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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

*Grabby Hands* Release & Review - Without Borders: A Wanderlove Novel by Amanda Heger

Image and blurb from Goodreads

Title: Without Borders
(A Wonderlove Novel)
Author: Amanda Heger
Publication Date: April 19th, 2016
Diversion Publishing
Category/Genre: Contemporary Romance

For Annie London, a month in a Central American rainforest means handing out mosquito nets, giving medical aid, and teaching children about the birds and the bees. With any luck, it will also land her application in the “accepted” pile at a top tier medical school. But as soon as she steps off the plane, Annie realizes her bug spray, feeble Spanish, and medical supplies won’t help her deal with her new feelings for Felipe—her best friend's older brother, who's much hotter than she remembers, and who also happens to be the doctor in charge of the trip.

Gawking “volun-tourists” may keep his family’s medical clinic afloat, but Dr. Felipe Gutierrez doesn’t have to like them. Or the way they make snap judgments about his practice and the people he cares for. But when his old crush, Annie, shows up to volunteer, her killer curves and kind smile fan the embers of a flame Felipe didn’t realize he’d been carrying. A flame that makes him question all his preconceived notions.

As ideas and cultures clash, Annie and Felipe must decide how far outside their comfort zones they are willing to go—both for their work and for one another.

Pre-Order: Amazon 

I would:

  • Befriend: Marisol
  • Go out on a date & kiss: Phillip
  • Take to a desert island and leave behind: Mike
  • Travel to Vegas and let Elvis Presley marry us: Felipe

If I turned on the TV, I'd find Annie, Felipe and their friends on:

  • Grey’s Anatomy & Survivor Crossover

If I took them out, we'd go to a/an:

  • Steak house, then get some ice-cream

4 "Life as it is in Third World countries" Stars 

ARC via NetGalley

Thank you, Diversion Publishing!
As a resident of a Third World country with a history of poverty and violence, I was pleasantly surprised at how the author (an American who spent a summer in Central America) portrayed the rough side of Nicaragua and the problems of its people in a believable way. Not an easy task for someone who wasn’t born or raised in a place like that.

Before we jump into this review, let me clarify something. While you can easily buy an airplane ticket and book a hotel room from the comfort of your couch and go spend a week in Nicaragua with this incredible view…

Isla del Maríz (Guia Viajar Melhor)

Isla de Ometepe (Canatur-Nicaragua)

…. that’s not what you’re going to read about when you get your copy of “Without Borders”. Nope. You’re taking a trip to a completely different place. You’ll be seeing the non-pretty side of things. Maybe, after you’re done reading, those people’s stories will touch you like they did Annie (the book’s main character). And maybe, just like her, you’ll want to do something about it.

See, the blurb sold me a romance book (hot best friend’s brother + old crush with killer curves + “flame”), but honestly that wasn’t exactly how I saw or experience this. Sure there was flirting and kissing, but the setting was a much stronger character and it took over. By the time the romance kicked in, Nicaragua and its people had already become the main reason I was turning pages.

Not that the romance didn’t help make things compelling... *winks*

Dreaming of a letter of recommendation that’d make her medical school application shine, Annie joined her best friend (a nurse), her best friend's brother (a doctor) and a couple of volunteers as they traveled through Nicaragua in a medical brigade. Her job was quite simple: hand mosquito nets, teach sex education classes, learn as much as she could and stay out of trouble. That last part would’ve been much easier if she didn’t wear her heart on her sleeve, and if Felipe, her friend’s brother, hadn’t grown up to be such a charming, handsome man.

Nothing annoyed Felipe quite as much as the Americans who joined his medical brigade every year. They were all “let’s do this” in the beginning, but as the days without a bath, proper accommodation and yummy food turned into weeks, the nagging usually started. They couldn’t wait to go back home and he couldn’t wait to get rid of them. Except this time the American joining him wasn’t acting like the others and he wasn’t counting the days to see her go. In fact, he didn’t think he wanted to let her go back to her country at all.

So, do you see what I mean when I say the book sounded like a straight-up romance? Boy meets girl and they fall in love. Except falling in love was secondary to Felipe and Annie’s adventures. It wasn’t nearly as big as Annie’s involvement with the people she met while they visited village after village. Not as important as Felipe’s work as he tried his best to earn the trust and treat the people living a reality so different from ours, that some of their habits shocked even me.

Annie’s personal growth was a much more compelling aspect than her feelings for Felipe. She was a likable character from the start, but as the story progressed and she got involved with the people she met, she made it even easier to connect and care for her. I didn’t feel like her interest in Felipe or her need to get the recommendation letter were the only reasons she was doing so well under pressure and dealing with all the problems they had. I believed she wanted to help, and in the end she did it in a way that impacted even more lives.

Felipe was also a more interesting character outside of the romance. Sure he was cute, sweet and all kinds of hot, but he was a man with a goal and it wasn’t getting in Annie’s pants (which took him forever, by the way). He was fighting for his people. He wasn’t in a hurry to leave his country or his position in the organization. Nope. He wanted to be even more involved. He wanted to make a difference.

Maybe that was why Annie and Felipe intrigued me more as individuals than as a couple. They were in a stage in their lives where making a difference was more important than finding a partner/someone to love. That happens to everyone. It also didn’t help that the ending felt a bit rushed. SPOILERS: I didn’t understand why Annie and Felipe chose to go dancing at all and it made even less sense that they’d stay out until almost morning. She was leaving in a matter of hours, and instead of spending that time just the two of them, they chose to be surrounded by strangers?! Again, it only made me feel like the romance wasn’t as important as the blurb wanted it to be. Plus, their HFN felt a little… anti climatic? It left a weird taste in my mouth, like they were together then, but there wasn’t really a plan for keeping the situation like that permanently. Maybe I’m simply not good with HFN endings.
So, while the romance (which often is the most important part of the story for me) didn’t win me over, Amanda Heger’s solid writing, her ability to bring the setting to life, Nicaragua’s rich culture, and the main characters’ personalities and goals made this a compelling story that made me smile and tear up a little. For all of those reasons, I highly recommend it.

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