Monday, July 24, 2023

#BookReview of The Lost Princess of Alicante by E.V. Padilla

The Lost Princess of Alicante

By: E.V. Padilla
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: August 1, 2023
ISBN: 978-1639888863
Reviewed by: Rebecca Jane Johnson
Review Date: July 20, 2023
Inés Zaragosa has been lied to about her past. Her abusive Aunt Sofia claimed she was the daughter of a doctor and his wife who came to the States from Venezuela; tragically, they had died in an accident when she was a baby (or so she had been told). Now a grown woman living in poverty with her ailing aunt, Inés is pursuing an advanced degree in history and working for a wealthy local heiress. It is frustrating to observe Inés so passively enduring her aunt’s and employer’s insults. But this story does not develop through a focus on the main character’s emotional inner world; instead, it moves from one detailed scene to the next bringing in new characters whose histories intertwine.
One total stranger to Inés (but Aunt Sofia’s estranged cousin), a famous man named Don Román, from the royal family in Betania, shows up beside her aunt’s sickbed and tells Inés that her family was not from Venezuela, but was the royal family of Betania (a Caribbean Island). And the young woman’s real name is María Magdalena Talavera de Alicante San Germán.
Inés, without hesitation, embraces her identity as Magdalena, realizes she is the descendant of the royal family, and up and leaves her life in the States. She walks away from her adjunct teaching job at the university to move with her sick aunt and Don Román to Betania. There, she lives on her uncle’s sugarcane farm. She aids the local priest and doctor to support the hard-working peasants on this Caribbean Island where everyone refers to her, endearingly, as “child.” Meanwhile, she absorbs all she can learn about several historical families in the region—Talavera, San Germán, and Velasquez.
She continues her adventures in her new homeland, and if Magdalena has any personal desires or motivations, the reader is not made aware of them. Magdalena is mostly thrown around by her circumstances. She is a grown woman who does not seem at all troubled in the face of condescending affection: As Don Román assures her, “When you’ve had your thesis accepted, child, you’ll be something of a phenomenon here on Betania. Our women have not yet come to value advanced education.”
Magdalena eventually learns to refer to the ineffectual Prince Agustin as Tio. While he is her uncle, the prince laments not saving Magdalena’s real parents long ago when they died by the hand of Salomón Montemares, who is the Socialist revolutionary enemy of the royal family. His guerilla threat forced Aunt Sofia to flee with the baby Magdalena. In one moment, Magdalena seemed upset and entertained a desire to see justice done, but that desire is sabotaged by her own next thought, determined she will never witness judgment of Salomón Montemares.
The Lost Princess of Alicante is plot-driven, historical fiction about the Caribbean. While the story is intriguing, it is hard to get drawn into Magdalena’s life because her character fell flat. The way she gave up her life and career in the United States without thinking for herself makes her seem small. Once she lived in Betania, she seemed to go from one adventure to another without any mention of her feelings or desires, and this made it hard to know her. I wanted to get to know Magdalena and this aspect of the story was frustrating. Overall, however, The Lost Princess of Alicante is a satisfying read for those interested in the history of the Caribbean.
Quill says: The Lost Princess of Alicante is an ambitious saga that reveals truths about ancestors, adversity, and nobility, virtues, and flaws of ordinary and extraordinary people facing hardship, poverty, and social unrest while keeping faith in utopian dreams.

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