Why You Should Read A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey

First post of 2021. And some of us are still here, we made it. 2020 has been terrible for most of us and so I’m not really optimistic, but maybe cautious? I usually don’t set goals during the start of the year, usually just my usual Goodreads reading goal challenge, and for this year maybe to post more travel photos and book recommendations here. I drafted this review around last week of December, but I got distracted with Kdramas (Mr Queen and Uncanny Counter!), true crime podcast, and snacking some Cuban food and pastries. I’m editing and posting this one while blasting evermore by Taylor Swift.

Here’s my short review of my last read for 2020, A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey.

A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow is an #ownvoices young adult novel and a New York Times bestseller by Laura Taylor Namey.  It is Laura’s second young adult novel and a Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club YA pick. This was my last read for 2020 and what an absolute gem. If you’re a foodie or a home baker like me (and who loves YA), you’ll love this one for sure.

Seventeen-year-old Lila Reyes was sent to Winchester, England after the Trifecta happened—her abuelita died, her boyfriend dumped her right before the prom, and her best friend left her for a 2-year health aid post without telling her. Her life plan to take over at Panaderia La Paloma, her abuelita’s bakery, as a full-time head baker was cut short. She finds herself thousands of miles away from Miami, and out of her comfort zone. She stays at Owl and Crow Inn owned by her mother’s cousin, Tia Cate. At first, she hates everything— the cold weather, a not-so-good impression with Polly, the inn’s baker, and constant worrying about La Paloma. Enter Orion Maxwell, a charming British boy who also runs and helps his family business, Maxwell’s, the best tea shop in Hampshire (as per Polly).

Lila navigates her grief, loss, and heartbreak through baking the most delicious Cuban pastries and dishes, and with the help of Orion including his sister, Flora, and his friends Jules and Remy. Lila slowly falls in love with England, its culture, food, tea, and inevitably with our charming British hero. She is now torn between her life in Miami, preserving her abuelita’s legacy, and a new life in Winchester.

Here are reasons why you should read A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow and why I fell in love with it:

Lila and Orion – Our girl Lila is a headstrong, goal-oriented, and very passionate when it comes to baking and preserving her abuelita’s legacy. Her fiery passion might be also the reason of 2 of the trifecta—her boyfriend Andres dumping her and her fallout with her best friend Stefanie Here are some lines from her abuelita that somewhat describe Lila, “But you add yourself like too much sugar sometimes. Too much temperature.” and “Mi estrellita, if you shine too bright in his sky, you’re going to burn him out. Burn yourself out, tambien.” But her passion is also the reason she opens up to Orion and his friends, and helps out Flora. On a personal level, I can relate to Lila because of her grief.  Orion, who is every bit charming as any other YA hero (a certified cinnamon roll, should I say Chelsea bun), is a contrast to Lila’s headstrong character. He believes in superstitions (because of his mum’s situation), but still a self-assured boy who goes out of his way to help his neighborhood and friends.

Quote from A Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Tay;pr Namey

Slow-burn/friends-to-lovers romance – I usually go for enemies-to-lovers romance but I do love some slow-burn and friends-to-lovers plot. Loved how Lila opens up to Orion about the trifecta and vice versa (Orion’s mum). She introduces him to Cuban cuisine through her pastries and dishes while Orion becomes her tour guide and charms his way into her heart through tea and England’s sights and sounds.

Quote from A Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Tay;pr Namey

Food descriptions – Be warned: You’ll get hungry and will be craving for some pastelitos de guyaba, empanada, scones, and some tea. Lila introduces us to Cuban culture and cuisine through her baking and delicious pastries. As she falls in love with Winchester, the cold weather, and of course Orion, she infuses her baking with British pastries including Chelsea buns and fig pastelitos. And of course, I’ve listed some of the pastries and food mentioned in the book including Madeira sponge cake, chocolate biscuits, pastelitos, Cuban flan (leche flan), Cubanos, chocolate scones, black currant scones, honey orange scones, morning buns, Abuela’s pound cake, sugar cookies, ropa vieja (one of Cuba’s national dishes), arroz con pollo, Chelsea buns, and so much more.

I actually tried making pastelitos for Laura’s book launch, but it was such a mess because we don’t have guava paste here so I used guava jelly. Never do that, the pastries were a mess lol. I did an improv though, I toasted some bread and added guava jelly and cream cheese.

There are also numerous pastelitos de guyaba or pan de guyaba on the Internet. Here’s one from My Big Fat Cuban Family by Marta.

Laura Taylor Namey – Laura is now on my auto-buy author list after reading this book. Her debut novel, The Library of Lost Things, is still on my TBR list and Kindle, and I can’t wait for her third book, When We Were Them. Cover reveal on January 25th as per her Instagram account. Here is her profile from her website:

Laura Taylor Namey is the New York Times bestselling author of Reese’s Book Club pick A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow, and The Library of Lost Things. A proud Cuban-American, she can be found hunting for vintage treasures and wishing she was in London or Paris. She lives in San Diego with her husband and two children.

This former teacher writes young adult novels featuring quirky teens learning to navigate life and love. She holds a BA in Elementary Education from the University of San Diego and is the winner of the Peggy Miller Award for excellence in young adult fiction. Her third novel is forthcoming from Atheneum Simon and Schuster fall 2021.

Visit her website, Twitter, or Instagram. Add A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow on Goodreads.

Here are some of some of my favorite quotes from the book. And I just swoon.

Quote from A Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Tay;pr Namey
From Lila Reyes, a baker girl after my own heart
Quote from A Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Tay;pr Namey

And if it were a movie. A petition to adapt this into a film, please. Come on, Netflix.

Movie adaptation mock-up

Here are some Cuban food excellence, store-bought from Pepi Cubano. I’ve been snacking Cuban food and sandwiches since reading the book. 😅

Pan de Cubano, pastelitos, leche flan, Earl Grey tea, and of course A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow

And then I had ropa vieja for New Year’s eve dinner.

Ropa vieja from Pepip Cubano
Ropa vieja from Pepi Cubano

I’ve been snacking some Cuban food for maybe 3 or 4 days.

Pan de guyaba and Early Grey tea from Riddle's Tea Shoppe
Toasted pan de guyaba (guava jelly and cream cheese) and Early Grey and Hazelnut Spice tea from Riddle’s Tea Shoppe

Credit: Most photos from the book aesthetic are from Pixabay. Book cover of A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow is from Simon & Schuster.

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