The Queen of the Valley

Kensington. Aug. 2023. 352p. ISBN 9781496736284. pap. $16.95. F
Told in the alternating viewpoints of three protagonists, this novel by Ecuador-born-and-raised Hughes paints a vivid picture of 1920s Ecuador and Colombia. When Ecuadorian chocolatier Puri learns that Martin, her cacao-supplier and father of her son, has disappeared in neighboring Colombia, she decides it is up to her to find him. It is 1925 and dangerous for a woman to be traveling alone, so she dresses as a nun in hopes of protecting herself. When she reaches Martin’s plantation, however, she discovers that it has been turned into a hospital by Martin’s friend Farid. Hoping to investigate without revealing her connection to Martin, Puri maintains her disguise and is subsequently put to work by Sister Camila. Nursing first Martin’s friend Lucas, who was injured in an earthquake, and then the cholera patients who follow, Puri begins to suspect that she is not the only one at the hacienda who is harboring secrets.
VERDICT While familiarity with Hughes’s previous novel, The Spanish Daughter, is not essential, it can offer helpful context to alleviate potential confusion. This book will appeal to readers who enjoy family conflict, historical details, and the exploration of lost love.
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