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Hot Tamara    by Mary Castillo order for
Hot Tamara
by Mary Castillo
Order:  USA  Can
Avon, 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by Shannon Bigham

Tamara (pronounced 'TAH – MAR – UH') Contreras is twenty-six years old and sick of her current life. She is engaged to a man she no longer loves. She works as a teacher, but does not want to teach (it was her mother's idea). She still lives at home, and her parents (especially her mother) take serious pleasure in micromanaging Tamara's life. The Hispanic culture and her local community reinforce Tamara's unfortunate situation, as everyone wants her to settle down to marriage and children.

What Tamara really wants is to ditch her fiancé, pursue her Master's degree in art history, and one day own her own art gallery. Fortunately, she's a go-getter at heart. After a sudden breakup with her fiancé, she proceeds to realize her dreams. She moves (not terribly far from her parent's house but far enough) into a tiny apartment and secures a job in an art gallery, while working nights at the café next door. She plans to apply to various Master's programs at California colleges. Money is tight, her apartment is less-than-desirable, and her boss can be difficult – but Tamara knows that she has made the right move and enjoys her newfound freedom.

Just as she is adjusting to being a single-girl-in-the-city, her high school secret crush, Will Benavides, becomes a part of her life. Once the 'high school bad boy' he's now a fire fighter and an artist on the side. When Tamara runs into Will one night at an art gallery opening, sparks fly between the two. Tamara begins to wonder if she can have 'the man of her dreams' and also achieve her career aspirations – something she never dreamed possible.

Tamara is likeable - her combination of a sweet nature and fiery independence makes the reader root for her as she goes against her family's wishes and attempts to achieve her dreams. While I found a few references to Spanish words (that the author did not translate) distracting, I recommend Hot Tamara as an impressive debut to fans of both contemporary romance and chick lit.

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