Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Excerpt Spotlight ~ A CARIBBEAN HEIRESS IN PARIS by Adriana Herrera

A Caribbean Heiress in Paris (Las Leonas, #1)
By: Adriana Herrera
Series: Las Leonas
Genre: Historial Romance
Release Date: May 31, 2022
Publisher: HQN Books
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A fresh and vital new voice in romance. —Entertainment Weekly

Paris, 1889

The Exposition Universelle is underway, drawing merchants from every corner of the globe. Luz Alana Heith-Benzan set sail from Santo Domingo armed with three hundred casks of rum, her two best friends and one simple rule: under no circumstances is she to fall in love.

The City of Light is where Luz Alana will expand Caña Brava, the rum business her family built over three generations. It’s a mission that’s taken on new urgency after her father’s untimely death and the news that her trust fund won’t be released until she marries. But buyers and shippers alike are rude and dismissive; they can’t imagine doing business with a woman…never mind a woman of color.

From her first tempestuous meeting with James Evanston Sinclair, Earl of Darnick, Luz Alana is conflicted. Why is this man—this titled Scottish man—so determined to help her? And why, honestly, is he so infuriatingly charming?

All Evan Sinclair ever wanted was to find a purpose away from his father’s dirty money and dirtier politics. Ignoring his title, he’s built a whiskey brand that’s his biggest—and only—passion. That is, until he’s confronted with a Spanish-speaking force of nature who turns his life upside down.

Evan quickly suspects he’ll want Luz Alana with him forever. Every day with her makes the earl wish for more than her magnificent kisses or the marriage of convenience that might save them both. But Luz Alana sailed for Paris with her eyes on liquor, money and new beginnings. She wasn't prepared for love to find her.

SS La Bretagne, April 1889

Life in the Caribbean had taught Luz Alana Heith-Benzan a few vital lessons. First, corsets in the tropics were the purest form of evil. Second, a woman attempting to thrive in a man’s world must always have a plan. Third, a flask full of fine rum and a pistol served well in almost any emergency.

And most recently, if one was to ever find herself setting sail for the Continent in search of a fresh start, one must do so with her two best friends at her side.

“Can I go up to the Eiffel Tower too?” Luz’s little sister asked, as if she could sense she had been left out of Luz’s musings. “I promise I won’t drink any of your champagne.” Clarita had been attempting to commandeer their schedule while in Paris since the moment they’d boarded the first steamer in Santo Domingo.

“Clarita, you’re ten. You would not get champagne regardless of the circumstance.” That elicited a frustrated huff from the little monster, who at the moment was sitting primly by a bay window with the blue sky and water at her back, posing for a portrait.

“Stop needling her, Luz. You know how she fidgets, and I’m almost done with the sketch.” The artist was Manuela, one of Luz’s two best friends and Clarita’s most fervent enabler. “Don’t worry, querida. I’ll smuggle you up the tower.”

She was, at the moment, capturing Clarita’s likeness while her sister sat with her hands crossed over her chest and eyes closed, affecting a disturbingly funereal air. One eye popped open. “Can we go to the catacombs?”

Don’t encourage her, Manuela. At this rate we will spend the summer traipsing through cemeteries.”

Clarita responded by lolling her tongue, making Manu guffaw.

Luz’s sister had become obsessed with the macabre after their father’s death eighteen months ago. She’d tried her best to fill the void he’d left, but with both their parents gone, she also knew there was nothing that could repair becoming an orphan at such a young age. That still didn’t make Luz any more inclined to haunt every graveyard in Paris.

The truth was that despite the hardships of the last few years, and her unease about what the future held for her and her sister, she was looking forward to the summer. Leaving Santo Domingo had been bittersweet: no matter how sound the reasoning, leaving home was its own sort of death. But there had been too much mourning in her life already. Looking ahead was the only alternative.

They were finally only a day away from the harbor at Le Havre. From there, another day of travel would take them to the French capital for three months at the Exposition Universelle. Three months of opportunities for her to meet buyers for her rum, Caña Brava. Three months in which to get her and her sister’s future in order, before the two of them were to permanently settle in her father’s ancestral home in Edinburgh.

Unexpectedly finding herself at the helm of her family’s distillery had been…difficult. On more than one occasion, Luz wondered if she was capable of stewarding their legacy into the future. A dream that had begun almost fifty years ago with Luz Alana’s mother Clarise and her grandfather Roberto Benzan. A distillery owned and operated not by the children of Spanish colonials but by a Black family. Where every pair of hands that worked to make the rum—from cutting the sugar cane to preparing the spirits for shipment—was entitled to a share of the profits. Caña Brava from its inception had been an experiment in what industry without exploitation could be, and it had thrived for decades.

Her father, Lachlan Heith, a Scotsman who had arrived in the Caribbean looking for investment opportunities, had been the main investor of the distillery. It had not been long before Lachlan proposed marriage to Clarise, and for the next thirty years poured his life into her and her vision. After her mother’s death, her father had continued their plans to expand Caña Brava’s operations. Their rum was well-known all over the Americas. From the Unites States to Argentina, Caña Brava was coveted for its quality and unique smoky flavor. Lachlan wanted to bring the rum to European markets. His strategy was to elevate the spirit’s image, to replace the bottles of brandy being served in the grand homes of Britain and the Continent with their Gran Reserva. Luz was more interested in making products for everyday people. Her father loved the hands-on operations, being in the distillery with the workers. Luz preferred to think of new ideas. Where he’d wanted to focus on selling their rum to the higher echelons of society, Luz believed the key to future success was to enlist the lifeblood of commerce: women merchants. The modern woman had ideas and preferences of her own and that were distinct from men’s, and Luz saw the potential in focusing on them as a market. Her vision for the future of Caña Brava was not quite what her father had wanted, but he at least recognized her talents and innovative thinking.

