Hi Katalina and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Ben and Beatriz!
Hey, Harlequin Junkies!!
Please summarize the book for the readers here:
Son of Trump voters falls for first-generation Latinx immigrant and chaos ensues!
Please share your favorite line(s) or quote from this book:
1. “I didn’t think it was possible to love Ben because of where he came from, and he felt the same way about me. But that’s because we mistook where we’re from for who we are.” (but this might be a spoiler)
2. “This man is soft in every way that matters and was bullied until he only recognized himself as hard.”
3. “If you quote Jack Kerouac, I swear to god I will dump my beer over your head. At least go for Ginsburg, he was less of a twat.”
Please share a few Fun facts about this book…
This is a playlist I made that I listened to (and edited) as I revised the book. The songs correlate to either specific plot points in the book, or feelings the characters have. So if I was stuck on a scene, or just feeling tired and needed a boost, I would listen to the song associated with that scene or character and it would help me out of my slump. The song list order more or less mirrors the plot of the book. I also tried to include mostly songs written before or during the year 2017 since that’s the year the book takes place!
1. Don’t Blame Me – Taylor Swift
2. She’s God You High – Mumm-Ra
3. I Think There’s Something You Should Know – The 1975
4. I Think He Knows – Taylor Swift
5. Shape of You (Latin Remix) [feat. Zion & Lennox] – Ed Sheeran
6. Delicate – Taylor Swift
7. There’s Nothin’ Holding Me Back – Shawn Mendes
8. It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You) – The 1975
9. Dancing With Our Hands Tied – Taylor Swift
10. Bad Liar – Selena Gomez
11. If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know) [Edit] – The 1975
12. Vagabond – Wolfmother
13. Shut Up And Dance – WALK THE MOON
What first attracts your Hero to the Heroine and vice versa?
Ben is first attracted to Beatriz because of her self-assuredness and intellect. Their first conversation is a sparring over Jane Austen and the Beats which Ben fully expects to “win” (because, as a rich white guy, he’s used to winning everything), but instead Beatriz stops him in his tracks and makes it clear that she will not back down to him. And Beatriz is attracted to him because he’s hot and because the fact that she can match him makes him want her.
Did any scene have you blushing, crying or laughing while writing it? And Why?
There’s a letter Ben writes to Beatriz at the end of the book that always makes me tear up a little when I read it, because of the journey Ben has been on and how genuinely he means what he says. The line that always gets me in that letter is “I guess I feel like we’re two halves from Plato’s Symposium–like I’ve been walking around half-complete, not understanding why life felt so inadequate until I realized it was because you weren’t in it.” I think this line is not only DEEPLY romantic in sentiment, but also in the way Ben expresses himself. He and Beatriz bonded over their love of literature, so by referencing Plato in a love letter, he’s using the language they only use for each other to tell her how he feels. UGH IT JUST GIVES ME ALL THE FEEEEEEEEEELS.
(Here is the entire letter, however it is a rather big spoiler as it is the catalyst for what gets them back together in the end. Whether or not you want to include it is up to you!)
When we fought last night, I felt like the world was ending. It felt worse than every time I’ve freaked out. And I couldn’t sleep until we were okay again because whenever I closed my eyes, I just saw the look on your face. I’ve hurt people before, and a lot of the time I didn’t care. But seeing that I’d hurt you was different because the way I feel about you is different. I guess I feel like we’re two halves from Plato’s Symposium—like I’ve been walking around half-complete, not understanding why life felt so inadequate until I realized it was because you weren’t in it.
And I don’t know why I would feel that way if I wasn’t starting to love you.
I honestly have no idea because frankly, before we started doing this I didn’t think love was real. But it wasn’t until you kissed me five days ago that I finally understood Jane Austen. That ‘you must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you’ stopped feeling like the ramblings of a thirsty prick and felt like the words I’d been searching for since you first walked into my life.
I just want you. All of you. Forever, maybe.
Readers should read this book….
