Cover Image: The Last Train to Key West

The Last Train to Key West

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Member Reviews

I LOVED THIS BOOK! Chanel Cleeton does it again!! Every single book she writes is a complete binge for me and this was no exception. It was fast paced and the story lines were perfectly intertwined.
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Thank you for the opportunity to read The Last Train to Key West. While I loved the author's previous books, I wasn't able to get into this one and won't be leaving a full review.
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These three stories ended up being beautifully linked together, but ultimately there wasn't enough going on. I did appreciate reading about a time period/historical event I haven't heard of before though.

Thanks to Berkley and Netgalley for a copy to review.
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Historical fiction that is accurate, informative and enjoyable is rare. This is all of the above. There was much in this novel that I did not know and it was so enjoyable that I sought out others by Cleeton. She does not disappoint.
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I was fascinated with the setting and plot of this book. Key West in the 30s in the middle of a hurricane. We follow 3 different women during this time, which is chaotic collectively due to the impending storm coming, but also individually because each of their lives are complicated. I love stories like this, but I think in this case it made me connect a bit less with some of them. My absolute favorite one was Helen, a Key West native in an abusive marriage.⁠

I love the connecting thread to their lives and seeing the struggles they each go through. In many ways, each of their stories shows strength and resilience. I think that’s one of my favorite things about Ms. Cleeton’s books. Her female characters are strong women, even the more quiet ones.⁠

I couldn’t put this one down and I gobbled it up literally in one sitting. It’s addictive and you want to know how things will unfold so you keep reading. There’s danger and romance, heartbreak and happiness. All against the Key’s backdrop that just sparks to life.⁠

While this isn’t my favorite historical fiction by Ms. Cleeton is certainly one I really enjoyed and highly encourage that you pick up.⁠
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Chanel Cleeton has become a master at historical fiction.  Beautiful backdrops, rich writing, and strong characters bring this book to life
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The Last Train to Key West is the story of three women when a massive hurricane hits the Florida Keys in 1935. The women come from different worlds and cross paths, but don't really interact with one another. Helen is pregnant and trapped in an abusive marriage. Mirta (a relative of the Perez family from Cleeton's previous two novels) has just left Cuba with her new husband from an arranged marriage. Elizabeth has traveled to the Keys from New York in search of her half-brother. I always enjoy learning parts of history that I wasn't aware of, and this book hits that sweet spot.
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Chanel continues to amaze me with her awesome writing skills! I wasn't necessarily worried that having the three different stories would be confusing, but that the story might get bogged down with all the details. But my worries were unfounded. The author did a fabulous job weaving the women's live together. I actually gasped a few times because I was so surprised by how everything played out. 

This is a wonderful book and I can't recommend it enough.
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I am such a fan of Chanel Cleeton’s books. I love this series by her and how all the books are all connects. They are beautifully written. I wish I was in Key West after reading this book. It’s a perfect summery read.
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This is one of my favorite series and the books just keep getting better. I loved this book and hope the author will continue with this series!
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I finished an arc of The Last Train to Key West a few months ago, and once my Kindle showed 100%, I immediately rushed over to my laptop because I was afraid I might forget parts of the story if I write the review too late. This was exactly the problem of the book — it was nice to read but not particularly memorable. 

Unlike the two previous historical fiction books that Chanel Cleeton has published with Berkley (and which I really enjoyed), this book does not feature one or two female main characters only, but three women (and yes, we do get a glimpse of a Perez family member!). Mirta, Elizabeth and Helen all find themselves stuck in Key West, a popular holiday destination in coastal Florida. I was instantly drawn to the women’s different backgrounds. While young Marta willingly travels to Key West to spend her honeymoon with her new, if stranger husband, Helen has been stuck on the island all her life. And although Elizabeth seems like the most careless girl in the world, she is haunted by her past. 


