Love & Gelato meets Don’t Date Rosa Santos in this charming, heartfelt story following a Miami girl who unexpectedly finds love—and herself—in a small English town.
For Lila Reyes, a summer in England was never part of the plan. The plan was 1) take over her abuela’s role as head baker at their panadería, 2) move in with her best friend after graduation, and 3) live happily ever after with her boyfriend. But then the Trifecta happened, and everything—including Lila herself—fell apart.
Worried about Lila’s mental health, her parents make a new plan for her: Spend three months with family friends in Winchester, England, to relax and reset. But with the lack of sun, a grumpy inn cook, and a small town lacking Miami flavor (both in food and otherwise), what would be a dream trip for some feels more like a nightmare to Lila…until she meets Orion Maxwell.
A teashop clerk with troubles of his own, Orion is determined to help Lila out of her funk, and appoints himself as her personal tour guide. From Winchester’s drama-filled music scene to the sweeping English countryside, it isn’t long before Lila is not only charmed by Orion, but England itself. Soon a new future is beginning to form in Lila’s mind—one that would mean leaving everything she ever planned behind.
- Title: A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow
- Author: Laura Taylor Namey
- Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
- Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
- Targeted Age Range: Young Adult
- Representation: Cuban main character, Cuban secondary characters.
- Trigger Warnings: Grandparental death, grief, food (very descriptive), early onset dementia (please note, there are no specific chapters as they are overlying themes of the book, and are frequently mentioned)
- Rating: ★★★★★
As I sit here, the day of finishing this book, I am finding it hard to articulate just how much I loved it. You don’t realise how hard it is to write your thoughts about a book until you do it on a public platform, and let me tell you, it’s hard. So, I decided to tackle this review with the support of my go-to writing music (the Ratatouille soundtrack, if you must know) and something that just makes sense – a cup of English breakfast tea (a splash of milk, with two sugars thank you).
To put it simply, A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow is a delight. Filled with lush writing, lovable characters, and a discussion of grief that tugs at heartstrings, it’s a book that has instantly climbed the ladder of my favourites. The story follows Lila, a young Cuban woman coming to terms with the death of her grandmother. Lila is a wonderful protagonist. She is selfless and kind but, like all of us, makes mistakes along the way. We learn about her life throughout the book, from her friendships and heartbreaks, to her family and passion for baking. And yes, she makes some poor choices throughout the book, but who didn’t as a teenager? Watching Lila learn from those mistakes and ultimately become a better person for it was one of the most charming parts of this novel. After deciding that Lila needs a break from her hometown of Miami to deal with her grandmother’s death, Lila is sent to historic Winchester, England to find herself.
Oh, Winchester. I didn’t realise how much I missed it until reading this book. The entirety of my dad’s side is from Winchester, and I spend pretty much all of my time there whenever we go and visit our family in England. It’s always been a place I’ve loved, but I didn’t know quite how much until reading this book. The descriptive language used really brings the town to life, down to the old buildings and cobblestones. It was such a magical feeling, reading (or rather, listening, as I read this via audiobook) about places you are familiar with and knowing that the tiny details are just right, or the description of surrounding places made the fictional ones so real. It made me both sentimental and nostalgic, the feeling wrapping me up like a warm jumper. In all honesty, it left me longing to go back.
The most beautiful part about this book is the exploration of grief, and how one may deal with it. We get to watch Lila process her grief and come to terms with her loss in an organic and respectful manner, which was lovely to read about. All of her decisions in the book were influenced by the grief she was dealing with and the feeling of loss and hopelessness that followed. She had to learn who she was without the presence of her grandmother to guide her. Watching Lila grow into her own was such a wonderful thing to read. Despite being sent to England to help deal with her grief, Lila is never alone. She quickly makes friends in Winchester and they are quick to support her in every way they can. Reading about such a wonderful and supportive friend group was refreshing.
I loved that a lot of this book focused on Cuban culture, with an emphasis on Cuban baking. Intertwined with the plot, tucked away between chapters, were deliciously described baked treats created by Lila, and they are so perfectly described it’s almost like you can taste them. I’m not Cuban, nor do I know anyone who is Cuban, so I loved getting an insight on their culture, and what their delicacies are. As someone who loves baked treats, it was such a lovely thing to read about! Throughout the chapters as well are recipes, created by Lila in times of need. It was a creative touch by the author to communicate how Lila was feeling in those moments through the avenue we came to know as her escape – baking. It was just a nice, personal touch that added to the story without taking away from the overarching narrative.
Now, I couldn’t write this review without mentioning Orion. Orion is one of the kindest love interests I’ve read in a young adult book. From the moment we meet him he is selfless; happy to help Lila navigate England and show her the best spots in Winchester. He’s a loving older brother, loving son and a very supportive friend. He is, ultimately, a wonderful addition to the YA Love Interests Club. His romance with Lila was carefully plotted, emphasising the yearning to a significant degree (we love the yearning here at teatimelit!). We see their relationship transition from friends to more-than-friends in an organic and interesting way, after all, how can you tell someone you love them when they aren’t staying in England forever? The unspeakable connection between them is there from the get-go, and you find yourself turning page after page waiting for them both to confess their feelings to each other. And, when they do, you get a satisfying reward for investing your own feelings into it.
Despite the romance element, I do believe that A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow excels most in the friendship department. This pre-existing group of friends are so welcoming to Lila, and so eager to add her into their gang. They dedicate themselves to showing her the best spots around Winchester, filling her in on the gossip within their circle, and showing her their passions. Without this group of friends, Lila wouldn’t have become who she ends up being at the end of the book. She gets shaped by these kind and caring Winchester locals, and you can really see a clear development from the beginning of the book. Without Flora, Jules, Remy and Gordon, Winchester wouldn’t have become the home Lila found there. I think everyone should have a group like theirs.
Ultimately, A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow is a delight. Filled with heartfelt moments and beautiful writing, it’s a book that should be on everyone’s to be read pile. And, what a perfect time to plug our book club again! A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow is the teatimereads February pick, so if this review has convinced you to pick it up, feel free to join our book club! You can find all the details on this post here. When you pick this book up, you will be whisked away to the English countryside, so be sure to get cozy with your favourite blanket and a nice cup of tea. I cannot wait to re-read this book.
*Please note, this review will be updated with links to own-voices reviewers when they are found.
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.