Hello everybody. Today I have for you a non-spoilery review of Victoria Cooke’s summery romance Sun, Sea and Sangria, followed by an interview with the author.
What is the book about?
Years ago, Kat escaped to the summery paradise of the Canary Islands to get a fresh start following the disastrous end of her marriage. Now, as the manager of a successful all-male exotic dance troupe known as the Heavenly Hunks, she leads a busy life that does not leave a lot of room for romance. Things change when she recruits a new dancer, Jay, with whom she very quickly forms a strong connection. While Kat is at first adamant about keeping things professional between them, she soon begins to realize that there is no denying the growing attraction between them.
My review of Sun, Sea and Sangria
This book was so much fun that I ended up reading it in one sitting! Not only is the romance very well paced and beautifully developed throughout the story, but the characters are also very well written. I really liked our main leads, Kat and Jay. Kat is not only very strong, both as a self-made business lady and as someone who has survived a horrible past relationship, but she is also incredibly sweet and funny. And Jay is just the dreamiest and most lovable of love interests. The setting of the story is also wonderfully summery. Set in the Canary Islands and featuring amazing descriptions of all the wonderful beaches, bars and, of course, the exotic shows, this book is the perfect summer read. The Heavenly Hunks (best name ever), the troupe of exotic dancers that Kat manages, were also super fun to read about. The guys are all great and it was really fun to read about their shows and all the backstage prep that goes into those. If you’re looking for your next summer read or you just want to read a fun, feel-good story, then this book is perfect for you. I really enjoyed this book and give it four out of five stars.
Interview with Victoria Cooke
QaS: It was wonderful to read about the Canary Islands and all of their awesome locations! Since you’ve actually been to the Canary Islands yourself, could you tell us a little about your experience there? What were your favorite places to visit and your favorite activities to do?
VC: Firstly, thank you so much for having me on your blog.
I think one of my favourite things about the Canary Islands is the climate. Perhaps I’ve been quite lucky but it’s never been too hot or too cold whenever I’ve visited. My very first ‘party’ holiday was to Tenerife and although I had a great time, I probably didn’t come away with the best impression of the islands. It was about 15 years later when I returned and we stayed in Gran Canaria, which I loved and have since been to Tenerife where I fell in love with a black sand and volcanic rock beach. Last year we went to Fuerteventura and stayed in the north near the sand dunes and it was stunning. I love listening to crashing waves whilst my hair gets whipped about by the wind as much as I love relaxing with a cocktail on a calm powder-sand beach where the water gently laps the shore and I managed to experience both in Fuerteventura.
QaS: Our leading lady, Kat, is the manager of the Heavenly Hunks, an all-male exotic dance troupe, and through her eyes we get to visit the exciting world of exotic dancing. What inspired you to create a story set in this world?
VC: Last year I went to watch Magic Mike Live in London (if you get the chance to go, do — it’s a great girls’ night out). I loved the choreography and female compare and the fact the dancers had so much talent. I was impressed and so relieved it wasn’t your average cheesy male strip show. We’ve experienced a fair number of entertainment acts on holidays and having worked abroad when I was younger, I do always wonder about the lives of the entertainers – especially those who are expats.
QaS: The book offers a cool backstage look at how these exotic shows are put together. Choreographies, stage effects, interactions with the audience… Everything was very well researched and portrayed very realistically. What was your research process like?
VC: I had a very short stint as a holiday rep out in Greece when I was twenty. My role covered everything from picking people up from the airport and helping people settle into their accommodation to putting on some shows. Between the welcome meetings and excursion sales, we had rehearsals in local bars. We got to know a lot of the hoteliers and bar owners and most of what is in the book came from that experience.
QaS: At the end of the book, you mentioned that you actually wrote this book during the 2020 lockdown. Firstly, congratulations, because that’s just amazing! Also, what was your writing process like during this time? Would you say that the lockdown situation had an impact on how you approached your work?
VC: Ah, thank you. I did have the bones of the story down already (from the experiences above) which was lucky because the inspiration was there. This basically meant I got to daydream for a few months whilst my fingers did the typing. It was definitely tougher at first because I normally have the house to myself during the day but once lockdown hit, I was in a house with two very chatty children and a husband. In the end, I gave myself set hours to work and just shoo everyone away during that time.
QaS: One of the reasons why I liked Kat’s character so much is that she is a successful, self-made business lady. What words of advice would you give to someone who is thinking of going on a similar journey, be it to get a fresh start or to take on a new professional challenge?
VC: I think it’s often easier to talk yourself out of doing something rather than doing it. Whether that’s because you have self-doubt or your worried about what those closest to you will think if you fail. My mantra has always been to decide what I would regret most. Will I regret having tried if I fail or will I regret not trying if I never do anything about it? For me, I will always regret not giving something a go. Even if I fail I will have closure and I won’t be haunted by the what ifs. What ifs can last forever whereas you can move on from failure.
I’ve had businesses that have gone well and ones that haven’t worked out, but I’ve never regretted any of them. The mistakes I’ve learned from a disastrous venture have been crucial to a success in some other aspect of my life.