Desert Isle Keeper
Earlier this year, while poking around in my TBR pile (it’s quite massive), I came across Mia Hopkins’ Thirsty, the first book in her Eastside Brewery series. I started reading it and was totally absorbed, cursing myself for not having read it sooner. In short order, I read book two, Trashed, and then to my delight, discovered that Tanked, book three was being released this spring. So it turned out to be a fortuitous initial choice to start the series this year as I didn’t have to wait long for the final installment. The series follows the romantic lives and life altering decisions made by the Rosas brothers, and Tanked sees the youngest, Angel, joining his brothers in their quest to make the Eastside Brewery popular and profitable.
Angel Rosas hasn’t followed the same path as his two older brothers Sal and Eddie. For one, he hasn’t been in jail. He didn’t join a gang, like they did, following in their father’s footsteps while living in L.A.. Instead, after the death of his mother and young sister in a car accident, he was sent off to to live with relatives in Salinas, supposedly to keep him on the straight and narrow. Now twenty-four, he’s been back for the three years, riding out the pandemic with his family, helping to keep his brothers’ brewery afloat. With no place of his own, he bunks in Sal’s house and unknown to them, participates in an underground illegal fight club. The one bright memory of late is the one night stand he had when he first arrived back in L.A., with Deanna Delgado, a patron at the brewery. When he runs into her again at a vaccination clinic, it’s as if fate is stepping in to remind them of how good they were together.
Deanna is an overworked, underpaid, perpetually tired social worker. Having been assigned as Eddie’s case worker when he got out of jail, she’s gotten to know the Rosas brothers, but after the night she spent with Angel, she’d never called him back. At that time, he’d been twenty-one to her twenty-eight and she just couldn’t see anything real happening between them, so she’d ghosted him. But with their new chance encounter, things look a little different. Twenty-four isn’t so young now. And she’s just found out that she’ll be laid off in a few weeks. So maybe it’s time to let off a little steam and forget about the world in Angel’s arms. But this time, can it lead to something more?
Hats off to the author for writing a third book in this series that is just as captivating as the first two! Angel’s story is different but no less compelling, and like everyone, the Rosas are dealing with the ebb and flow of the pandemic. I think this part of the plot is handled really well and very accurately; it’s no secret that minorities and disadvantaged communities have suffered more from Covid and its repercussions. Here, it’s deaths of relatives from the virus, managing pandemic rules for businesses–from going take-out only to vaccine cards to masking requirements–and everything in-between. While some authors have taken the pandemic completely out of their books (an equally valid choice), Ms. Hopkins works all the details, big and small, into the ongoing life of her characters.
Having not lived with his brothers for several years, Angel feels like he is disconnected from the life they are living even as he is literally right in it, handling daily jobs at the brewery. But they still see him as a younger brother and don’t take his suggestions seriously. In conversations with Deanna, he gets to voice his opinions and she makes him feel validated and helps him to stand up for himself better with them. In terms of his underground fighting, I think Deanna feels the same way I do. She doesn’t approve of it, she doesn’t like it, but she understands why he does it (it’s his way of feeling alive and fighting back, in a sense, against the oppression that is especially common due to his ethnicity). Both of them have family problems to handle, and part of the draw of this story is seeing the different kinds of family dynamics and the lifestyles lived in this part of Los Angeles. The worldbuilding is complex and authentic and is a big part of the overall feel and connection of the series.
I’d be remiss not to mention the sex, because whoo boy, it’s hawt! To say Angel worships Deanna’s body is an understatement – he takes his role as pleasure-giver very seriously. But that sex leads to a deeper connection, to sharing of desires, dreams and worries and soon it’s hard for either of them to contemplate life without the other. They balance each other really well.
There isn’t just a happy ending for this couple that the author must achieve, it’s also the resolving of some family conflicts and the ongoing success or failure of the brewery. This is all handled very well and keeps the reader entertained and invested in how everything will turn out. The whole series is going on my re-read shelf and Tanked is definitely a contender for my top ten list this year.
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I'm a biochemist and a married mother of two. Reading has been my hobby since grade school, and I've been a fan of the romance genre since I was a teenager. Sharing my love of good books by writing reviews is a recent passion of mine, but one which is richly rewarding.