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Monday, June 29, 2020

A Book That Will Give You A Good Dose Of Serotonin: Finding Joy by Adriana Herrera

FINDING JOY

by Adriana Herrera
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Adult
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: June 22nd 2020
Source: ARC received for review
Star Quotient: ★★★★1/2
Kiss Factor: ✷✷✷✷
Amazon - The Book Depository - IndieBound

Not to sound cheesy, but I found Finding Joy to be one of the most joyous books I've read this year. I've read Adriana Herrera before, so I knew I would adore this book. It's the kind of book that will leave you with a good dose of serotonin flowing through your bloodstream. If you're a romance reader, you absolutely need to meet Desta and Elias and go on the best romantic adventure as they steal your heart.

Besides being an Adriana Herrera book, one of the first things that attracted me to Finding Joy was the Ethiopian setting. We very rarely see contemporary romance novels set in Africa, so this was a completely refreshing reading experience for me. I'm from an African island but I have never been to Ethiopia myself and reading this book felt like taking a mini trip there. The author's writing is bright and vivid and she does an incredible job of showcasing the beauty and complexities of the culture and the lifestyle of Ethiopians. As a major foodie, I especially found the details of all the food to be mouth-watering. It most certainly had me craving a whole authentic Ethiopian meal that was sadly not within my reach. Adriana Herrera also does not show away from the downsides of life in the country, particularly what it's like to have to hide one's sexuality since being gay is illegal in Ethiopia.

Though that will leave you feeling tense in the background because we have two men pining for each other here, I felt nothing but hope for Desta and Elias and their love story. Adriana is excellent at crafting characters who are realistic and multi-layered. Desta is back in Ethiopia working as part of a humanitarian relief team. He is an intelligent, kind, well-spoken young man who has followed his late father's footsteps despite that not being the exact path he wants to follow. He also recently broke up with his partner and is nursing a slightly achy heart. I really loved being in Desta's head. It was easy for me to connect to his personality as he is extremely likable. I cheered him on as he overcame the obstacles he faced like a pro and was pretty much in awe of him all throughout. He is the sort of character that you just want to shower with all the happiness and shield from all the pain. I also have to mention just how bright and contagious his love and respect for Ethiopia as a country was. He has deep historical connections and precious memories tied to the country and his utter appreciation shines throughout the book.

Elias, his romantic interest, was an equally delightful addition to Finding Joy. Like Desta, Adriana Herrera takes the time to paint his character in layers upon layers. At first glance, he has a charming and open disposition, but he is also a young man who has had to hide his true self forever, so he could also be fairly guarded with his emotions. It's heart-wrenching when you realize how he has had to stay in the closet even from his family. Throughout Finding Joy, he struggles with his obligation to his family and to his desire to accept an offer to a dream Ph.D. program in America. Elias' friendship that eventually turns into a romance with Desta was just the nudge he needed to put himself first.

The romance in Finding Joy was very lovely despite the danger of being caught looming over their heads. Desta and Elias made for a couple that fit in every way. There was an almost innocence to their relationship that had me swooning in a corner. They flirted, they made googly eyes each other, and they brought so much sunshine to each other's lives. It was extra cute watching them look forward to meeting each other when they would go a couple of hours without seeing each other. The sex scenes were also sensual works of art. I love how well their passion for each other came across in the intimate scenes. Again, Adriana Herrera is a very talented author! Desta and Elias obviously faced numerous road-blocks throughout their relationship but none felt like it was there for the sake of drama.

If you're a romance reader, it would be remiss to pass on Finding Joy. This is the perfect book for those of you on the look-out for a heartwarming story with a beautiful setting, characters with depth, and a romance to leave your heart feeling warm and content.

***

Hi, everyone! Adriana Herrera was kind enough to answer a few of my questions for the blog today. I hope you enjoy this interview and I hope it encourages you to pick up Finding Joy if my review wasn't convincing enough! :)

Can you describe FINDING JOY for the readers using just emojis? 
We don't often see romance books set in African countries. You shared in your author's note that Ethiopia has a special place in your heart. Can you tell us why out of all the stories you've written so far, Desta and Elias' love story is the one you decided to set in Ethiopia?

With Finding Joy the setting is at the center. Mostly I wanted to write a love letter to Ethiopia. And I wanted to write about someone who was doing the kind of work that I did in Ethiopia. Possibly use that story to explore some of the contradictions in coming from outside and “fixing” another country’s problems. I like to explore different sided to the immigration experience in my stories and it felt important to speak to the fact that leaving, even when it’s necessary is painful. That people leave behind things that they love and miss. 

If you could fly back to Ethiopia today, what would be the first thing you did (after getting over the jetlag)? 

GET COFFEE!! I would literally go to Kaldi’s (coffee shop that is mentioned in the book) and get a Machiatto and a breakfast sandwich. Honestly I’d spend a week going to all my favorite eating spots. Addis Ababa is a VERY cosmopolitan city and you can find almost any kind of cuisine. Some of the best Korean, Italian, Greek and Indian food I’ve eaten I had in Addis. 

Food features heavily in a lot of your books and all the food descriptions in FINDING JOY had my mouth watering! If you could only pair a single dish with Desta and Elias, which one would it be? Feel free to share a recipe or a picture.


Desta doesn’t really eat meat, so I’d probably pair them with a Bayenatu (above). It’s a platter of a variety of fasting food. Fasting food in Ethiopia are dairy free and vegetarian. There are a variety of recipes needed to make a good Bayenatu. But I’ll share Miser Wot which is a lentil stew. 
https://spicecravings.com/ethiopian-red-lentil-stew-misir-wot

It sounds like you are a Broadway connoisseur from your biography. Which Broadway show would Desta take Elias to on a date?

Hamilton!! I think Desta would’ve seen it and Elias would know all the words. 

Do you get many chances to visit your hometown in the Caribbean? If so, do you rediscover your town and see it with new eyes like Desta when you visit, or do things seem untouched by time? 

I have all my family in the DR so it’s a very solid place for me, even from a distance. I haven’t been back home in a long time. I left Dominican Republic as an adult to go to grad school, so I think it would be a closer experience to what Elias’s return would be. 

Finally, you have a couple of other books releasing later this year. Can you tell us a fun fact about them?

Here to Stay is my next release. It’s a department store romance set in Dallas. The hero, Rocco, rescues a stray kitten. It sounds so corny, but I loved writing about that little cat! 10/10 recommend writing pets in romances!


Thanks very much to Adriana for taking the time to answer my questions.

Let's chat!
Have you read any romance novels set in an African country? Is Finding Joy on your TBR?
Let me know in the comments below!