The Cuban Heiress by Chanel Cleeton

During the Depression era in America, those who could afford it often went on cruises, some to Cuba, and because the boats were in open water there was no such thing as prohibition so drinking and dancing and gambling went on all hours of the day. And not everyone went on board with their married partner. Some people were decidedly dodgy and others dodged paying and were smuggled into empty rooms.

This is what happened on the SS Morro Castle. Of the ship it is a true story, of the characters not so much. On the ship’s return to America, the captain died and the ship caught on fire and sunk. Some people survived but many didn’t. What better frame do you need for a story where everyone is trapped on board until the ship puts into port.

We have an actress pretending to be an heiress engaged to a very wealthy man and an heiress pretending to be a cleaner on the ship and wanting to go unnoticed. To add to the plot we have Harry who is a con artist and a thief and Julio who smuggles guns and people from Cuba to America. What could possibly go wrong?

There is a bit of everything in this book: historical fiction, romance, mystery and a teeny tiny bit of thriller all of which makes it very readable. The mix-up of characters and the reveal happens very slowly and is not entirely predictable. The romance is, but the other elements less so. The two female characters are portrayed well, we get enough information about them to think we know what they are doing but of course, we don’t.

So how do you pretend to be an heiress?

In the evenings, I would read late into the night – books from the library that my employer’s wife was kind enought to let me borrow – and those stories took me everywhere. I traveled back in time and to the future, across oceans and over mountains. I lived countless adventures in those books, and with each one I taught myself something about the world to be filed away for later use.


Who couldn’t love a book that explains what books do for people? We may not all use it to con others but books are really useful.

A fun read.

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