Volcanos, Roses, and Manteles
by Monica Arredondo

"I was thinking about Carlos and me. I was thinking about him and his wife. I was thinking about his kids. I did this often."

An American ex-pat with south-of-the-border wanderlust does a bit of country hopping and winds up in love in Ecuador. Through a series of steamy encounters, lovelorn texts, and stolen calls on a cell phone ever depleting its limited store of monthly data usage, a passionate affair unfolds between two people in love with love and, as luck would have it, with each other. This setup may suggest the relations of young twenty-somethings sowing oats before settling into adult life, but, in fact, the story catches the lovers on the other side of youth. The narrator and protagonist is an adventurous sixty-year-old retiree when she meets and falls for Carlos, a married father. Carlos, for his part, has no intention of breaking up his family. Yet he has even less willingness to relinquish the great adulterous love into which he has fallen.

This central conundrum of the inconvenient, off-camera wife and children is a thorn in the side of this love affair's persuasiveness. While the fantasy of dipping into a vacation and winding up in the arms of an adoring lover is time-tested and appealing, the reality of drawing that lover away from a family softens the urgency to see these two crazy "kids" partner up for life. Still, romance for a spunky middle-ager makes for a refreshing approach to the traditional girl-meets-boy outing. Likewise, while the attraction between the lovers is undeniable and, at times, red hot, the narrator's love for Ecuador, its foods, sights, and people is equally passionate and, in some ways, even more persuasive than the core romance itself.

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