A Love Letter to Cuba || ARC Review: Don’t Date Rosa Santos

A fun, light read from an #ownvoices author, Don’t Date Rosa Santos is about a girl who dreams of visiting Cuba, where her abuela is from. Cue cute sailor she’s forbidden to love (thanks to an inherited curse) and a spring festival to save. Rosa’s life just became a little chaotic.

Title: Don’t Date Rosa Santos
Author: Nina Moreno
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: May 14, 2019
Genres: YA Romantic Comedy, Contemporary    

I received this book on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Official Synopsis

Rosa Santos is cursed by the sea—at least, that’s what they say. Dating her is bad news, especially if you’re a boy with a boat.  

But Rosa feels more caught than cursed. Caught between cultures and choices. Between her abuela, a beloved healer and pillar of their community, and her mother, an artist who crashes in and out of her life like a hurricane. Between Port Coral, the quirky South Florida town they call home, and Cuba, the island her abuela refuses to talk about.  

As her college decision looms, Rosa collides—literally—with Alex Aquino, the mysterious boy with tattoos of the ocean whose family owns the marina. With her heart, her family, and her future on the line, can Rosa break a curse and find her place beyond the horizon?


Rosa, is, of course, our plucky main character. I love how capable she is, but she also has a big heart. Her love for her abuela and mother are very obvious as she tries to do so much for them. Even so, she’s a go-getter—she knows what she wants and is willing to do whatever she can to chase after her dreams. She won’t let some curse get in the way of everything. Her desire to go to Cuba is her driving force, and her journey was one I was very thrilled to go on with her. She is also hilarious. I could not stop laughing on my bus rides while I was reading this book.  

Rosa’s relationship with her mother and abuela are really fascinating. It is very messy and imperfect, but so are all family relationships. The tension Rosa felt between doing what she felt was right and pleasing her abuela felt very realistic, and it was very heart wrenching. And Rosa’s struggle to be okay with her mother’s wandering ways is just as hard.  

This struggle is counterbalanced by the romance, which is So. Dang. Cute. When Alex first walked into the scene, I was like “Nuh-uh, Rosa.” But he’s a sailor. AND he bakes. Who is this guy? Rosa and Alex are just so cute together. Their competitive beginning was hilarious, and the way their feelings grew for each other…honestly I just melted. Gah!  

There are a lot of other characters that I won’t mention (and I mean A LOT). I admit to getting people mixed up every once in awhile, but it turned out all right. I felt like everyone added to the story in some way.


Because this book is very character-driven, I don’t have a lot to say about the plot. I loved the way Cuba seemed to pull the story. It’s a bit slower paced of a story, but I didn’t feel bored at any point. It was well plotted and fun to see where Rosa and her crew ended up. The little subplots (see: golden turtle) are also just wonderful.


I have personally never been to Florida, but now I want to go so badly. Nina Moreno wrote this story in a way that made Florida come alive for me. It was beautiful and lush. I could feel spring turning into summer. I want to go to Port Coral soooo bad. The way she wrote in the culture of this place was not only skin deep. It was everywhere, from the people who lived there, the festivals, the music, the food (I just wanted to eat everything in this book!).

Overall Thoughts

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This is a perfect spring/summer read. It’s atmospheric, has incredible characters, and a fun plot. Rosa was so much fun to read about–I very much enjoyed her journey. This author’s love letter to Cuba had me wanting more. I will happily read more from this author.

4 thoughts on “A Love Letter to Cuba || ARC Review: Don’t Date Rosa Santos

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