Title: The Last Valentine
Author: Felix Alexander
Copyright: February 17, 2017
Format: E-Book, 233 Pages, $0.99 [Kindle], $0.99 [Nook], $0.99 [iBooks]
When Olivia Villalobos finds a bloodstained love letter she endeavors to deliver it before Chief Inspector Sedeño finds it in her possession.
A city along the southern coast of Puerto Rico emerges in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War. Olivia, daughter of a drunkard police investigator who never knew the truth behind her mother’s disappearance, finds a bloodstained love letter in the hidden compartment of her father’s coat. Convinced it belonged to the man recently found dead she sets out to deliver it to the Labyrinth of Love Letters. A mysterious place believed to be an urban legend where the transients of forbidden love leave missives for one another. She enlists the help of Isaac Quintero to find the Labyrinth and they soon realize their quest has opened the door into Old Sienna’s darkest secrets—the perils, madness and depth of tragic love.
Felix Alexander’s The Last Valentine takes place in Old Sienna, Puerto Rico, in the year 1935. Olivia Villalobos, the protagonist, is a young lady who lives with her straitlaced aunt, Katarina and her father, Javier Villalobos, a police inspector and well-known alcoholic. As the story opens up, the body of an unidentified man is discovered in Old Sienna and the inebriated Javier brings home a bloodstained letter. Eventually, that very same letter ends up in the hands of his daughter, Olivia, and she consults with her good friend, Isaac Quintero. When the duo have a chance encounter with a strange woman clad in black, they learn about the existence of the Labyrinth of Love Letters and that is when the mystery begins to unfold. Who murdered the stranger? Why does Javier Villalobos have his bloodstained letter? Who wrote that letter? Where is the Labyrinth of Love Letters? What happens there?
The Last Valentine captured my attention when I saw the bewitching cover: a woman clad in a black dress with a lacy black parasol, snow all around her, and a foreboding cemetery she is standing in. I thought to myself…is this woman a phantom? A sinister figure? A woman mourning her lost love? With eagerness I dove into the story, seeking to uncover the mystery of the Labyrinth of Love Letters and to learn more about the woman depicted on the cover. The summary of the book only added to the allure and increased my interest.
Unfortunately, I am somewhat disappointed in this story. It was difficult to get into and I slogged through the first half of the book. The second half was when things started to get interesting for me, especially when I began to learn more about the Labyrinth of Love Letters (as well as the story behind it). The prospect of such a place intrigued me. As the story progressed, I found the execution of the plot to be very slow and, while I was fascinated by different aspects, I wasn’t entirely hooked. The pacing of the story was at times exceedingly slow and there were moments where the narrator went off on random tangents. When moving between scenes, there was awkward scene transition and it was sometimes confusing to follow along with the narrator. In addition, there were several typos I discovered [grammatical errors and odd punctuation] and even the misspelling of character names.
When I first saw The Last Valentine, I had thought that it would be a mystery but this wasn’t the case. Although it did have some mystery woven into the tale. I would define this book as not so much being a love story. It celebrates the idea of being in love with the idyll of love. It has an inflated sense of the romantic and love in many forms are prevalent throughout the text: forbidden love, unrequited love, true love, lost love, et cetera. It definitely had lots of heart and soul but it was lacking in a substantial plot. I found the characters hard to relate to and, in some cases, entirely one-dimensional. The overall tone and atmosphere was thoughtful and romantic, although sometimes dark. It reminded me a little of a Gothic romance novel of the Victorian era. In parting, I would like to say that I loved the beautiful, lyrical prose that Mr. Alexander used while writing this tale. While the story line and characters didn’t particularly appeal to me, I found his word usage to be poetic and transcendental. There was a lot of depth and wisdom to his work but unfortunately I was expecting something else.
I received a complimentary copy of The Last Valentine by Felix Alexander from Reading Deals in exchange for an honest review. All words written here are my own.