Monday, November 14, 2011

Say You'll Be Mine, by Julia Amante

Grand Central Publishing, ISBN 9780446581639, October 2011

Isabel Gallegos is tired -- tired of being the responsible one, tired of running the winery that was her parents' dream, tired of being the one who puts her dreams aside to take care of other people. She's ready to sell the winery that her parents left to her and her ex-husband, Nick, and buy a house by the sea. It's too late to pursue her old dream of being a marine scientist, but she's going to at least enjoy the ocean recreationally. A larger wine company has expressed serious interest, and she's in the midst of negotiations with them, looking forward to being free of responsibility to anyone but herself. Nick will also be free of the winery, they won't have to work together, and he'll be able to move away and marry his new girlfriend.

And then her lawyer tells her that he's received notice that her cousin Brenda, in her native Argentina, has been killed in a skiing accident, along with her husband, and her will names Isabel as the guardian of her three children. She has to travel to Argentina immediately to make arrangements to take custody and bring them home to California.
Returning to Argentina is an emotional experience for her, even without the death of her cousin who was as close as a sister when they were growing up. It's where she met her husband when he was an exchange student, and the country she left only because Nick sold her parents on the dream of building an even bigger and more successful winery in America. As much as she loved Brenda, she is not willing to once again defer her own dreams to raise Brenda's children, ages ten, eight, and four. She'll transfer custody to her aunt, the children's grandmother, provide any necessary financial assistance so that the children and her aunt will want for nothing, and go home to complete the sale of the winery and buy her beach house.

But Nick insists on going with her to Argentina. Her aunt is old and increasingly frail, and isn't capable of taking permanent custody of the children. The children, grieving for their parents, are resentful of Isabel, and don't want to move to America.

And then their uncle, Brenda's husband's brother, turns up, demanding custody of the children. But her aunt doesn't trust him, Brenda's husband Andres had refused to have anything to do with his brother for many years, and Isabel's old friend Rosa shares that opinion, though she doesn't really know him at all.

Yet the man Isabel meets, while arrogant and overbearing, is a retired lawyer with a ranch in the country, well able to provide for the children, and he wants to raise them.

Caught between competing obligations and dreams, Isabel makes a decision that will affect her life, Nick's, Romero's, the children's, and even Rosa's life, forever.

This is a complex and well-developed story, with all the major characters and the important minor characters  rounded and convincing. You can't help but sympathize with Isabel even when she's clearly making the wrong decision, because her dilemma is so real and so painful.


I received a free electronic galley from the publisher via NetGalley.

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