I was completely bowled over by Gringa. It put me through the emotional wringer, but oh what a truly amazing love story! I understand why it was an Amazon best seller last year. Although it contains violence, some of it sexual, murder, drug references and profanities, it also has laugh out loud humour, tender scenes and characters I grew to love, despite their faults. It is a compelling and unforgettable read.
In Gringa, Payton, a young American, is vacationing in Mexico when she is mistaken for a spy and shot by Diablo, the local drug lord and then, to ensure that she does not survive, he throws her over a cliff into the sea. However, Payton survives, nursed back to health by two locals. She returns to the village to ensure that her family is safe, intending to return to the US. Unfortunately Diablo reappears, threatening the villagers with death if she does not agree to become ‘his woman.’ Payton agrees to his blackmail to save innocent lives and returns with him to his home.
Many have likened Gringa to Beauty and the Beast, but it also has elements of Alice falling down the rabbit hole and entering an alternative reality of larger than life characters: Diablo, the terrifying, tattooed and pierced drug lord; Christa, his sadistic mother; his sister Santana, with whom he appears to have improper relations, and a posse of violent outlaws. There is also Payton’s own dysfunctional family, comprising her bitchy and selfish stepmother Elaine and step-sister Paris, her weak father, Austin her brother-in-law, whom Paris stole from Payton, and baby Liam, her nephew.
Diablo subjects Payton to physical abuse, including rape and she also witnesses violence, drunken behaviour, drug taking and profanities. Christa and Santana resent and despise her, although fortunately Payton benefits from Diablo’s protection. Servants Rosa and Maria become her confidants as she struggles to accept her situation. Even at this stage in the tale,however, there is still humour in the madness, much of it dark, such as Payton’s thoughts when Diablo makes his nocturnal visits, but some of it light, such as the chattering and antics of the Maria and Rosa.
Their ‘relationship’ gets to a point where Payton very publically tells Diablo some home truths about his qualities as a lover. It is then that Diablo begins his metamorphosis and courts Payton in regular boy-girl romance style. This makes for some deeply romantic and hilarious scenes and we begin to see a different side to Diablo. Payton learns of his horrific past experiences and begins to understand him. She also makes him question his behaviour and he decides to reform. However, their relationship is under threat, not only from Diablo’s family, but from those who want Payton to betray him. Payton’s deranged family also play a major role in the evolution of the tale, as they too go a little loco under the Mexican sun.
I was so emotionally invested in Payton and Diablo’s romance. Payton is a great heroine. She has balls, standing up to Diablo, his family and eventually her own, as she grows in strength. I really felt for her when she was recovering from her injuries and when Diablo did his worst, but especially with her conflicted emotions over Diablo when faced with those determined to take him down.
Diablo I loved him! He is attracted to Payton because she has the guts to stand up to him and her effervescent personality soon breaks through his bad-ass exterior. When we find out his childhood experiences, I, like Payton came to empathise with him. It is clear that he wants to change, but is it too late, will he be condemned for his past actions and will the couple find their HEA? You will have to read the series to find this out, and the story has so many twists and turns that I could not predict the outcome.
I adored the sheer inventiveness of the author and the way her words led me to experience a whole range of emotions, from disgust, fear, incredulity through to excitement, laughter and tears. It would make a super movie, but I cannot think of an actor or actress who could measure up to Diablo or Payton! I recommend this book to romance readers who can embrace a challenging plot and sometimes flawed characters within it and who want to experience a wild, unforgettable and above all romantic ride.