Although I found these three women to be very enticing at first, I very quickly lost interest in them again. I was never quite able to warm up to any of the three main characters who often seemed very distant in thoughts and nature. Let’s start off with Mirta. Mirta is a young Cuban bride whose father allegedly ‘sold her off’ to an influential American men with questionable connections at the poker table. While this probably would’ve made an awesome ‘fight back’ story, we rather see her getting Stockholm’s syndrome (okay not really, but you’re kind of getting the vibes) and falling madly in love with him. I didn’t understand her emotional state (she seemed strangely taken with him), nor the surprisingly soft sides of her husband. Her character seemed flat, up to an extent of shallow and while I enjoyed the little glimpses of her previous lives in Cuba, these didn’t round up her character.
Elizabeth on the other hand seemed almost too confident for her own good, bordering to nativity. I was strangely fascinated with her flirty and ‘reckless’ personality at first, however her story was missing a character arc that made me invested enough in her journey. Despite her very legitimate motives to be in Key West, I wished would have been given more information on her background except the bare necessities.
Helen was probably the most intriguing character out of the three women. Escaping from an abusive marriage, I liked the simple-ness and yet very nuanced background, with her facing the difficulties of life as a simple woman of her time.


Perhaps the biggest problem with this book were the too similar voices of the three main characters. While I really appreciated the POV changes, they didn’t add any ‘spice’ to the story which ultimately made the story very dry and unexciting (only with different places). I would’ve wished for nuances and edges, but all characters seemed to follow the same pattern: A broken background, a nice male love interest, some sort of redemption. It might have worked for the average reader but since I have followed Chanel Cleeton’s work for quite some time now, it felt like something I have seen before. The book barely picks up on speed and even the final revelations didn’t feel shocking at all due to my indifferent feelings towards the characters and the story. Even against the backdrop of danger and possibly death, the way the three women’s stories were interconnected seemed too implausible and improbable for me.

Nonetheless, I do believe that the author did a good job in capturing women’s lives in the late 1930s, as well sketching the historical events of the Labor Day Hurricane. Another thing that surprised me were how she centers (at least a little bit) on veterans’ circumstances at that time. It’s such an important history of US history, but she manages to un-glamour their lives after war without taking their dignity away. You can tell by the details of the stories that she put a lot of research into her work, and even the emotions of the people affected by the natural disaster felt very much real. She is a master of storytelling, skillful in balancing light and darkness, historical facts and fiction, sadness and hope, and while the story just wasn’t for me, it is still a great work of fiction, especially if you are looking for an easy historical romance.
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The Last Train to Key West is the 4th book in my Summer Backlog. It had me hooked from the first page and is probably the most quotable book I’ve read in a long time. My favorite was, “The day we stop fighting for others is the day we might as well pack it all up and go home.” Isn’t that quote amazing? Powerful and true.

Cleeton’s latest book follows three strong women in the Florida Keys, each going through their own journey. All are ultimately connected in some way, large or small. I thought I had the connections figured out early on in the book and I did get some things right, but others I got completely wrong. That alone makes for a good book, I think.

It is set in the mid-30s, after the crash, during Labor Day Weekend with The Great Hurricane approaching. I’ve never lived through one, though I did finish reading the book in the dark, during a power outage, while a band of strong storms moved through our area. While not a hurricane, it certainly did set the mood. I also loved reading about the early Keys. Being there not long ago, it was fun to imagine it the way it once was versus the images in my mind.

The characters are very well developed during their alternating chapters and I wanted each woman to get the outcome they deserve. The story never lags and the hurricane concerns throughout the book keeps the suspense going, while telling a wonderful narrative. In true historical fiction form, you learn a bit of this historic hurricane, as well as about veterans from the Bonus Army, who were shipped off to the Keys.

The Last Train to Key West is a wonderful summer historical fiction book choice. Highly recommend you grab a beach chair and dig in for the book binge.

I received a copy of the book, all opinions are my own.
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The Last Train to Key West was gripping historical fiction that revolved around three women whose life changed after 1935 Labour Day hurricane. It was about effect of great depression on people’s life, horrible condition of WWI veterans in Key West camps, greatest hurricane of history, domestic violence, survival, courage, and love.

This turned out way much better than I expected. Writing was flawless, vivid, descriptive that gave it classic movie like feel. It was told in first person narrative from Helen, Mirta, and Elizabeth perspective. The setting of Key West with description of beaches, weather, veteran camps, Flagler’s railroad, community and their perspectives was amazing.

