in the world of flamenco and gypsies, igniting a passion she had thought lost.

But the mystery surrounding the painting deepens, reaching back in time to the war-torn Spain of the 1940s and Charlotte discovers her grandmother’s connection to the Spanish underground. Who is her grandmother, really? What is Mateo’s connection to her family history? And why is finding answers to a family mystery turning into a journey of self-discovery for Charlotte?

Weighed down by secrets, betrayals and shattered relationships, Charlotte finds herself questioning the true meaning of heritage, family and love.”

In 2015, Alli Sinclair was voted Favourite New Romance Author by members of the Australian Romance Readers Association following her debut release, Luna Tango – and it’s not hard to see why.

In this, her second book, Alli once again brings us a dual timeline, introducing us to Charlotte Kavanagh in the present and her grandmother, Katarina Sanchez (Abuela) inhabiting both narratives as the novel revolves around flamenco and the origin of a painting that Abuela was given by her father.

While Katarina’s story takes place against the backdrop of the turbulent Spanish Civil War and the rule of Franco as she tries to eke out a living from dancing flamenco, it is in the contemporary narrative that the mystery surrounding the painting begins to unravel as Charlotte finds herself walking the cobbled streets of Granada and coming into contact with the enigmatic Mateo and the Giménez clan, an aloof and secretive gypsy community, 

As Charlotte begins to feel the captivating pull of the world of flamenco and the mysterious power of duende, what started out as a journey of discovery on her grandmother’s behalf soon becomes one of self-discovery with Mateo making her want to lose herself in the Spanish culture.

I was captivated by Alli’s first novel, Luna Tango, not just by the quality of her writing, but the way in which she evoked time and place and, once again, I felt as though I had been transported – this time, directly to Granada - enjoying the sounds of flamenco, tasting the strong gitano wine around the fireplace and watching these talented women dance with passion and verve.

I also enjoyed Alli’s use of phonetic dialogue, which is not an easy thing to do because sometimes conveying authentic dialects and natural-sounding foreign accents can prove to be quite challenging on paper. In Mateo and Katarina though, it’s quite obvious that Alli knows the rules of the Spanish language and her use of diction, syntax and idiom has conveyed the exoticness of the accent in both characters very well, adding flavour and colour to the story.

The flamenco dance as well as the flamenco guitarists are both at the heart of Alli’s story which is well researched. This is evident from the manner in which she demonstrates a thorough knowledge of her subject and shares details of not only the exotic locale of Spain but also its customs, language and traditions. Seeing it through the eyes of someone who has travelled there is what enables Alli to weave a solid sense of place into both the past and contemporary narratives, bringing us a story filled with the pulse and passion of flamenco in all its fiery and complicated beauty.

With vivid descriptions of the cobbled streets of Granada that echo with music and secrets, details relating to the mystical Andalusian customs and culture and vibrant flamenco imagery, Alli has given her readers a well-balanced story blending mystery, history, geography, the rhythms and passion of Flamenco and some light romance.

I wish to thank Harlequin Books Australia for providing me with a hard copy for review.

About the Author

Alli Sinclair is a multi award-winning author who spent her early adult years travelling the globe, intent on becoming an Indiana Jones in heels. She scaled mountains in Nepal, Argentina, and Peru, rafted the Ganges, and rode a camel in the Sahara. Argentina and Peru became her home for a few years and when she wasn’t working as a mountain or tour guide, Alli could be found in the dance halls dancing the tango, salsa, merengue, and samba.

All of these adventures made for fun storytelling and this is when she discovered her love of writing. Alli’s stories combine her passion for exotic destinations, the quirks of human nature, and the belief that everyone has an adventure waiting to unfold.

Alli was voted as Favourite New Romance Author 2014 by the Australian Romance Readers Association and Luna Tango was voted  2014 Book of the Year by Ausrom Today Readers Choice Awards.

Alli also volunteers with Books in Homes.


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