Reviewed by Amy Gruzesky
This book by author Isabella has a little bit of everything: an untimely and unexpected death, sibling rivalry, adultery, treachery, love, history, an inheritance, and at the root of it all, a thriving cigar empire that threatens to destroy the lives of at least some of those involved.
R.J. and Sofia had never been close as brother and sister, but it was their father’s death that really pitted them bitterly against one another. Jealous over the fact that his father left the majority of the family’s cigar business to Sofia, R.J. sets out on a vengeful mission, planning to claim what he believes is rightfully his.
Sofia, determined not to let R.J. gain control and potentially ruin or sell off the business her father had worked so hard to make a success, as well as being an up and coming cigar maker in her own right, firmly stands her ground, ready to fight against her brother in order to preserve the things that were near and dear to her father and important to her family’s legacy.
An engaging story, Cigar Barons is also a very well-written book. The author expertly and, quite frankly, effortlessly, weaves in all the details of the story’s settings–from the Huerta family’s humble beginnings in 20th century Nicaragua, to their present day lives and dealings in Cuba and the U.S., to the ongoing drama taking place after their father’s death.
The characters are not only interesting, but exceptionally well-developed, and you continue to learn more about them as the story progresses. I found myself pleasantly surprised by how much I learned about each of them and their back stories just within the first few chapters.
The author also does a good job in not making the characters one-sided or flat. In fact, while painted as a vile villain very early on in the story, the author introduces a sympathetic view of R.J. through his grandmother Maria’s eyes that makes the reader wonder if perhaps he is not as horrible as he seems. He really is a flawed character, but you get a little glimpse into at least some of the reason why he grew into the man he is.
And don’t worry if you’re not into cigars or know nothing about them. The author does a great job of introducing all the nuances of both the cigar industry, as well as why people do find them enjoyable, without being overly technical or boring. In fact, she very subtly introduces some of the nuances of smoking and enjoying cigars–from cutting them to lighting them to what beverages to pair with them–in ways that are part of different scenes and descriptions so that you barely realize you’re learning; instead, you’re more into trying to find out what happens next in the story.