by L.A. Belmontéz
Published by QueenPin Books, an imprint of Garnet House Books
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$25.00 ISBN 9-781999-567606
It’s astounding how frequently completely disparate parts of one’s life intersect. I recently booked a flight to Colombia for early 2020, and recently received a review copy of L.A. Belmontéz’s telenovela-type novel, Finding Fortune, which is set, in part, in Colombia. While reading I paid close attention to what I might learn about Cartagena through the former prairie resident and debut-novelist’s 399-page debut title.
The book’s main character, Las Vegas resident Valerie Verlane, has authored a book titled The Princess Problem: From the Pea to Prosperity. Verlane comes from money and much attention is given to clothing brands, vehicles, and other luxury-material matters. She has her nose and breasts “done,” and is the type who “had never taken a bus and she never would”. Verlane’s told her daughter that the girl’s father is dead, and for all Verlane knows, Dmitri – the worldly young lawyer-in-training who’d waltzed into her 24-year-old life in Los Angeles – has in fact died.
The Canadian-born protagonist was working in a high-end furniture store in Santa Monica when playboy Dmitri swept her off her stilettos. After a few passionate dates, Dmitri, who was supposedly going to Ecuador to surf with friends, went MIA. Though pregnant with Dmitri’s baby, Verlane foolishly wed Pedro, a Mexican con who stole her family’s inheritance. She “had punished herself all those years after losing Dmitri by staying with Pedro,” and in that time “all ideas of self-identity has been erased through marriage and motherhood”.
After Verlane’s lawyer manages to reinstate the inheritance, the California-prep schooled Verlane – her privileged education taught her things like never “to do anything that is considered the maid’s job” – becomes determined to “show [Dmitri] what he’d been missing” in the troubled nine years that’ve passed. Verlane finds Dmitri as easily as you can say “Google Search” … he’s registered for the “Third Annual Caribbean Master’s Golf Tournament in Cartagena”. But first, she must return to her former glory, and rebuild her self-esteem. How? Via shopping. “One day I will have my yacht,” she thinks. “Today I only want clothes.” She “put fear aside” and “handed over her [credit] card, buying back as much self-esteem as she could carry”.
Belmontéz is great at transitions, and she proves her writing chops with descriptions like this one, of a kitchen: ” … almost smelling like a home with the aroma of cocoa taking shape, gathering itself like a ghost before dissipating into the rest of the house and out the windows.”
I won’t be seeing the same upscale locations in Cartagena as Verlane – no resorts for me – but I do look forward to seeing, from the plane, “the peninsula of Bocagrande curl up around the city like a serpent’s tale,” and “churches casting long shadows over cobblestone plazas in the late-day sun.”
Finding Fortune is a thick soap-opera in text, and the kind of sun-soaked romp you just might be looking for in the heart of winter.
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