In South Beach Chicas Catch Their Man, Sylvia Amenabar has a new man in her life and isn't sure what to think of this new relationship. Sexy cop Carlos Ramirez took a bullet because of her, and she's feeling intense guilt over it. However, there is a strong mutual attraction that both are having a hard time fighting. Sylvia is reminded of her parents and how her father hurt her mother many years ago. Her mother, Virginia, is still alone. Sylvia vowed never to let a man be that important to her, because it would ruin her life as it did her mother.
Sylvia is a journalist trying to prove that she is more than just a reporter who writes about local celebrities. When she is given an assignment that brings her closer to Carlos and his friends and begins investigating the shooting that put Carlos in the hospital, it’s much more involved than she had guessed and also may involve her friend Adriana's new boyfriend, Riley, who also happens to be a good friend of Carlos. The investigation could ruin a number of relationships that are important to Sylvia and her friends. Should she continue with the investigation, especially as it could hurt Carlos and ruin her growing relationship with him?
A second storyline involves Sylvia's mother, who at her age still has got what it takes to attract men, and Sylvia’s absent father, a good-looking man who can still turn heads. The two, who had been estranged for many years, are in contact with each other again, which does not make Sylvia very happy. Her father was absent from her for most of her life, leaving Virginia a single mother. Sylvia tries her best not to get involved with him. She feels a lot of resentment toward him, and she doesn't know yet that her mother may be back with the man who hurt them both.
Besides Sylvia and Virginia, Sylvia’s close friends are back: Adriana, Tori and Juli. All of these women are strong, smart and beautiful, and their friendship is what I enjoyed most about the book. While the star of it all is definitely Sylvia, the others flit in and out of the story as they play confidante and friend to Sylvia and to each other. The characters are definitely the strong point for this novel, and I will not be surprised to find yet another South Beach Chicasbook in 2008, this time focusing on yet another Chica.
While the book is strong on character, it’s weak in structure. South Beach Chicas Catch Their Man may have been better if there was much less emphasis on Sylvia's mother and the story’s focus was kept on Sylvia, Carlos, and the investigation. The entire investigation into the shooting and what led up to is intriguing, and it is what drives the novel to its conclusion. However, it is understandable why the character of Sylvia’s mother shares a big chunk of the novel. It’s done in order to bring in Sylvia’s shaky relationship with her father, hence the reason for Sylvia’s inability to commit to men. On the other hand, the story would have been much stronger if that second storyline were written as a secondary storyline and not had equal-billing. It’s too distracting going back and forth between the two sets of characters, which ultimately keeps breaking up the tone of the story. Having read a number of books that follow this trend, in which mother and daughter have an equal amount of storyline, I find that this doesn’t always work. I was losing interest in the mother’s story and wanted to hear more about Sylvia and Carlos, and to see more emphasis made on the investigation.
That said, South Beach Chicas gets three stars for the strength of its many characters. It’s a good beach read, and some readers will definitely get caught up in the investigation.