Novel Approach: Chanel Cleeton spotlights story of escape and war in new novel

“Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die.” —Herbert Hoover

When it comes to history, the stories are told from the perspective of the victor, while some details are often lost to time. Our latest read transports us to Cuba as the country struggles to gain independence from Spain and becomes the battleground for the Spanish-American War.

The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

In Chanel Cleeton’s latest novel, she tells the story of the very real Evangelina Cisneros, who was once hailed — as the book’s title suggests — as the most beautiful girl in Cuba.

Cleeton’s novel is shaped by Evangelina’s imprisonment and escape from a women’s prison in Cuba, but the story is fleshed out by the accounts of a journalist and a revolutionary fighting for her country.

Grace wants to prove her journalistic chops when she starts working at one of the larger newspapers in New York City. Determined to make a name for herself, she finds herself caught up in the media’s coverage of Evangelina’s incarceration and the events of the Spanish-American War.

Back in Cuba, Marina is a revolutionary, carrying messages back and forth as she works to shape a free and independent Cuba. During the course of her activities she aids Evangelina in her escape, while working to free her whole country from Spain’s tyranny.

Bouncing back and forth from the perspectives of the three different women, Cleeton weaves a compelling story about the individuals history chooses to remember and the people that are forgotten and excluded from the tales of war.

As Cleeton’s tale explores the lives of three very different women whose lives are altered by the conflict in Cuba during the Spanish-American war, she creates distinct characters defined by their efforts to mold a better world through their ideals. Readers are sure to enjoy this captivating tale of bravery and love.

From the book jacket…

A feud rages in Gilded Age New York City between newspaper tycoons William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. When Grace Harrington lands a job at Hearst’s newspaper in 1896, she’s caught in a cutthroat world where one scoop can make or break your career, but it’s a story emerging from Cuba that changes her life.

Unjustly imprisoned in a notorious Havana women’s jail, eighteen-year-old Evangelina Cisneros dreams of a Cuba free from Spanish oppression. When Hearst learns of her plight and splashes her image on the front page of his paper, proclaiming her, “The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba,” she becomes a rallying cry for American intervention in the battle for Cuban independence.

With the help of Marina Perez, a courier secretly working for the Cuban revolutionaries in Havana, Grace and Hearst’s staff attempt to free Evangelina. But when Cuban civilians are forced into reconcentration camps and the explosion of the USS Maine propels the United States and Spain toward war, the three women must risk everything in their fight for freedom.

If you enjoy…

Readers with an interest in reading historical fiction about Cuba might also enjoy Cleeton’s bestselling novel “Next Year in Havana” which follows the story of a woman who discovers a family secret tied to Cuba’s political unrest.