“MUCHO CALIENTE! – Wish upon a Latino Superstar” voted LASR Best Book of the Year 2008
This week started with fabulous news. My romantic comedy, “Mucho Caliente!” has been voted Best Long Book of the Year 2008 by the famous US review site, “Long and Short Reviews”. I nearly fell off my chair when the email arrived, but didn’t, which was just as well since I’d already fallen down the stairs twenty-four hours earlier, and have since been hobbling around on crutches with a badly sprained ankle.
“Mucho Caliente!” is set on the Spanish island of Ibiza and was written several years ago, making its recent publication and success all the more meaningful to me. The book was prompted by a chance sighting of a mega-handsome, Latino superstar at an Ibizinco beach bar, who was dancing up a fiery salsa with a beautiful blonde woman. The moment kick-started my imagination; I flew home to Switzerland and began a Latino love-fest on the page.
I’m the sort of person who is compelled to share my enthusiasm with other people. While writing the book, each day, as soon as I’d finished my chapter, I’d email it to some of my closest friends and was thrilled when they began emailing me back, asking me to hurry up and write another chapter because they couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. For the following eighteen months, my friends and I lived vicariously through Gemma, my heroine, enjoying madcap, rollercoaster adventures, living a shamelessly romantic love affair on an idyllic island in the sun with my imaginary Latino superstar, Emilio Caliente. I couldn’t write the story fast enough, and by the time I wrote “The End”, Gemma, Emilio and the rest of my characters had become as real to my girlfriends as they were to me.
From the reviews “Mucho Caliente!” has received since it was published in late 2008, it seems that its appeal transcends my close circle of friends. Women everywhere relate to Gemma’s insecurities, to her dreams and steadfast opinion of what romance and love should be. As for Emilio, my reviewer at Long and Short Reviews said it all with: “he is the epitome of what women fantasize about.”
I’ll never know whether the gorgeous Latino superstar I saw dancing at that beach bar in Ibiza is as wonderful as Emilio Caliente. But even if he’s only half as nice, his beautiful blonde salsa partner sure is one heck of a lucky girl!
Wishing you mucho giggles while reading my book,
Blurb for “Mucho Caliente!”:
“Wishing upon a Latino superstar is bound to end in tears. But when destiny insists on playing matchmaker, what’s a girl to do?
Thirty-seven year old Gemma hadn’t reckoned on being seated next to Latino heart-throb Emilio Caliente on the flight to Ibiza. She’d bravely dismissed her cheating husband’s generous divorce settlement, opting instead for a creatively satisfying, financially independent, bohemian lifestyle on a Spanish island in the sun. Falling in love with a pop music superstar eight years her junior was definitely not part of her plan. Common sense dictates staying away from Emilio Caliente and his cinnamon kisses: his life is in turmoil, his latest single has bombed, the press want to see him naked and his hellacious manager seems increasingly deranged. But surely the chain of extraordinary events that insists on bringing them together is proof that love is oblivious to common sense? Does Gemma dare follow her heart and wish upon a pop star without undermining everything else she set out to achieve?”
It’s not. It can’t be. It bloody well can’t be! Oh my goodness; it is! It’s Latino heart-throb, Emilio Caliente! Why is someone like him sitting next to someone like me on this flight to Ibiza? He should be up front, behind the curtain, hidden away in first class. Why now? Why him? Why me?
Without so much as a glance in my direction, he’s short-circuited weeks of life changing, positive affirmations. Hiding behind my hair, I clench my fists, shut my eyes and silently recite, “My name is Gemma Talbot. I’m a beautiful, intelligent, newly single woman and I’m taking control of my life”. Yeah, right. What a joke! I’m sweating. I’m fidgeting. I’m finger combing my hair, smoothing my eyebrows and wishing I’d retouched my makeup before boarding.
Can’t he go away for a few minutes and come back when I’ve had time to pull myself together, both mentally and physically? Planes should have an emergency hatch with a twisty staircase from the passenger area down into the hold, so you can get to your suitcase, grab a change of clothes, a more appropriate pair of shoes, and maybe even a change of underwear. There should be a decent sized bathroom with pink, soft-tone lights to flatter your complexion and boost your self- confidence, not that vile, green, fluorescent glare that only emphasises your enlarged pores, your premature lines, your facial hair. There should be baskets of complimentary upmarket cosmetics, sample freebies of the greatest and latest scientific breakthroughs in moisturisers and makeup. Yes, even on a forty-minute flight from Barcelona to Ibiza. On this flight especially.
As it is, the bathroom has just been vacated by a podgy, sweaty, sick looking man, and the thought of following in his footsteps does not appeal. I rummage through my bag, praying that I won’t accidentally pull out a bedraggled tampon instead of a bruised and battered lip-gloss. I don’t usually look like this. Should I explain to him that, actually, I am quite a babe, even if I’m old enough to be, if not his mother, then at least his big sister? I’m usually impeccable. It wasn’t me who spilled Coca-Cola on my white linen trousers. It was the woman sitting next to me on my previous flight from Geneva. Her fiery Iberian origins led to loss of body control once she got started on the subject of her exasperating Scandinavian daughter-in-law. As for my T-shirt, it seemed to possess that casual, worn-in look when I left home earlier today, whereas it’s clear to me now that it should have been retired months ago and used as a duster. What on earth was I thinking? Oh, thank goodness; here’s my lip-gloss!
