Friday, March 9, 2018

Jen's Review: Thirsty

Remember, since this is a Royal Pick, come back on March 29th for a chance to win an ecopy of your own!

BONUS! Jen's giving away 5 copies of Thirsty next week when she interviews Mia. Be sure to check back! :)

Thirty by Mia Hopkins
Publisher: Loveswept (March 13, 2018)
Series: Eastside Brewery, 1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
1st POV

A gangster hiding from his past. A single mom fighting for her future. Can she show this bad boy the man he’s meant to be?

“Mia Hopkins is an imaginative author who doesn’t take the easy road to a formulaic book.”—USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog

My name is Salvador Rosas. Back in the barrio, my past is written on the walls: ESHB. Short for East Side Hollenbeck, my father’s gang—my gang. Hell, it’s a family tradition, one that sent both my brothers away. They used to call me “Ghost” because I haunted people’s dreams. Now I’ve got nothing going for me except a hipster gringo mentoring me in a new career. An ex-con making craft beer? No mames.

Still, people in this neighborhood look out for one another. That’s how I became Vanessa Velasco’s unwelcome tenant. Chiquita pero picosa. She’s little, but with curves so sweet they’re dangerous. I remember Vanessa from the old days, the straight-A student with big plans. Plans that were derailed by another kid stupid enough to think he was bulletproof. Now Vanessa knows better than to believe in empty promises. There’s fire in her . . . and if I touch her, I might get burned.

I’m trying everything I can to go straight. But when East Side Hollenbeck comes calling, I might have to risk it all to find out if there’s a future for Vanessa and me. Because she’s the only one who can quench my thirst for something real.

The Rosas brothers will return in Trashed!

Where to Buy*:
Kindle | NOOK | Kobo
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Jen's Review:

I loved Thirsty by Mia Hopkins so much, and I think this is a powerful novel about love and forgiveness. We talk about how love is powerfully redemptive---but romantic love isn’t the only or even the most important kind of love in a person’s life. Friendship, family, community, and just learning how to love yourself---those are just as important and vital. Thirsty is a novel that attends carefully to all of those facets in the life of our hero, Sal “Ghost” Rosas.

Thirsty is that rarity of rarities in romance, a first person point of view novel told only from the hero’s point of view. (I’m not going to say much about it now because there’s a pretty long discussion of it in my interview with Mia Hopkins that runs next week!) The novel starts shortly after Sal’s release from prison. He’s a young man, only 24, but he’s been in jail for a few years for grand theft auto. He’s back in his neighborhood, trying hard to make a new life for himself, which includes steering clear of the gang that he was essentially raised in---both his father and his brother were in the same gang. He’s working several jobs as a janitor to keep himself afloat and to save money for an apartment. His romantic interest is Vanessa, a girl from the neighborhood who he has known forever, but she seemed to be off limits when they were teenagers. Her family didn’t get too mixed up with the gang, but in the time that he was in prison, she got married, had a baby, and was widowed. She’s been working on classes to become an accountant, and she’s focused on making the best future for herself and her family.

There’s so many things I love about this book. I peeked at some reviews at NetGalley and Goodreads, and a common theme I see is that people called it a slow-starter. But I would argue that this book is character driven rather than plot driven. It does take a while for the romance between Sal and Vanessa to heat up, but that’s because we’re so fully immersed in his character as he tries to change his life. The fact that he’s focused on himself makes the journey of the book more believable and more poignant. The book isn’t selling the idea that the “love of a good woman” magically fixes everything because we can see how hard Sal has been working all along.

When Sal and Vanessa finally hook up, neither of them expects it to be serious. It’s a pleasant diversion. Vanessa is fierce, loyal, and determined. I loved her. Her strength of character begins to influence the way Sal sees the world. At one point, Sal confesses feeling trapped by his life in the gang, and his fear that he’ll be pulled back in.

“It’s not as easy as you think it is, Vanessa.” I say. 
She narrows her eyes at me. “It’s not as complicated as you want it to be, Sal.” [...] 
“What do you mean by that?” I whisper. I can hear my own heartbeat, pounding blood through my body.  
“I mean, “ she says quietly, “my whole life people have been trying to tell me what I am. A nerd. A good girl. An honor student. A slut. A whore. A failure. They were wrong each time. No one else is going to tell me who I am. Never again.”

These conversations are also important because Vanessa shows Sal how to stay and be a part of the community he loves. As a teacher, I’ve had conversations with my colleagues about how important it is for us to avoid “escape narratives.” White writers and white teachers often approach stories about gangs or about people who struggle with violence in their communities by promoting the idea the characters would be better off leaving those communities behind. White readers might hope that Sal and Vanessa will “get out” of their “bad neighborhood” without realizing that it’s fundamentally racist to assume that there’s nothing of value in their community; not to mention, our inability to face up to the open bigotry and hatred they’d face in white America. Mia Hopkins doesn’t fall into this trap with Thirsty. Sal wants to leave the gang, and he finds a promising new career when he realizes he has a talent for brewing beer; but Sal and Vanessa know they shouldn’t have to leave their family, friends, and neighborhood behind to find a better life.

As with all good redemption stories, Sal makes mistakes on his road to being the man he wants to be. I loved Sal and Vanessa’s journey to that HEA, and I was rooting for them the whole time. I know that “dark romance” is popular right now and everyone should read what they want; But I can’t tell you how powerful I found the redemptive power of family, neighborhood, and love described in Thirsty. It moved me in ways I can barely describe. Give me a million stories about people who hope, dream and fight for a better future with their loved ones; I can’t take any more grim stories about bleak, violent men clinging like hell to the dark.


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Jen received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley.

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Thanks for the review, Jen! I'm very much looking forward to this one myself.

And not JUST because of that cover . . . ;)

Don't forget to come back Monday for the interview and giveaway!

Have you read Mia Hopkins?


Until Next Time,

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