I think my book is unique in that it tackles heavy topics in a way that feels light but still giving those topics all the weight they deserve. It’s kind of like the TV Show The Good Place in that it tackles big topics in a humorous and approachable way, and it’s up to the reader/viewer to decide how deep they want to go. If you want to read B&B because you want a fun escapist rom-com, you can! But if you’re looking for something that uses romance to explore the issues of today (racism, classism, toxic masculinity) you can do that as well. But it’s up to you to decide. I hope I wrote a book that makes the reader feel empowered.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have in the works?
No upcoming releases at the moment! But I do have a couple new projects brewing….
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: A Print copy of BEN AND BEATRIZ by Katalina Gamarra
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: Do you believe in second-chance romances? Or should people get it right on the first try?
Excerpt from Ben and Beatriz:
This is the excerpt I’ve been reading at my book events. Read to the end for a little bonus…
Beatriz doesn’t reappear until after dinner. Not that I’m looking for her. John was just an asshole, and I feel like I should apologize. I try to push my conversation with Meg out of my mind because she’s wrong—if I ever had an aneurism and actually wanted a girlfriend, Beatriz would be the worst possible choice.
She wanders into the den close to ten o’clock. Claudio and I are playing Super Smash Bros. while everyone else watches a movie. She’s wearing a bralette and a sleeveless shirt that says Dead Inside. Her jean jacket is covered with pins of vaginas that say things like Smash the Patriarchy, and Defend Roe V. Wade where the V is a woman’s spread legs.
Yeah. This nightmare socialist is definitely the girl for me.
“I assume you guys have already eaten?” Beatriz says.
I nod, trying to catch her eye. Claudio beats me by knocking me off the edge of the map.
“Yeaaaah!” Claudio drops the controller and pumps his fists in the air. “Babe, I did it!” He calls, running into the theater toward Hero’s laughter. Leaving Beatriz alone with me.
“So…” I slide my hands into my pockets as I stand up. “Um…are you hungry? It’s like nine thirty, right?”
“Nine forty-five,” says Beatriz, like I should feel bad for not guessing the exact time.
Usually, I would fire something back, but Beatriz looks…so disheveled. Like she spent all day looking out a foggy window for someone who’ll never come. It’s a look I recognize.
“Well, is there food anywhere?” Beatriz asks, starting toward the stairs. “Or if you give me the name of some take-out places, I can order something.”
“I could make you some food,” I say, following her.
She turns and looks at me in surprise. “You cook?”
“You sound shocked.”
“I mean, you didn’t know where the laundry room was in your own house.”
“Look, it’s not my fault my parents never made me do laundry,” I snap, unable to stop myself. “What kind of person asks their parents for extra chores?”
Beatriz doesn’t say anything, and it makes me uneasy. We’re not friends, so our banter is the only barometer I have to indicate that she’s okay. I don’t care that much if she is or not, but after everything she did for Meg and me last night, I feel like I owe her.
“Are you waiting for me to apologize?”
“I’m just hungry.” Beatriz sounds so defeated that I instantly feel bad.
Neither of us say anything else until we reach the kitchen.
“What are you in the mood for?” I ask, opening the fridge and scanning the interior.
Beatriz sits at the marble island, pulling at her fingers the same way she did last night when telling me about Meg. “Whatever,” she says. “I don’t really know what you can make.”
“I could make you mac and cheese.” I open the cheese drawer to make sure there’s enough.
“I mean, I can make a box of Annie’s,” says Beatriz derisively. “That’s not really cooking.”
I let out a breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding—the snark is back.
“No, like from scratch.” I take out the cheddar, pecorino, Havarti and gruyere.
Beatriz is quiet. I turn to see her gaping at me.
“Yeah.” I pull a cookbook out from under the counter, opening it to the well-worn mac and cheese recipe. “You wanna help?”
There’s a pause. “Sure.”
She slides off her stool and drags her feet across the floor as she walks toward me.
“Why aren’t you being an asshole?” she asks, still tugging at her fingers.