Plot was interesting. I loved the concept of life three women coming from different background to Keys, having their own problems whose path intersected and faced life changing event. It was character driven story that took place in 10 days with hurricane at the centre of it, adding tension in story. All characters were realistic and relatable and their stories were touching.

Helen was hard working waitress at Ruby’s diner who loved her job but life was hell with alcoholic and abusive husband. She often dreamt the death of her husband so she could finally be free from him. Now that due date was in few weeks and even after bearing his child he didn’t stop hurting her, she feared for her baby’s future. With a little push, a speck of courage and support of regular visitor at diner- a WWI veteran, John- she escaped her husband and went to Islamorada where she had to face storm and baby coming sooner than expected. Her dilemma of whether to leave her husband or not, fear of him coming after her, and how to start new life alone with baby coming soon was realistic. I can’t imagine how alone, helpless, and trapped she might be feeling in that marriage. I’m glad she found courage within her and escaped that monster. The way she faced storm and gave courage to John as well was great.

Mirta married to Anthony to save her family who was struggling after 1933 Cuban revolution. She arrived in Keys for her honeymoon with anxiety of newly wed wife and dilemma of marrying a stranger who had illicit business. She wasn’t sure what kind of man she married to and wasn’t happy for not having any say in marriage. But few days in Keys with him and looming storm, she saw a side of him that changed her view and feelings for him. I liked reading her thoughts, feelings, and uncertainty of what to expect from husband and marriage. I admired her straightforwardness, giving her marriage a chance, support and courage in time of storm and what happened during it. Her story was my favourite and I loved slow building romance and respect between her and Anthony.

Elizabeth was struggling after the great depression that took away everything she loved. With ill mother and huge debt that left no option but to accept offer of marrying man who loaned money to her father. To find another option and solution to her situation she ran away to Keys to find a man who might be living in veteran camps. On a way she met federal agent Sam Watson who offered to help her. I liked reading their thoughts on camp and government’s failure in paying bonus to veterans, why they were kept in such condition and shock of Elizabeth who didn’t understand what veterans were going through until she saw it. The mystery of reason behind why Sam was there and helping Elizabeth was total surprise but I like how things changed between them in middle of storm.

I can’t imagine how women were living in this time and with people who thought what happens between husband and wife was their business, not expecting others to help women, save her from abusive marriage, living in shadow of men with mindset their only job is pleasing men they married to, and their place is with husband whether they like it or not! Historical aspects were best part of the book. I could see author did a good research on the Great depression, Cuban revolution, how government failed to take care of WWI veterans, how society turned their back to veterans’ trauma, and the greatest hurricane of American history, and casualties. Most outrageous and heart rendering part was veterans having to face another tragedy in this hurricane.

Climax was tense and surprising. I was right who Elizabeth was searching for but my guesses were wrong with Sam’s intention, the man who was lurking near Mirta’s honeymoon house and the way he turned up in middle up storm, and everything happened after it. I worried for Helen and her baby and the way all characters were trying to survive in storm was frightening. End was perfect with bad characters taken care and main characters finding their love and looking forward to happy life.

Overall, The Last Train to Key West was interesting, well written and well researched historical fiction with great historical aspect and a little romance. If you don’t mind romance in historical fictions you will love this one.
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I really loved this book! I really liked all of the main characters and could not wait to read more about them. At first I wasn't sure if I'm still that much into historical novels, but I sure really enjoyed this one! Fast paced, super interesting, and I liked how the lives of the three different women intertwined :) Can only recommend!
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Looking for a good beach read? Or a good "I wish I could go to the beach but it's hard to socially distance there" read? Wherever you read this, it's a good summer read: it's fast paced, easy to digest, there's romance, female friendship, and an element of danger. The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton tells the story of three women all caught in the 1935 hurricane in the Florida Keys. I picked this up because I thought Cleeton's previous novels When We Left Cuba and Next Year in Havana were good summer reads, but this one just wasn't as good. Maybe it's because what I enjoyed about the previous novels -- learning about Cuban history -- was missing from this book. Still, this book gets a vote for a good summer beach read in my book. But if you're new to Chanel Cleeton, check out her previous novels first.
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When I pick up one of Chanel's historical fiction books, I find myself sucked right into the world immediately. Her writing paints a vivid picture and I feel as though I'm walking through the streets alongside the characters. Her passion for history and the characters whose stories she's telling comes through in every single word. In The Last Train to Key West, she weaves the story of three very different women together in an absolutely exquisite way.

