Now and Always, by Caridad Scordato

>> Monday, September 05, 2005

Caridad Piñeiro, author of my favourite series book from 2004, Darkness Calls, has also written some Encanto books as Caridad Scordato. I was interested to see that the one I read, Now and Always, was published together with its Spanish translation, in a 2-in-1 volume.

Meet Connie González. She's saucy, single and one of the best FBI agents this side of South Beach. Not bad for a scrappy marielita! All that's missing from Connie's life is a man -someone unlike Victor Cienfuegos. The dashing Cuban-American M.D. is too rich... too handsome... too macho. But wouldn't you just know it? Conie loses her restless heart to him anyway. And the passion's mutual!
This very bland title, which I kept forgetting as I was reading the book, hides a tender, colourful story. A B.

I complained in one of my first columns at RTB about romances with latino characters or settings. Authors too often get things horrifically wrong. Based on what I read in Darkness Calls and on the fact that Scordato is latina herself, I suspected she'd probably do better, and I'm glad to report I was right.

Certain things that usually bother me about the latino thing were just fine. Characters who mix Spanish (or whatever language) into their English irritate me, because it's usually done without rhyme or reason. If they're talking to people who don't understand the foreign language, it would make sense for them to use it only when there's no acceptable English for it, or they don't know it. But no, too many characters tend to use it for stuff that's just weird, solely a way for the author to show us they're foreign.

Now, Connie and Víctor, they switch back and forth from Spanish to English, often in the same sentence. And I was fine with it. Why? Because it felt true. They're both completely bilingual, so they understand each other perfectly, whatever the language. I speak that way with my sister, myself, especially if I'm relaxed and feeling lazy. I just use the first words or expressions that come to mind, whether they're English or Spanish. Víctor and Connie do use more Spanish in their English than Luli and I use English in our Spanish, but they are more bilingual in their lives than we are here in a Spanish-speaking country, in a Spanish-speaking family.

The Spanish itself was fine. There are a few mistakes, but nothing too bad, just run of the mill stuff that I see all the time. Stuff like using "porque?" instead of "por qué?" when they mean "why?", not "because?", or not putting the accent on "mí" when it's used as what would be "me" in English, not the possessive "my". On the whole, pretty good. I only noticed because I'm really anal about stuff like that.

I really enjoyed Scordato's depiction of what it's like to be Latino in Miami. Of course, a Cuban-American living in Miami has as much in common with me, a granddaughter of Italian and Spanish immigrants living in Uruguay, as an American Anglo does, so I'm obviously no expert. However, whereas other Latinos I've read didn't feel authentic, Scordato's rang true. And it was all fascinating, stuff like the tension between the immigrants from the first wave that left Cuba and the newcomers.

And then there were things like the fact that her Cuban-American hero isn't a stereotypical arrogant Macho Latino pig. On the contrary, Víctor's a sensitive, nice guy, who's led a very sedate life, sex-wise. Connie calls him "too macho, too sexy, too rich", but I didn't really think she had much to worry about in the macho department, and he was very down-to-earth for the money he had. I truly liked the guy, and found him interesting, too.

Connie I enjoyed, too. She's a character with a lot of contrasts, contrasts which work together anyway. She's truly kick-ass in her work (and really good at it, too), but she's a bit old-fashioned about sex and relationships and admits it. At the same time, when she does decide to start something with Victor, she does the sensible thing and takes responsibility, buying condoms herself and standing up for herself when she doesn't like the direction things are going.

I very much enjoyed how their relationship progressed. Connie and Victor are attracted right from the beginning, and after a few initial "should I or shouldn't I" doubts on Connie's part, their romance develops pretty normally. Connie has some reservations about getting involved with someone as aristocratic and rich as Victor, feeling a bit self-conscious about being a "marielita", but she gets over that fast. The main conflict between them was near the end, about each supporting the other in their careers. That was interesting, but it got started and was over pretty quickly. I would have appreciated a bit more of that.

Oh, I was forgetting: something I found particularly interesting was the way Connie's career was dealt with. Unlike so many books where the heroine is an FBI agent, there was no question of Victor being involved in any of the cases Connie works in during the story, even the serial killer one that's the main job she has. He doesn't know any of the victims, he's not a suspect and he doesn't become an amateur detective. He basically supports and misses Connie while she's undercover, and that is it.

As for the format, the 2-in-1 thing I mentioned, that was bit of a distraction at first. I kept checking back and forth, wanting to see how things had been translated. I must say, it was a pretty bad translation, I'm afraid. It seemed to me that the translator had trouble getting across concepts that took one word in English, and opted to explain the whole idea with words and words and more words. To be fair, there are words and expressions in any language that don't have an exact translation in another, but this was ridiculous. And it explained, BTW, why the Spanish version was so much longer than the English, something that had intrigued me a priori. But on the whole, I think it's a wonderful idea. I'll even be able to lend it to my grandma!


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