So I picked up this novella because the background of the story was interesting and because the setting — the island of Boracay, sounded like it would be interesting and different and definitely well-suited to a romance. And because, as you will see if you follow the link, it’s only .99c on Kindle, so why not, right?
Wikipedia informs me that Boracay is “… a small island in the Philippines located approximately 315 km (196 mi) south of Manila and 2 km off the northwest tip of Panay Island in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines.” Good old Wikipedia, because I’d never heard of it.
The protagonist, Gio, works there and lives nearby, and though he’s proud of the island and enjoys showing it off to tourists, it is his home, a place he also takes for granted. I enjoyed this take on a tropical paradise vacation spot, more so than if the protagonist had been a vacationer.
I really liked Gio as the protagonist, I have a definite weakness for responsible guys who take care of their families, and let me just add here that it was nice to read a romance where the protagonist was the guy rather than the girl. This one had to be written that way, though, because the girl, Min Hee, tells Gio all kinds of whoppers about why she’s on the island — she’s on the run from her family, she has amnesia, she had a brain tumor and is enjoying her last days in this world — so of course the story can’t be told from her point of view or it’d give everything away.
I think the basic truth about who Min Hee really is is pretty clear to the reader, though Gio misses the clues. But the exact reason Min Hee came to Boracay is harder to guess — I didn’t — and Gio’s reaction to finding out is both understandable and, um, perhaps not well considered. Of course things work out in the end, though!
This novella was actually written for a class run by Mina Esguerra. It’s charming and fun and nicely written. Here’s my favorite passage:
“The watercolor she was doing captured the beach as if seen through a dream, all soft sea-foam and powder, the colors disappearing into the white edges of the paper. The sea itself danced with different shades — white near the shore moving to pale green, then growing bolder into the deep blue of the horizon. Boracay was usually seen in the loud and bright colors of summer. But under Min Hee’s brush, it looked like a filtered paradise, something old and fragile and familiar.”
Beautiful, eh? Art is an important thread right through the story.
This novella also left me with a deep desire for calamansi muffins. Which I can actually make, because I have a calamansi plant in a pot on my deck. All I need is a recipe, which I bet I can find through the magic of google. Calamansi — calamondins — are the easiest citrus to grow in a pot, so if you happen to want to try them, no reason you can’t.
Update: I did find a recipe. It turns out that if you google “calamansi muffins boracay” you can find a recipe that attempts to recreate the exact muffins you get if you’re lucky enough to be able to go on vacation in the tropics. I used this recipe, only following some of the comments, I used half brown sugar and a tiny bit more milk than suggested. Even so, these muffins turned out very light, much more like cupcakes than muffins. For me, the 1/4 c. calamansi juice was perfect, enough to give the cupcakes a distinctive citrus taste, but not too tart. I have plenty more calamansi juice, so I may try these again with white whole wheat next.