The backdrop for this book is the Labor Day holiday weekend of 1935. History has never been my strong suit so I didn't know this going in, but the hurricane that devastated the Florida Keys that weekend is one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record. If I'd been aware, I'd likely have been more prepared for just how intense this book was at times. I was quite literally on the edge of my seat waiting to see how things would go for Helen, Mirta and Elizabeth. I was equally invested in each of their lives (and loves) and I couldn't get enough. 

If you're a romance reader who is thinking about branching out into historical fiction, I can't recommend Chanel's books highly enough. While Next Year in Havana, When We Left Cuba and The Last Train to Key West are all standalones, I'd still suggest reading all of them in order. If you're an audio reader, the audios are fantastic. Or at least the two I've listened to have been. I'm going to need to reread this book soon and I plan to do it via audiobook. Chanel's words, characters and world-building are like no other.

Favorite Quotes:

Leaving seems impossible when you're walking away from all you've known, when the stakes are life and death. 

"The running of this world is left to men, and quite frankly, I'm not impressed with what they've done with it." 

"I hate to tell you, but there's no such thing as a 'right time' in life. Things happen when they need to happen. The rest sort of falls into place."

"There's so much broken around us; maybe all we can do is try to fix each other, do what we can to preserve these precious moments in a world where there is so much sadness and loss."
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Thank you to NetGalley and Berkeley Publishing Group for the free digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

I really liked this book! I occasionally read a historical fiction book and when I finish wonder why I don’t read them more!

I loved all three women and their interwoven stories. I found each girl relatable in some way.  The sub plot of the hurricane was sad, but there was more focus on their stories, which I liked. I love the time period and the way men and women interacted. 😍

I haven’t read her first book, but I plan to find that one ASAP.
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I think this book could be for you if you enjoy historical and women's fiction that is tied up in a neat little bow at the end. It wasn't a terrible book or badly written, it was just predictable and not in any way interesting for me. I did like the hurricane atmosphere and Florida setting and that's probably what held my interest the most throughout the book. The romantic stories of the three women are completely unrealistic and therefore not enjoyable for me.

I was given a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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The Last Train to Key West is the 3rd book I read by Chanel Cleeton. Although I really enjoyed this one, all her books feel like they are the same sense of comfort. It is not necessarily a bad thing, but all her books have the same comfort. I truly enjoy Historical Fiction and I absolutely loved the parallel that the women in this story had. Chanel really has an incredible gift for writing about her characters, especially by creating strong female characters. The three women in the story meet during the most unexpected holiday weekend, but also on the verge of a massive storm hitting Florida Keys. I really enjoyed how their lives intersected by chance, but somehow they all needed each other in some way. This one was the perfect blend of HF and romance.
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And so Ms. Cleeton's trilogy comes to the end. I have truly loved her writing and the characters she created. In this story, three young women's lives are about to be shattered by the Labor Day Hurricane barreling toward the Keys. Helen is a young wife with an abusive husband, a waitress, and she's about to have her first baby. Mirta is a young wife, Cuban, newly married to a New York mobster, in the Keys on her honeymoon. Elizabeth, has taken the train down from New York, looking for her brother. If she doesn't find him, she'll need to go back to New York and marry to settle debts her once wealthy family lost in the stock market crash. Their lives will become intertwined as the story unfolds. I was fascinated with Flagler's train, since I did my own family ancestry. I wondered if that's how my grandfather traveled from New York, to Miami, to Havana. Another gorgeous cover to top it off.

#TheLastTraintoKeyWest #NetGalley
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