Posted in Reviews

Review: One Year of Ugly by Caroline Mackenzie

This is going to be one I recommend to basically everyone. 🥰

Recommended: yeeeeeeeesssssssss!!!!!!!!!!
for a lovable lot of characters, for a story that has a lot of elements to it, for a wide variety of situations

After fleeing crumbling, volatile Venezuela, Yola Palacio wants nothing more than to settle into a peaceful new life in Trinidad with her family. And who cares if they’re there illegally—aren’t most of the people on the island? But life for the Palacios is far from quiet—and when Yola’s Aunt Celia dies, the family once again find their lives turned upside down. For Celia had been keeping a very big secret—she owed a LOT of money to a local criminal called Ugly. And without the funds to pay him off, Ugly has the entire family do his bidding until Celia’s debt is settled. What Ugly says, the Palacios do, otherwise the circumstances are too dreadful to imagine.

To say that the year that follows is tumultuous for the Palacios is an understatement. But in the midst of the turmoil appears Roman—Ugly’s distractingly gorgeous right-hand man. And although she knows it’s terrible and quite possibly dangerous, Yola just can’t help but give in to the attraction. Where, though, do Roman’s loyalties lie? And could this wildly inappropriate romance just be the antidote to a terrible year of Ugly?

I saw this book’s synopsis and thought I would probably love it, and yup, I was right. 😍

What I loved
The setting in Trinidad was an quick obvious draw for me, because I don’t know much of anything about it. Well, now I do! Like the fact that there’s the largest natural tar deposit in the world there, and also that they have notoriously poorly paved roads because they export all their tar. 😂 The little tour around the island on Yola and Roman’s excursions were a perfect way to introduce readers to the area.

I also appreciated the political and social conversation, since the whole plot of the book is based around immigration and how families can be forced into doing it illegally when all the legal ways are made pretty much impossible. The details of Venezuela as well were sobering, especially since I know it’s not the only place like that in the world.

Life is already sad and depressing enough (reminder that I’m writing this during Covid-19, for future readers…) so I always enjoy a book that can take me away from that and make me laugh. And wow, okay, I laughed SO MUCH! I absolutely loved Yola and her family. They’re so varied and the way they clash was like being at a friend’s house whom you know so well that no one tries to pretend they’re anything but who they are. 😂 And the little details like them being a “naked house” where no one wears pants if they don’t absolutely have to cracked me up. (Again… writing this during Covid. This feels very relatable right now. 😂)

What I didn’t love
I’m a little torn on the story and overall progression. This is touted largely as a romance, and there were elements of that for sure, but there was also so much more. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing at all, just that the expectation I had going in was quite different from what it actually was. You’re not going to get just some steamy scenes and longing, you’re also going to get fear and embarrassment and desperation and abso-fuckin-lutely WILD dramatics. So while that was really fun in a way, it was also a bit of a curveball and took some adjusting.

Nah really just read it. It’s so good.

Thanks to NetGalley for a free copy in exchange for an honest review!


Reader, traveler, photographer, and always looking to learn!

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