My lips taken care of, I fumble through the pocket of the seat in front of me, searching for an in-flight magazine, but there isn’t one. So I grab the emergency procedures card and start studying it with exaggerated interest, then get all flustered again, as though I’ve been caught reading the Special K cereal package.
What must he be thinking? I’m no first time flyer. I’m an air-sophisticate. I shake my long brown hair over my face and sneak a sideways glance at el divino, as the women’s glossies call him. Maybe it isn’t really him. Maybe I’ve just imagined the whole thing, and in reality, seat 12B is occupied by an obnoxious lager lout with spots and halitosis.
But no. It’s him, pop music’s Latino superstar, looking a little dishevelled and not quite as glamorous as on his album covers, calendars and posters, and obviously wearing some kind of hastily thrown together disguise. However, if the other passengers on Iberia flight 243 to Ibiza are fooled by the navy blue baseball cap, the wraparound sunglasses, and the prickly, chestnut coloured, three-day beard, a connoisseur like me is not. I am the princess of pop music, the FM queen. I know my pop stars.
It may seem sad that at the ripe old age of 37 I’m still addicted to bubblegum music. At my age, most people seem to have either moved on to cooler, more sophisticated musical spheres or remained faithful to the likes of Céline Dion, Phil Collins and Sting. Not that I dislike Céline Dion, Phil Collins, or Sting. They’re great. But when it comes to music, I’ll always be a teenybopper at heart. Boy bands may be passé, but they still do it for me. I’m a sucker for cheesy harmonies and all those slick, over-choreographed, step-step-shrug moves.
Crazy as it may sound, my taste in music was one of the irreconcilable differences that destroyed my marriage. I think it was an overdose of step-step-shrug that finally pushed my husband a step too far. He went and dumped me for an older woman.
Richard left me for Wilhelmina, a poker-faced, peroxided tart from Munich, whom I only ever saw from a distance, yet whose sense of style made quite an impression nevertheless: black leather trousers, sequinned sweaters featuring cartoon characters, daredevil heels and a hairstyle presumably influenced by lion tamers in circuses. Interesting choice for a conservative stick-in-the-mud like Richard. They probably have sex while listening to Metallica. “Yawohl, mein schnitzel, das ist SO gut, ya, ya schneller bitte, schneller."
Well, they’re welcome to it. They can have Metallica and schnitzels, with or without noodles. Screw them! I’m going to Ibiza to get myself a new life. But please, God, right now, give me something cool to say to Emilio Caliente. Send me instant smooth moves, oodles of charm, irresistible flickety hair.
I try to arrange myself a little more prettily, cross my legs. I’d offer him my best profile, but doing so would require odd contortions, since it’s the one against the window. I rub my nose, making sure there isn’t anything embarrassing hanging off the end.
He takes off his baseball cap and his sunglasses, removes his brown leather sandals (hairy toes, I notice), checks his phone for messages, then switches it off and puts it in the duty-free bag by his feet. He then turns to me, gives me the once over, let’s-see-what-we-have-here, oh-yes, oh-well, never-mind-then, graces me with a quick smile (Yes! This is good! Initial contact established!), puts his sunglasses back on and closes his eyes. So much for contact...
It’s almost eleven when we take-off. The flight has been delayed for nearly two hours. Most of the other passengers are either dozing or flicking through the kind of magazines you tend to buy at airports when you’re bored and need cheap, easy distractions. Even I have a copy of OMG! magazine in my duty-free bag. But now, with Emilio sitting next to me, I’m a little embarrassed to pull it out and have him think I’m mentally deficient.
A bored, exhausted flight attendant passes down the aisle with a basket of boiled sweets. I smile at her smugly, willing her to believe that I’m travelling with Mr. Caliente, that we’re a couple. But as she reaches our level and I lean over to grab something to combat potential gorilla breath, the plane hits turbulence, causing me to knock the basket and most of its contents all over Emilio Caliente’s crotch. Both the flight attendant and I freeze, but Emilio doesn’t stir. Is he asleep or is he deliberately ignoring what he thinks is a desperate plea for attention from his moronic, past-her-sell-by-date neighbour? What kind of a person doesn’t acknowledge an unfortunate accident? Why can’t he just smile politely, say “no harm done”, and offer me a cellophane wrapped windfall?
It’s now obvious to the flight attendant that we are not an item. She pulls a face at me, suppresses a giggle and discreetly points to the multicoloured sweets decorating Emilio’s khaki clad, drawstring secured, rather impressive crotch. "Do we leave them or pick them up?" she articulates silently.
I shrug, mortified, then shake my head. Better to leave them there than disturb the sleeping demigod and have him open his eyes to find four unfamiliar hands groping his testicles.
Grinning, the flight attendant carries on down the aisle, offering what’s left in her basket to the other passengers.
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