2018 Reading Year In Review
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid {review}

American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera {review}

American Dreamer

Genre: Contemporary Romance, MM Romance


My Review - 5 Stars

Do you ever finish a book and just want to hug it to your chest because you’re speechless with love for it? Well, that’s how I felt when I finished reading American Dreamer. That it’s a debut makes it all the more impressive. Herrera is such a welcome voice in the romance world.

Ernesto is a first generation immigrant from the Dominican Republic. He moves from NYC, where he’s lived for 27 years, to Ithaca where his mother and younger sister now live in order to make a real go of his Afro-Caribbean food truck business, OuNYe. He’s giving himself six months to turn his side hustle into a success.

Jude is a white youth services librarian. He lives a mostly quiet life as he’s still processing the pain of being cut off by his family for being gay. He doesn’t trust people to be there for him or for relationships to go anywhere. Instead, he’s focused on getting funding for a library bookmobile, as a way of getting services to children and teens in more rural areas. The library truck will help fill in the gaps of what those smaller town libraries can provide. This is especially important to Jude because he learned to love himself in part because of his library.

You may not want to read this on an empty stomach because it’s guaranteed to make you hungry. I was highlighting all of Nesto’s food descriptions so I can track down recipes. And I’ll for sure be trying to find some Afro-Caribbean establishments in my new town. It’s not just that the food sounds amazing. It’s what the food means to Nesto and his friends and family. How it’s a way of maintaining their cultural roots and it’s a way of nourishing their community in the US. I could not get enough of his philosophy behind the restaurant and what he served in OuNYe, as well as the meals he’d make for Jude.

Nesto and Jude were so sweet together. I loved the uncertainty despite their clear attraction to one another. Nesto doesn’t want to be distracted from the food truck and Jude doesn’t want to be hurt again. And yet they really like each other and so a slow exploration of a relationship begins. The pace was so true to who these men are and respectful of Jude’s fear of being discarded by the person he loves. When they finally do take the next step, it was magical.

The story also delves into some hard topics. Nesto and Jude are both hassled by Misty, a racist white woman. She’s the kind of person who talks about plight of marginalized groups but only so long as they “stay in their place.” She made me so angry and while I wanted her to have more of a comeuppance and it’s true to life that she might not face consequences for all of her actions. But this part of the storyline brings attention to the micro-aggressions and outright aggression Latinx people face. There are also references “stop and frisk” and “Zero Tolerance” being a part of Nesto’s NYC neighborhood experience as a black or brown person.

Jude has a moving arc as he comes back into his family’s sphere when his sister’s cancer comes back. This part of the story could be triggering for some so exercise caution as needed. I can only imagine how hard it would be to grow up in a religiously homophobic environment, knowing you could lose everything if you come out. That’s just what happened to Jude. It was good to see him have a chance at reconnecting, although it doesn’t go as he hoped. And while Nesto is there for him in tangible ways at first, Jude eventually has to face his biggest fear.

Part of the appeal of this book was it’s emphasis on the characters’ jobs. Their work isn’t an afterthought. We see Nesto doing food prep the night before and cooking or interacting with customers during the day, beyond when he and Jude first meet. They talk about the jobs he’s picking up, like serving by a B&B one night a week. Jude’s work is more stationary but he’s working hard on putting information together for the grant application and meeting with his boss and his coworker/best friend Carmen. I loved learning about their jobs and seeing how passionate they were about their work.

The secondary characters are also amazing, with the exception of the evil Misty. There’s Carmen, of course, Nesto’s family members, and the GA Crew, also known as Nesto’s friends: Juan Pablo (Puerto Rican, PT for Yankees), Camilo (Cuba and Jamaica, activist, works for local nonprofit providing services for survivors of domestic violence), and Patrice (Haitian, PhD student.) I’m looking forward to their stories as this series continues!

The author’s social service background really came through in a variety of details, such as Nesto hiring employees from a local nonprofit which helps refugees and immigrants with job placement, and that deepened my enjoyment. It was such a holistic development of the characters and world. It shines as an #ownvoices Latinx story by focusing on a variety of backgrounds through Nesto’s family and friends and highlighting the immigrant experience and what it’s like during this political climate. Herrera’s experiences made for a richer—and more realistic—world and we’re better for it.

The characters faced difficult things but they persevered and still chose each other. The grand gesture at the end was amazing. This is the kind of book that restores your faith in humanity. This is bound to be one of my favorite romance novels of 2019.

CW: (Highlight text to see) [ racism and xenophobia (this is countered), religious homophobia (including a scene where a pastor tries to make the gay character “repent”), family cutting ties due to religious homophobia,  cancer/death of a family member, grief, use of the word “spaz” (this may only have been in the ARC; the author is aware it is ableist language and it was flagged to be removed during final revisions)]




No one ever said big dreams come easy

For Nesto Vasquez, moving his Afro-Caribbean food truck from New York City to the wilds of Upstate New York is a huge gamble. If it works? He’ll be a big fish in a little pond. If it doesn’t? He’ll have to give up the hustle and return to the day job he hates. He’s got six months to make it happen—the last thing he needs is a distraction.

Jude Fuller is proud of the life he’s built on the banks of Cayuga Lake. He has a job he loves and good friends. It’s safe. It’s quiet. And it’s damn lonely. Until he tries Ithaca’s most-talked-about new lunch spot and works up the courage to flirt with the handsome owner. Soon he can’t get enough—of Nesto’s food orof Nesto. For the first time in his life, Jude can finally taste the kind of happiness that’s always been just out of reach.

An opportunity too good to pass up could mean a way to stay together and an incredible future for them both…if Nesto can remember happiness isn’t always measured by business success. And if Jude can overcome his past and trust his man will never let him down.


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Disclosure: I received an advanced copy from Carina in exchange for an honest review. Affiliate links included in this post.