Carmen and Grace

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Pub Date 13 Apr 2023 | Archive Date 30 Apr 2023

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A female Latinx Godfather drama about two cousins lured into the underground drug trade and the inextricable ties that bind them, as one woman seeks power and the other seeks a way out...

Carmen and Grace have been inseparable since they were little girls – more like sisters than cousins, survivors of a childhood marked by neglect and addiction. For too long, all they had was each other.

That is, until Doña Durka swept into their lives and changed everything, taking Grace into her home and playing an outsize role in Carmen's upbringing too. But Durka is more than a beneficent force in their Bronx neighborhood. She's also the leader of an underground drug empire, a larger-than-life matriarch who understands the importance of taking what power she can in a world too often ruled by violent men.

So when Durka dies suddenly, Carmen and Grace's lives are thrown into chaos. Grace has been primed to take over and has grand plans to expand the business, but Carmen is ready to move on – from Durka's shadow, and from always looking over her shoulder in fear.

As tough and tender as its main characters, Carmen and Grace is a devastatingly wise and intimate story about the bonds of female friendship, ambition, and found family.

A female Latinx Godfather drama about two cousins lured into the underground drug trade and the inextricable ties that bind them, as one woman seeks power and the other seeks a way out...

Carmen and...

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ISBN 9781837931194
PRICE £8.99 (GBP)

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Average rating from 24 members

Featured Reviews

OMG this book was GOOOOD. Well written with an interesting and compelling storyline and well developed characters. It was so immersive and emotive and had me reaching for tissues obn multiple occasions but it was also brutally raw and fragile at times. I really liked it,

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A female Latinx drama. Carmen and Grace is the story of two cousins who are raised as sisters. Their bond is true and tight. With dreams of being better than their own mothers.

That is until Grace meets Doña Durka’s son. Grace then begins to live in the Durka home, she has a mother she never really had and she continues to benefit from the silent respect everyone shows to Doña Durka. Even though she doesn’t fully know what Doña Durka does for a living, she has an idea. Doña Durka is an inspiration to Grace. She sees Doña Durka and how everyone knows of her, respects her, goes to her for help, and more. One could say Doña Durka takes Grace under her own wings, seeing a daughter in Grace.

Keeping their bond even when life circumstances have changed, Carmen and Grace now begin to enter the drug trade by doing small jobs for Doña Durka. Grace always with a plan, continues to follow Doña Durka’s plan and expands to a group of females based on loyalty, trust, respect, and friendship.
That is until the unexpected death of Doña Durka. That also comes with news of Carmen’s pregnancy. As Grace is now put in a position of power, taking over Doña Durka, she sees an opportunity to expand. Whilst dealing with Doña Durka’s two sons, one of which is also in the drug trade while the other is the complete opposite with his military career. Carmen is struggling with the distancing of her cousin and sister and keeps the pregnancy a secret. Wanting out but knowing she can never be fully out, she struggles until it becomes almost impossible.

Not going to spoil this for anyone. Carmen and Grace go through it, and the sisterhood they formed with the other women is invigorating, no longer “lost girls”. The idea of making them learn anything and everything for their betterment and that of the business shows how important friendship is. So much goes on in this book, and it’s hard to realize how much you feel for these two characters until the part in the lawyer’s office bathroom.
When I reached that part of the book, it was like I had been holding my breath all the while. The flow of tears that streamed down my face felt like I was literally right there as a part of the book. The feelings that Carmen and Grace stirred up in me I didn’t even know I had. Melissa Coss Aquino wrote a very special book about female friendship, perseverance, and bonds. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

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Carmen and Grace by Melissa Coss Aquino is an engaging and powerful novel. The narrative alternates between the two central characters and best friends, Carmen and Grace. They are both survivors of childhoods of neglect, abuse and addiction, all they had was each other and their own personal strength. Then Doña Durka comes into their lives, a matriarch, leader of a drug empire and mother figure to both girls. When Doña dies it is the catalyst for trouble, doubt and violence. Grace becomes the leader of the empire and Carmen looks to escape this life with a baby on the way but in this world choosing a different future isn’t easy. I liked the rawness and tender portrayal of female friendships in this novel. I would have preferred a singular, chronological narrative as I feel this would have had a greater impact on the reader experience and heightened key moments in the story. It is an emotional and adrenaline fuelled read that explores injustice, ambition and the family we create. For fans of contemporary literature 3.5 Stars ✨.

