With Here to Stay, Adriana Herrera brings a fresh and fun look at workplace romance with an enemies-to-lovers theme. And as with all her books, what seems light on the surface has deep and serious undercurrents, such as verbal abuse and the deportation of immigrants. Herrera continues to wow me with her stories of complex fully-formed characters, found family, Latinx family relationships, starting over in new places, and success and happiness despite the odds.
Dominican American Julia del Mar Ortiz leaves behind her familia to follow her boyfriend from NYC to Dallas to her dream job of running a charitable foundation for a big department store. Unfortunately, her feckless boyfriend ends up ditching her to hightail it out of Dallas, leaving her behind with an expensive apartment and car to pay for and to fend off loneliness.
Herrera’s skill is in writing characters who are passionate about and dedicated to the work they do. Julia cares deeply about the people she helps through her work for the Foundation. Her commitment and no-nonsense attitude stand her in good stead when dealing with her work duties as well as working with her colleagues.
But her fiery personality makes for spectacular clashes with fellow New Yorker, Rocco Quinn. Rocco is the talented consultant hired by the Foundation’s CEO to move the store into public ownership. This could result in Julia’s job being eliminated. Her and Rocco’s conflict arises between their opposing desires for the head of the Foundation because of the impact that position would have on their respective lives — each stands to lose something important to them.
I really enjoy reading characters who are very competent at their jobs and/or hobbies and truly enjoy what they do. This brings purpose to their lives, and as Nietzsche believed, life is worth living only if there are goals inspiring one to live. Julia and Rocco are purposeful individuals, and thus, we see that this internal grounding and satisfaction gives their personalities emotional stability and maturity. This allows them to handle life’s inevitable disappointments and disagreements with resilience.
Consent and power dynamics play a large role in Herrera’s stories, and those are very much in evidence in Here to Stay. How a person approaches a relationship emotionally is impacted by that person’s background growing up and also other adult relationships they’ve had. Herrera gently weaves Rocco’s therapy into the storyline to help him navigate his backstory that allows him to approach his relationship with Julia with deep-seated certainty in himself. The protagonists in Herrera’s books always have emotional and sexual agency even if the power dynamics are not exactly level at the start of the story, but that is definitely the case by the end of her books.
One of the best parts of Herrera’s stories have to do with family relationships, which run the gamut of joyful, painful, and every emotion in between. I loved watching Julia with her parents, grandmother, and sister. Rocco’s history with his family is heartbreaking, but he believes deeply in what a family should represent in a person’s life. So I was pleased to read that Julia’s newly formed club of transplanted New Yorkers now living in Texas is welcoming and warmly supportive of Rocco and of Julia and Rocco’s journey from a complicated, prickly relationship to love.
Herrera writes stories of deep generosity of spirit that allows her protagonists to overcome insurmountable obstacles in their quest for happiness. I highly recommend Here to Stay.