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  • Mandy McHugh

Velvet Was the Night, Silvia Moreno-Garcia: A Review

Moreno-Garcia is just one of those authors where it doesn't matter what they write, you'll always pick up their work. I devoured Mexican Gothic and The Beautiful Ones, and I was thrilled to be approved for Velvet Was the Night. That cover, that title--I couldn't wait to get started.

Set in 1970s Mexico City, Velvet Was the Night follows Maite, a thirty year old secretary who yearns for more. She gets lost in her comics, romantic tales of love triangles with adventure, dashing heroes, and intoxicating damsels, searching for something or someone to rescue her from her mundane life. When her neighbor Leonora asks her to watch her cat, she agrees, but things get crazy when Leonora doesn't return. Teaming up with some unlikely characters, Maite soon finds herself smack dab in the middle of the adventure she always wanted, but what price will she have to pay to have it? I really loved this book. Maite was a wonderful protagonist. Quirky and plain yet utterly engrossing, her voice was strong and anything but boring. Her self-awareness made for some humorous moments. Her general unhappiness with her life, wanting more but being completely cognizant of her obstacles, she was an everyman, a person you can relate to regardless of where you are in life, and for that, I think readers will be drawn to her. Elvis' voice is equally enjoyable, a parallel to Maite, almost, as he constantly searches for more. He wants material things, like a library and music collection, but he also wants the intangibles: love, intimacy, communication, love. As he watches Maite, he becomes a Cyrano figure, harboring an unrequited love but not knowing how to put those emotions into words. It's also worth noting the significance of music here, how important it is to both Maite and Elvis but also to the people of Mexico City at a time when performances were outlawed. The playlist included at the end of the book is stellar, and I highly recommend. More than the escapism, Moreno-Garcia gives us the overarching political turmoil of 1970s Mexico. It seems impossible for a love story to be set among the backdrop of unrest, murder, and rebellions, but at the same time, it fits perfectly with the story. No spoilers, of course, but the insight into the real-life events was more than a reflection on a tumultuous cultural standpoint, but an examination of the horrors of El Halconazo and how they apply to current political rhetoric. Velvet Was the Night is a simultaneously bloody and hopeful story, a brilliant portrayal of love and violence and the gray areas in between. I'd recommend to fans of Atwood, barrio noir, international mysteries with light-hearted humor, or anyone looking to be intoxicated by storytelling. Big thanks to Del Rey and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.

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