Sex and the South Beach Chicas
by Caridad Piñeiro
(Downtown Press, $13.00, PG-13) ISBN 1-4165-1488-0
With its title, Sex and the South Beach Chicas gives away its central premise: Sex and the City, Latina style. The idea has some potential. Sadly, neither the foreign accents, nor the Miami locale can revive a stale and overdone storyline.

Adriana, Tori, Sylvia and Juli believe they are the last of their kind. While everyone around them has settled down and married, these chicas embrace the single life. Cocktails in hand, they vow to never follow in their Mami’s footsteps. Then, Tori does the unthinkable: to the disappointment of her family and to the ire of her good friends, she elopes with her live-in boyfriend (misleadingly labeled a one- night stand on the back cover blurb). Her action forces the amigas to rethink their lives and confront their problems with men, mothers and social mobility.

As is the case in this genre, the novel unfolds through four points of view and reveals four takes on similar problems. Tori is the good girl who has always done what her family expects of her: she has studied hard, gone to law school, and now works at a major Miami firm. While seeing her face up to the consequences of her single act of rebellion might have been interesting, any possible conflict is patched up much too quickly to generate serious interest.

Although Adriana’s conflicts, internal and external, are the opposite, the results are the same. She has effectively put some distance between the family business and herself, but this resistance comes with its own problems. She has always denied any romantic interest in Riley, a long-time family friend and business partner. When he informs her he is thinking of getting engaged to his current girlfriend, she wonders whether her decisions have been right. Here too, there are no breathtaking surprises or heart-warming turnabouts.

As for Juli and Sylvia, we’ve seen them all over the place without the Latina wrapping. The latter is a sexy journalist who is as good at getting her stories as she is at running away from permanent relationships. When investigating a piece about drugs and sleaze in Miami, she hooks up with an informant and begins to wonder whether this Bad Boy might be one of the last good guys. Too bad she couldn’t have given us some more underworld heroics and something more caliente first.

Which leaves us with Juli, who is too dowdy and wholesome to have a man trailing after her. Then, she has her predictable make-over and, hey presto, not only does she find the guts to sign up for a cooking class; she also sparks some masculine interest.

The novel is competently written, and the chain of events logical, if much too foreseeable. No wonder it doesn’t have the wit, energy or insights of the television show and its more successful spin-offs. The fact that Piñeiro falls back on standard chick lit clichés instead of developing her characters and exploring their hyphenated lives doesn’t improve matters. So although Sex and the South Beach Chicas isn’t glaringly bad, it is somewhat boring. Hardly what to expect given such a hot topic. There are other, better ways of satisfying a craving for life in the Latina lane. Give this one a miss.

--Mary Benn

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