Advance Praise and Reviews
[…] this work on the Countess Merlin will be the definitive resource on the subject in English; if you have any interest in the woman or the era, it is a must-read.
San Diego Book Review – Review by Brett Peterson – July 23, 2015
Just as Cuba’s earliest female author, María de las Mercedes de Santa Cruz y Montalvo (often called La Belle Créole), enchanted 19th-century Europeans with lush descriptions of her homeland, García-Lapuerta captures the reader’s imagination with vivid details of Mercedes’s life in Cuba, Madrid, and Paris. […] García-Lapuerta’s beautifully written account of La Belle Créole illuminates lesser-known aspects of 19th-century transatlantic culture and the roles powerful women were able to play in it.
Publishers Weekly, Nonfiction Review – 6 June, 2014
The Condesa de Merlin was a bewitching figure, who lived through and recorded extraordinary, almost magical times. We’ve long lacked a well-researched biography of her extraordinary life; now, thankfully, we have one, rendered with care by Alina Garcia-Lapuerta.
John Paul Rathbone, author of The Sugar King of Havana: The Rise and Fall of Julio Lobo, Cuba’s Last Tycoon
A fascinating book about a charming personality who deserves to be remembered.
Hugh Thomas, award-winning author of numerous works including Cuba or the Pursuit of Freedom; The Slave Trade: The History of the Atlantic Slave Trade 1440–1870; and Conquest: Montezuma, Cortés and the Fall of Old Mexico.
La Belle Creole is an extraordinary tale of a beautiful warm-hearted woman born into the fabulous wealth of the 18/19th century Cuban aristocracy. Mercedes Santa Cruz y Montalvo, (later Countess Merlin) nevertheless found the strength to assert her independence and carve out her own place in the world. Escaping from a convent in Havana she braved war-torn Napoleonic Spain to re-invent herself as one of the great salonnières of Louis-Philippe’s Paris. Against the grain of her time she became a soprano acclaimed by Rossini, Liszt and Chopin and the author of books including one of the best accounts of contemporary Cuba, the classic Voyage to Havana.
In this meticulously researched fascinating book, Alina Garcia-Lapuerta not only introduces us to an inspiring heroine but shows us what biography at its best can do.
Jehanne Wake, author of the critically acclaimed Princess Louise Queen Victoria’s Unconventional Daughter and Sisters of Fortune: America’s Caton Sisters at Home and Abroad
If there is one book I look forward to reading in Autumn, it is La Belle Créole: The Cuban Countess Who Captivated Havana, Madrid, and Paris…. García-Lapuerta recounts the life of a fascinating women who epitomizes the rich cultural history of Cuba and its profound effect on Western Arts and Letters.
Charles Bane, Jr. Pushcart Prize nominated author of The Chapbook, Love Poems; creator of The Meaning Of Poetry series for The Gutenberg Project, and nominee as Poet Laureate of Florida.
Most of us recognize certain names throughout Latin American and U.S. Latino history – Simon Bolívar, César Chávez and Dolores Huerta, Roberto Clemente or Gabriel García Márquez, to name just a few. Then there is María de las Mercedes Santa Cruz y Montalvo. Never heard of her? Exactly. Author Alina García Lapuerta is on a quest to change that with her new book, La Belle Créole: The Cuban Countess Who Captivated Havana, Madrid and Paris, the first English-language biography of Cuba’s first female published author, a socialite and singer who became a big star in 19th-century Paris. Her notable life is also an immigrant success story that resonates with so many of us today, said the book’s author. […]
Read more here: How A 19th Century Cuban Immigrant Became A Countess And Author
Patricia Guadalupe – NBC News – 8 October, 2014
On a trip to Miami, while leafing through a beautifully illustrated book on Havana, Alina Garcia-Lapuerta encountered La Condesa de Merlin for the first time. She was surprised that, as a Cuban-American and a history buff, she had never heard of this Cuba-born Parisian countess, who was intriguingly described as the “Cuban Scheherazade.”
That was almost a decade ago, and the chance encounter in a shelf-lined room at Books & Books in Coral Gables sent Garcia-LaPuerta on a years-long search through archives, university libraries and several historic cities to uncover the tumultuous story of a woman who was provocative and well ahead of her time. […]
Read more here: Biography chronicles the life of Cuba’s first female published author
Ana Veciana-Suarez – The Miami Herald – 2 September, 2014
If a bit of fun is what you’re after, try Alina García-Lapuerta’s biography La Belle Créole: The Cuban Countess Who Captivated Havana, Madrid, and Paris or Ramiro Fernandez’s beautiful photography collection, Cuba Then: Rare and Classic Images from the Ramiro Fernandez Collection. La Belle Créole traces the life of Mercedes Santa Cruz y Montalvo, a beautiful socialite and talented soprano who devoted her life to music and philanthropy. While her artistic friendships and French marriage are legendary, she’s even more renowned as the first female Cuban writer, and García-Lapuerta mines the countess’s trove of memoirs, letters, and travelogues to create a stunning portrait of a bright and indomitable woman in Napoleonic Paris.
Read more here: Beyond the Headlines: How to Visit Cuba
Rhianna Walton – Powells Books Blog – 6 March, 2015
TV & Radio
Page Turner: La Belle Creole: The Countess Merlin
NBC 6 Miami Interview – 10 September, 2014
Let’s chat with Alina Garcia-Lapuerta, author of La Belle Creole
Interview with with Silvio Canto Jr on BlogTalkRadio
Interview with AMI Radio (Ana Maria Island Radio in Florida)
Interview at the 2014 Miami Book Fair International by Carole Kay Monaco of Travel Wise
Interview with Oline Eaton for New Books in Biography – 18 February, 2015
García-Lapuerta has done a tricky thing. She’s written a book about someone a lot of people will not have heard of, from a place to which a lot of Americans, at least, will not have been. And yet she makes both the Cuba of old and her heroine feel hauntingly familiar, breathtakingly real.
Read more here: New Books in Biography