Romance Books

#BookReview: “Casino Queen” by Cara Bertoia

Book Review graphic


Caroline Popov, alone, heartbroken, and deeply in debt ends up in glamorous Palm Springs, California where Native casinos have just opened, offering employment to thousands. She lands a job at the Palm Oasis Casino where she is mentored by the charismatic tribal chairman, John Tovar.

Embraced by casino culture, Caroline works her way up to casino manager of the Night Hawk, in the High Desert town of Joshua Tree. There, she is responsible for managing multicultural team members, satisfying the demands of often unique guests, and growing revenue while rooting out corruption.

In the process of rediscovering her inner strength, she learns, you have to gamble like your life depends on it. Because it often does.


Caroline Popov is promoted to the coveted position of general manager and sets out to bring the lonely, rundown Night Hawk casino into the 21st century. She has her work cut out for her, though, in keeping the casino’s profits up, the gamblers happy, and the employees honest—but not everyone is happy with the changes she’s made.

There are lots of secondary characters from various backgrounds and cultures, which added depth and realism. I appreciate that Ms. Bertoia was so inclusive. The dynamic between how the Native American-owned casino was operated and the way of life for the tribesmen working there was also interesting.

Since Ms. Bertoia used to work in a casino, this story has an authentic feel to it from how to count chips, how games are played and cheated at, the equipment used, how both gamblers’ and employees’ lives are ruined and improved, and all the other highs and lows that come from this high-stakes culture. Everything is perfectly detailed, so if you were ever interested in how a casino works, this book should cover it without sounding like a manual.

I don’t read mysteries often, but this was a fun, suspenseful story that kept me turning the pages.

4 Stars

— If you’ve read this book, I’d love to know what you think of it. Please comment below.