Which was why, she could only assume, after his death she’d found out that he’d passed the operations of the distillery to his second-in-command and left her in charge of the expansion to Europe. She’d been hurt by the slight, affronted that her father did not trust her with the business that her mother’s family had built, until she realized that staying in Santo Domingo was much too painful. That she desperately needed a fresh start. And so, before her departure she’d transferred the majority of her holdings in Caña Brava to the people who, like her family, had nurtured it from the beginning.

She’d left with the promise to find them new prospects, new markets, new buyers… Building partnerships was where she’d always excelled. She hoped her skills would be as effective in Paris as they’d been in the tropics. Like her mother before her, Luz left with the intention to blaze a few trails.

“Did you hear that, Luz?” Clarita’s voice, which every day sounded less like a little girl’s and more like a young lady’s, brought Luz Alana out of her thoughts.

“Sorry, amor. What did I miss?”

“Manu has made us appointments at the House of Worth!” Luz had to bite her lip at the reverence in Clarita’s voice. The child also loved dresses…as long as they were dark as night.

“You have more tiny black dresses than I know what to do with, Clarita,” Luz admonished. She’d been complacent in indulging her sister’s penchant for gloomy clothing for months after their mourning period had ended, but she would put her foot down at acquiring more of them. “No more new dresses until you’ve had a chance to wear the ones Manu bought you in New York,” Luz said, to which Clarita responded by making a very unladylike noise. Luz turned her attention to Manuela, who was still focused on her sketch.

“More gowns, Manu?” Luz asked and received a shrug in answer. Luz’s friend had wheedled permission to come to Paris with the excuse of securing a proper trousseau for her upcoming nuptials. Her betrothed and her parents, who had been waiting for almost three years for Manu to set a date, had agreed enthusiastically. So far it seemed Manuela intended to spend the man’s money until he regretted ever setting his sights on her. They’d already spent a fortune in New York. It didn’t matter: Manuela treated money like air. Something she consumed without any thought, always expecting there would be more when she needed it.

Their current accommodations were the perfect example. When Luz enlisted her friends to make the trip to the Universal Exposition, Manuela had written back insisting they travel in one of the new steamships from the French Line. This one had been decorated by Jules Allard, the Vanderbilts’ personal designer. Because only a sea vessel outfitted for the likes of Alice Claypoole Vanberbilt herself would do. It wasn’t that she objected to fine things: on the contrary, she quite liked the tearoom they were sitting in now. The pale blue and green damask drapes, the ornate Aubusson carpets and the velvet-covered armchairs built if not for comfort, certainly for broadcasting opulence. It was just harder to enjoy these things when one knew how much money was required to access them.

Luz hadn’t exactly grown up without comforts either. Her family’s business provided the means for that and more—but this was a different level of affluence. The kind of overt display of wealth meant to stun and intimidate. The kind of environment that usually brought with it people Luz had to mentally arm herself for. And it wasn’t that she could not handle herself among this crowd. Two years in a Swiss finishing school had prepared her well for this, but it was exhausting. It was a world she always navigated with caution. She could never fully let her guard down among the so-called well-born, lest one of the barbs they deployed so swiftly caught her unaware.

“I could get her just a few things, Luz,” Manu muttered softly, still absorbed in her task, her countenance a study in concentration as her charcoal-stained fingers fluttered over the page. Luz noticed the dark smudges on the otherwise-pristine cuffs of her friend’s lavender jacket and was struck by a wave of pure affection. Manuela, who loved baubles and expensive things, never thought twice of ruining them when it came to pleasing those she loved.

“Manu,” Luz responded in an equally soft tone, because demands never worked with her friend, unless your intention was to get the exact opposite of what you were asking for. “You already bought Clarita four gowns during that outing to the Ladies’ Mile in Manhattan.” Luz ignored the huff coming from her little sister’s direction as she spoke. “You know that until I’m able to get in touch with the solicitor in Edinburgh and discern what our finances will be like, I can’t spend—”

Manuela opened her mouth to protest—and possibly offer financial assistance again—but Luz Alana held up a hand. “No, querida. You have already been too generous.” She blew a kiss in her friend’s direction in an attempt to soften the rebuff.

Luz would not budge on this. She could not be frivolous, not when the only thing she could count on at the moment were the funds her father had reserved for this trip and whatever income she would obtain from the sale of the three hundred casks of premium rum currently in the cargo hold of this ship. Her inheritance was inaccessible to her for now, and the future of Caña Brava was too uncertain for any unnecessary expenses. Despite knowing that Manuela truly wanted to help her financially, Luz also knew how fast women could become burdens and nuisances to their loved ones. She would stand on her own two feet.

Excerpted from A Caribbean Heiress in Paris by Adriana Herrera. Copyright © 2022 by Adriana Herrera. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

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Adriana Herrera was born and raised in the Caribbean, but for the last fifteen years has let her job (and her spouse) take her all over the world. She loves writing stories about people who look and sound like her people getting unapologetic happy endings. Her books have received starred reviews from PW and Booklist and have been featured on The TODAY Show and NPR, in Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times and The Washington Post. Adriana is an outspoken advocate for diversity in romance and was one of the co-creators of the Queer Romance PoC Collective.

Places to find Adriana Herrera:


  1. Wow! This book really sounds good. I have added it to my "want to read" list.

  2. Replies
    1. I hope you enjoy it, if you get a chance to read it.


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