I pull the cheese grater from a cupboard and shrug. “You helped me out last night. Plus, my brother was a dick to you, and people need food.”
“You think John was a dick to me?”
“I mean, yeah,” I say, unwrapping the cheddar. “It was pretty obvious, wasn’t it?” Part of me is asking because if another person had noticed, it would mean I didn’t make it up. Whenever I’ve called my family out on shit like this, they’ve made it clear that I’m “imagining things,” or “being uptight,” or “not getting the joke.” And since Trump’s win, certain things have become uncomfortably clear.
“It was obvious to me,” Beatriz says quietly. “I just didn’t know you…” She doesn’t finish her sentence.
“I did,” I mumble. Our gazes meet. Beatriz’s eyes are so deep, I could drown. I’m torn between wanting to kiss her and ask her more questions. But before I can decide, she looks away.
“So you wanted my help?”
“Um, yeah.” I shake my head slightly, not knowing if I’m relieved or disappointed that the moment’s gone. “I’ll get the ingredients out, and you can measure them.” I take some mixing bowls down from the cupboard, while I point to the drawer with the teaspoon measurements and pinch bowls.
“You don’t just go?” Beatriz asks, sounding surprised as she opens the drawer. “My uncle just starts the recipe and gets things as he goes.”
“No, I use the mise en place method.” I hoist myself onto the counter to reach a box of pasta that someone (John) has put in the space between the cupboards and the ceiling, where no one could reach it. I hop back down to find Beatriz looking expectedly at me. “What?”
“What the hell is mizon plus?”
“Mise en place.” I roll my eyes. “It’s French for ‘everything in its place.’” I set the pasta next to Beatriz and open the fridge.
“Christ, can you not be pretentious for like five minutes?”
I look up, surprised. “How is that pretentious? You asked what it meant, and I told you.”
“Because you’re spewing French cooking terms at me and correcting the way I say them when I have literally never taken French in my life and acting like I should just know what they mean.”
“Well, sorry, I was answering your question like a decent human being.” I grate the cheese a little harder than necessary while Beatriz shoves garlic into a garlic press.
“If you wanted to act like a decent human being, you wouldn’t correct my pronunciation of a term I’ve literally never heard in a language I don’t speak,” Beatriz mutters. “I just can’t deal with anyone else making me feel like shit today.”
I almost drop the grater. “Did that make you feel bad?”
“I mean, wasn’t that your goal?” she asks, not looking at me.
“No!” I turn to face her, and she just stares disbelievingly at me. “Alright, sometimes I do try to piss you off, but not just then. I was just trying to answer your question.” I thought I was filling a gap in her education, so the next time she hears the term, she doesn’t come off as uninformed.
“Well, you didn’t have to treat me like an uncultured noob. Nobody likes it when someone else makes them feel inferior.”
What the fuck is she talking about? “That made you feel inferior?” When Beatriz responds by glaring at me, I hold up my hands. “I’m genuinely asking! It’s just always what my parents did—they said it was important to respect foreign customs, and to correct other people if they were misinformed.”
Beatriz snorts. “Sure.”
“I believe you,” says Beatriz, her tone making it clear there’s a catch. “But I bet it was only important to respect the customs of people your parents actually respected.”
“Like making sure I’m informed about a French cooking term. But if I walked around saying that Molas are native to Argentina instead of Panama they wouldn’t give a shit.”
“I have no idea what those are.”
“Exactly.” But the passionate frustration I’m used to hearing in her voice when we argue is gone.
I watch Beatriz make a roux per the recipe’s instructions. I think about what she said and want her to be wrong—I hate feeling like someone’s gotten the best of me. It takes me back to being eleven and John is forcing me to do his calculus homework. “Come on, you skipped a grade, kid genius. How is this hard for you?”
But now that I think about it…Beatriz might be right. I think about how my parents never shut up about the differences between Metropolitan French and Aostan French, but every year for Meg’s birthday, they give her a kimono. Even though she’s Chinese. And every single year I’ve told them that (a) you’d have to be blind to think that metal AF Meg would be caught dead in a kimono, and (b) kimonos are Japanese. And every year, they say, “Oh, like there’s a difference.”