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I appreciated this book, it really gives the feel of what it is to encounter struggles as a female. To be in positions that are beyond your control but become life. The opening was really tense and helped set the scene for the rest of the book.

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This book was well written and developed, i will 100 recommend this to everyone the characters and the story stays with you

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Following the death of Dona Durka, her ‘adopted’ daughter Grace attempts to take over the family drug business, alongside a team of 8 other women, including Carmen. Carmen and Grace have been inseparable since childhood, but both have been groomed into the illegal drug trade from a young age. Now Carmen is pregnant and wants to escape, but finds herself at odds with Grace, who increasingly seeks to coax the women back into her new empire.

This book is about so much more than drugs and gangs. It’s an immersive tale of female friendship, strength, relationships, hope, and the family that you make for yourself. Initially the plot seems disorientating as you’re thrown into this underground world, but as the time periods criss-cross, the reader slowly builds a picture of these women, and the bonds that tie them together. Dona Durka, the original matriarch, has built a drug empire in which men are the foot soldiers, but the women are the special forces. And these 9 women are absolute powerhouses.

At first I wanted to join their badass all girl club, and be part of this dysfunctional family, rolling in money and opportunities. Raising their children together with trips to Disney World, and hope for the future. But as the book progresses you realise that all this wealth and power, has been built on vulnerabilities, poverty and fear. And it soon all comes crumbling down. Five brutal murders litter this book, and you start to fear which one of the 9 women will be next.

All of these women joined the business as children or young adults, when they were “perfectly invisible. Useless, unwanted and unprotected.” A life of crime offers them some hope, and a method of survival. Ultimately, they are all victims; invisible children, become invisible adults. This book will simultaneously fill your heart with joy, and shatter it into tiny pieces. This book is unlike anything I’ve read before. An immersive and powerful read.

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I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. Many thanks to the Publishers for this opportunity.

This read reveals the harsh reality of those on the fringe of society from a country that now doesn't see them and who fall into the hands of those who give false protection all the while grooming them for the drug trade. The story is of two girls who have experienced neglect and addiction, two inseparable cousins Carmen and Grace who are taken in by an underground drug dealer Doña Durka. Their situation becomes difficult when Doña dies leaving Grace exposed to those wanting to take over the helm when the plan had been for her to do so. The brutality of this type of life is well exposed, all the women are pretty tough, language tough but with their leader gone it all begins to unravel.

Carmen who relates the story becomes pregnant to her lover and amongst all that is going on they marry. She is imprisoned just after the birth of her daughter and during this time she learns of Grace's death. After her release she is able to reconnect with her daughter, now a young adult. There is good news for her revealed at the end, an unexpected surprise and of enlightenment.

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I really enjoyed how this story reeled me in from the very first page. I admit: I went into this not really knowing what to expect. by the very last page - which I got to very quickly - I was feeling all of the emotions. High on the list is awe. I hope to read more books from Melissa, she clearly has a way with words.

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‘We were a tribe of lost daughters …’

Living in the Bronx neighbourhood, Carmen and Grace have been inseparable since childhood. They are cousins, closer than sisters, who have managed to survive neglect occasioned by addiction and a ‘welfare’ system that does not care. Grace wants power, while Carmen wants to escape. Then Grace meets Doña Durka’s son. Doña Durka welcomes Grace into her home, treats her like a daughter. She looks out for Carmen as well, and the girls have some stability in their lives. Grace sees Doña Durka as an inspiration, and while she has some idea that Doña Durka is involved in the drug trade, she admires the way in which she has taken control of her world.

When Doña Durka dies in mysterious circumstances, Grace is ready (she thinks) to take over the business, and keen to expand it. Carmen wants to escape – she is pregnant and wants a better life for her baby. But how can she leave?

