Book Extract: Last Seen in Havana by Teresa Dovalpage

Please join me in welcoming Teresa Dovalpage to Novel Kicks and the blog tour for her novel, Last Seen in Havana.

A Cuban American woman searches for her long-lost mother and fights to restore a beautiful but crumbling Art Deco home in the heart of Havana in this moving, immersive new mystery, perfect for fans of Of Women and Salt.

In 2019, newly widowed baker Mercedes Spivey flies from Miami to her native Cuba to care for her ailing paternal grandmother. Mercedes’s life has been shaped by loss, beginning with the mysterious unsolved disappearance of her mother when Mercedes was a little girl. Returning to Cuba revives Mercedes’s hopes of finding her mother as she attempts to piece together the few scraps of information she has. Could her mother still be alive?

33 years earlier, an American college student with endless political optimism falls deliriously in love with a handsome Cuban soldier while on a spontaneous visit to the island. She decides to stay permanently, but soon discovers that nothing is as it seems in Havana.

The two women’s stories proceed in parallel as Mercedes gets closer to discovering the truth about her mother, uncovering shocking family secrets in the process . . .


Teresa has shared an extract from Last Seen in Havana today. We hope you enjoy. 


*****beginning of extract*****


Short intro: This is how the novel starts. Mercedes’ mother, Tania, has been missing since Mercedes was three years old. As a girl, Mercedes waited in vain for her to return home. Now she is thirty years old, living in Miami, and has decided to try again to find her runaway mom.

The Ashen Hour

At the ashen hour, that peculiar time of the day when night hasn’t fallen yet but you can’t see the edge of things, when the whole world seems to have gone underwater, my mother sometimes came to me. It wasn’t a dream, for I kept my eyes open the whole time, nor a childhood fantasy. It was a betwixt and between state, a rip in the fabric of reality, the glimpse of a mirage.

I remember one evening when the house felt quieter and emptier than usual. The blue glare of the television was the only light in the living room. I tiptoed outside and sat in the backyard under a mango tree while Mamina, my grandmother, busied herself in the kitchen. She was making congrí—black beans and rice, cooked together, with cumin and tiny pieces of bacon. I smelled fried chicken too (fried in lard, of course!) and my mouth watered.

I was getting hungry but soon forgot about the food. My mother approached quietly, her feet not quite touching the gravel path. I looked up and knew instantly that it was her, though I could not remember her face.


She knelt by my side and caressed my hair. A smell of roses engulfed me. I waited for her to explain those years of absence, to apologize and say that she loved me. But Mamina’s voice always broke the spell.

“Merceditas, where are you?”

My mother never came. The ghost of my nine-year-old self stayed under the tree, waiting for her.


*****end of extract*****



About Teresa Dovalpage –

Writer, translator and college professor, Teresa Dovalpage is a Cuban transplant firmly rooted in New Mexico.

She is the author of twelve novels, among them the Havana Mystery series, three short story collections and four theater plays.

She lives with her husband, one dog and too many barn cats.

For more information about Teresa and her books, visit her blog – Click here for English version. Click here for Spanish version. 

Last Seen in Havana is book four of the Havana Mysteries and was released by Soho Crime on 6th February 2024. Click here to buy on Amazon UK, Amazon US and Waterstones


Win a hardcover copy of Last Seen in Havana. 

Here’s your chance to win a hardcover copy of Last Seen in Havana.

This one is open to USA only.

All you have to do is enter via this link.


*Terms and Conditions –

USA entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above. 

The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner.

Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information.

This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.


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I’m Laura. I started Novel Kicks in 2009. I wanted a place to post my writing as well as give other writers like me the opportunity to do the same. There is also a monthly book club, a writing room which features writing prompts, book reviews, competitions, author interviews and guest posts.

I grew up by the sea (my favourite place in the world) and I currently live in Hampshire. I am married to Chris, have a cat named Buddy and I would love to be a writer. I’m trying to write the novel I’ve talked so much about writing if only I could stop pressing delete. I’ve loved writing since creative writing classes in primary school. I have always wanted to see my teacher Miss Sayers again and thank her for the encouragement. When not trying to write the novel or writing snippets of stories on anything I can get my hands on, I love reading, dancing like a loon and singing to myself very badly. My current obsession is Once Upon a Time and I would be happy to live with magic in the enchanted forest surrounded by all those wonderful stories provided that world also included Harry Potter. I love reading chick lit. contemporary fiction and novels with mystery.

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