“You wanna listen to some music?” I ask as Beatriz pours milk into the pot.
We don’t really talk after that. Beatriz mumbles, “Thanks,” when I hand her a bowl, but she’s on her phone the whole time we eat. So I’m on mine too.
When she gruffly says good-night to me outside my room, I figured I wouldn’t see her again until the next day.
But I wake up abruptly hours later. At first, I have no idea why but then I hear a faint, muffled scream from next door—like someone screeching into a pillow.
“The fuck?” I sit up in bed, straining my ears to see if I can hear anything else. Silence.
Huh. Must have imagined it. I lie back down, but then I hear it again.
I look across the dark room to the wall I share with Beatriz. There’s nowhere else it could be coming from. I start to get out of bed but stop myself—if Beatriz is upset, I’m the last person she’ll want to see. Better to let Hero handle it.
But when I hear her scream twice more, I can’t just lie here. I slide out of bed, pulling a T-shirt on so I don’t show up at her door in just my underwear. After unplugging my phone from the wall, I turn on the flashlight and head next door.
No one answers when I knock. But Beatriz screams again. I slowly open the door and am greeted with a pitch-black room. I hold up my phone and see Beatriz in bed—thrashing around like someone is trying to strangle her.
I rush over and turn on the lamp on the bedside table. She’s alone, but her face is scrunched up and she’s rolling around like she’s being chased.
“Hey,” I say quietly. Beatriz keeps thrashing.
She jolts awake, her eyes widening when she sees me. “What the fuck are you—” She can’t finish, she’s breathing too heavily. Sweat is beaded across her forehead. I’ve never seen someone look so terrified.
“Are you okay?” I ask quietly.
“I’m fine, fuck off.”
“What?” she yells at me.
“Dude, you’re freaking me out!” I say in a hushed voice. “Like…do you need something?”
Beatriz stares at me with such loathing I think she’s going to scream at me again. Then her eyes slacken, and she does the last thing I expect.
She bursts into tears.
It’s intense—her shoulders shaking, her voice cracking. She’s breaking down with as much vigor as I’m sure I did at the hospital.
I tiptoe to the door and shut it so no one else wakes up. When I turn back to Beatriz, she’s sitting up—her back against the wall, hunched over like she’s trying to make herself as small as possible.
I just stand there. I have no fucking clue what do to. Beatriz strikes me as someone who never cries. The only person I’ve seen break down is Meg, and I can only comfort her because I know the alternative is losing her.
So I just stand there, watching Beatriz cover her eyes, like she’s ashamed.
Then I remember something she said at the hospital last night—that just letting someone break down while saying nothing is worse than straight up admitting your ineptitude.
“Fuck. I…wish I knew what to say.” I take a step toward her so she can hear me through her crying. “But—I don’t know how to—I don’t know what you ne—” But I can’t finish. Vulnerability makes my throat close up.
Beatriz looks out from behind her hands. Her eyes are swollen, snot running down her face. I spot a box of Kleenex on the dresser and toss it to her. She nods in thanks and blows her nose.
“I guess this is fair,” she says, her nose still clogged. “Now we’ve both seen each other ugly cry.”
“Ha ha, yeah, I guess.”
Beatriz raises her eyebrows at me. “Did you actually just say, ‘ha ha’?”
“Did you actually just cry out all the water from your body?”
“Yeah, I’m copying you, asshole.” Beatriz blows her nose again. She wipes her eyes and pulls her knees up to her chest, resting her chin on them.
I hesitate before sitting next to her on the bed—close enough so that she knows I’m here, but far enough away so she doesn’t feel like I’m trying to hook up with her. Especially since I did last night.
God, what is wrong with me? We slept together once, three years ago, and the first time I’m truly alone with her since, I try to get in her pants. I want to bolt from the room more than anything. But I can’t just leave her like this.
