I want to talk to you about two series today. Fill your mug, pull up a chair, settle in for second.
These series challenged me as a reader. I've written and deleted a lot of explanations as to how they challenged me, and while it would be easy to say they're gritty or emotionally heavy, I don't think that actually does the trick to explain that these books are more. You know what I mean, right? Some books are simply more. More depth, more layers, more intensity--more of a challenge.
These books bring all of that more.
First, I want to talk about the Eastside Brewery seriesby Mia Hopkins. I know I've mentioned this series before but it deserves more attention. At first glance, I wouldn't usually pick up a book about a former convict struggling his way out of gang life in East Los Angeles and the young single mom working her way through school but I am so, so glad that I did.
Sal and Vanessa in Thirsty are written with such care, such nuance that you can't help but root for them all the way through the story. There is a beautiful undercurrent of softness in this book that is so compelling, even in the face of situations that we don't love for the couple. In this instance, we find ourselves with morally gray characters who came to be that way out of necessity and we understand it. We respect it, even, and that's a nice change of pace--at least for me--from the morally grays simply out for vengeance or power.
The series follows the Rosas brothers, each at a crossroads in their lives and trying to forge a path forward in a world where their options are limited. The way that these characters grow through each book and the series a whole is such a delight to read. I don't think there's anything better than stories where characters find peace and happiness and belonging, all while triumphing over the things (and people and places) that had held them back in the past.
Next up, the Filthy Rich series by Angelina M. Lopez. If there's one thing I know I will always find in Angelina M. Lopez's books, it's prickly, challenging female main characters who make us work to love them. They aren't sunshine and smiles, and they prefer it that way. Roxanne in Lush Money, she makes us work hard. This royalty/marriage of convenience/arranged baby story takes us a full inside-out and back again journey through the worlds of both Roxanne and Mateo.
There are a lot of things this series does incredibly well but chief among them is the ability to draw strong, powerful, complex female characters and slowly, slowly peel back the layers to show us their soft, vulnerable sides. While the other female leads in this series, Sofia and Cenobia, aren't quite as iron-jawed as Roxanne, they're both fierce and fiery. And the male main characters are the definition of swoony. Just wait until you get to Hate Crush, the royalty/fake dating/second chance story where you'll meet Aish. Or Roman in Serving Sin, the bodyguard story you didn't know you needed.
These books are all criminally underrated and deserve so much more attention. If you're not someone who doesn't usually pick up books with real, non-illustrated people on covers, push past that to check these books out.
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