‘How do you stop a train wreck from happening when it is already underway at full speed, and you are on the train? How do you jump off?’

Grace’s plans for the future gather momentum, but others are interested in occupying the space once owned by Doña Durka. Carmen is trapped: the tight group of women who work for Grace are the only family Carmen has.

How will this end? You will need to keep reading in order to find out. Melissa Coss Aquino brings these young women and the challenges confronting them to life, showing both the strength of their friendship and the constraints they operate within. Most of the time, the choices we make are constrained by the limited possibilities we see available.

I finished this novel hoping for a brighter future for those who survived.

‘The street is full of stories that are only ever half true if that. You taught me that.’

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Head of Zeus for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

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Carmen and Grace are inseparable cousins. Coming from a harsh background, the only constant in their life was their beloved abuela, but when she dies they are returned to their mothers. When Toro turns up on 14 year old Grace’s doorstep one day looking for her mother who owes him money, the girls lives change beyond all their imaginings.

This is a fascinating story. Told from the POV of each girl, it travels in time from when they are children through to adulthood, with all the trials that they experience.

An enjoyable book, though a struggle to read at times, thank goodness for Kindle translator!

Thank you NetGalley.

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An impressive debut that paints a gritty, realistic, picture of choice and ambition, trust and betrayal and the life bonds between people that endure no matter what. A story for our time that ultimately offers hope.
My thanks to NetGalley, and Head of Zeus for granting this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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An emotional and powerful read about “damaged” cousins and best friends, Carmen and Grace, lured into the underground drug trade at a young age by the formidable matriarch Doña Durka. Following her death under mysterious circumstances, Carmen and Grace’s lives are thrown into chaos. Grace has grand plans to expand the business whilst Carmen, now pregnant wants to build a new life before the baby arrives.

It’s easy to become really invested in these characters and their journey. It’s a compelling book of sisterhood and the power of friendships.
Thank you to NetGalley and Head of Zeus, Apollo for the opportunity to read and review this riveting read.

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What a brilliant, engaging read. I loved the writing style and became immediately invested in this epic saga.
Carmen and Grace are poor Latino girls living in rough New York. The book graphically describes their lives as ‘ daughters’ of Dona Durka under whose wing they flourish in the murky underworld of drugs, but also experience love, belonging and education. When Dona dies things take a huge turn and they must navigate the fallout.
A great tale of life, love and loyalties.
“You can be standing right where you started and be someone completely different”

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“It is your very brokenness that will allow you to give light to others”

The book follows the story of two childhood friends, Carmen and Grace, who grew up in the Bronx: two lost girls looking for a way out of their bleak circumstances, and they find solace in each other's company. The narration alternates between Carmen’s and Grace’s perspectives, and it follows a non-linear structure.

Melissa Coss Aquino weaves a masterful tale, “Carmen, and Grace" is an engaging and powerful book that delves into complex themes and characters, with an incredibly fresh viewpoint. This is not just a story of crime and betrayal, but one of found family and the true meaning of motherhood.

Grace meets Toro, the son of Doña Durka, a Puerto Rican Mafia boss, and her life, as well as Carmen’s, takes a sharp turn. Durka takes Grace under her wing, treating her like an adopted daughter and teaching her the ways of the family business. Grace starts building her own sisterhood, once referred to as “Miss Grace’s School for Lost Girls”, or the D.O.D. Daughters of Durga’ as she baptises them. Despite Durka's cancer diagnosis, Grace's future looks bright as she is poised to inherit the empire. When Durka dies under mysterious circumstances, the battle for control of the family business erupts into a full-blown war. Grace must navigate treacherous waters as she fights to hold onto her power and protect the sisterhood, all the while knowing that one misstep could lead to their downfall. So, what now that Carmen has become pregnant?

“there were thousands of stories like mine in there’ says Carmen “and some of us really did know how to tell them; we had just never bothered to write them down because no one had asked, and no one cared’. Well, I cared very much. This book is a must-read.

Looking forward to reading more Aquino's books.

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