“Do you wanna—talk—” I have to practically choke the word out “—about it or something?”
She shakes her head. “I think if I tried to talk about it, I would cry even harder. And no offense, but you’re the absolute last person I want to lose my shit in front of.”
I don’t say anything. I suspected as much, but it still sucks to have someone say, I would rather be miserable than trust you.
“Fuck, are you upset now?” Beatriz asks, sounding somewhere between concerned and annoyed.
“No, I’m fine,” I say automatically.
“Your stony silence begs to differ.”
“Well, how do you expect me to—” I stop. I’m pissed, but Beatriz has a point. I’ve given her absolutely no reason to feel comfortable showing weakness in front of me. She has every right to tell me to fuck off when she wakes up from a nightmare to find me staring down at her. For all she knows, I’m only here to throw it back in her face the next time we fight. “I’m sorry.”
Beatriz’s mouth falls open.
“What?” I say defensively.
“I’m just shocked you know what an apology is.”
“Yeah, well, you’re upset I’m consoling you.”
For the first time since we’ve arrived at my house, Beatriz laughs.
“Shhh.” I make shushing motions with my hands, smiling a little. “It’s like four in the morning.”
“Is it?” Beatriz grabs her phone. “Oh fuck. I should go to bed.”
“Yeah, me too.”
I don’t get up, though. She meets my eyes. “What?”
“Will you…I mean, will you be able to go back to sleep?”
I expect her to scoff at me, but she shrugs. “Don’t know. Maybe. I get nightmares a lot, though. Don’t worry about it.”
I want to not worry about it, but that’s not really how I’m wired. I think about the air mattress stashed under my bed for the times Meg’s not quite drunk enough for the ER but isn’t sober enough to sleep by herself.
“If you want—I don’t know if it’d help—I have an air mattress, you can crash in my room if that—if you’d feel better.”
I swear Beatriz gets as close to blushing as her dark skin allows. “Thanks, but I’m fine.”
I walk into the hall. I’m about to shut her door when she says, “Hey.”
I poke my head back into her room. “Yeah?”
“Thanks for…coming to make sure I wasn’t dead or whatever.”
“I mean, having the cops turn my house into a crime scene wouldn’t have been the relaxing spring break I had in mind. Plus, everyone would probably think I’d murdered you for your irrational adoration of Marx.”
Beatriz rolls her eyes. “Night, asshole.”
I smile a little as I close the door. “Good night.”
If you want to cook along with Ben and Beatriz, here’s the recipe they use (although Ben improvises a little with the cheese selection): https://www.halfbakedharvest.com/cheese-makers-mac-cheese/
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
There’s nothing like falling for your worst enemy.
Beatriz Herrera is a fierce woman who will take you down with her quick wit and keen intellect. And after the results of the 2016 election worked hard to erase her identity as a queer biracial woman, she’d be right to. Especially if you come for her sweet BFF cousin, Hero. Beatriz would do anything for her, a loyalty that lands Beatriz precisely where she doesn’t want to be: spending a week at the ridiculous Cape Cod mansion of stupid-hot playboy Ben Montgomery. The same Ben Montgomery she definitely shouldn’t have hooked up with that one time… The things we do for family.
White and wealthy, Ben talks the talk and walks the walk of privilege, but deep down, he’s wrestling with the politics and expectations of a conservative family he can’t relate to. Though Beatriz’s caustic tongue drives him wild in the very best way, he’s the last person she’d want, because she has zero interest in compromising her identity. But as her and Ben’s assumptions begin to unravel and their hookups turn into something real, they start wondering if it’s still possible to hold space for one another and the inescapable love that unites them.
Meet the Author:
Katalina Gamarra is a former bookseller turned writer. When she realized she couldn’t make a living as a professional nerd, she turned to writing about them instead. BEN AND BEATRIZ is her first novel. A native Angelino, she currently lives in New England. Find her on TikTok and Instagram @katalina.gamarra.
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