Tanked by Mia Hopkins
April 26, 2022, by Little Stone Press
Review by Melanie
To say that I was waiting with great anticipation for the third and final installment of Mia Hopkins’ Eastside Brewery series would be a bit of an understatement. It had been 3 years since book 2 had come out and after having read the final book, I can honestly say it was more than worth the wait.
Tanked is the story of the youngest Rosas brother, Angel Rosas. We only get the barest sighting of Angel at the end of the second book. He is an enigma, sent off to live with relatives when his family life falls apart and his two older brothers are sent off to prison.
When Tanked opens, Angel has reunited with his two older brothers, working for them in their brewery by day and boxing at night. The prologue introduces him to Deanna Delgado, who, if you’re familiar with the series, is a side character from the previous book, popping up as the caseworker for Eddie, the middle Rosas brother. I was so excited to learn that Deanna would be the FMC in this book. When she and Angel first meet in the prologue, Angel is 21 years old, struggling to find his place in the world and in his family’s business. They hook up and have a very hot one-night stand after which Deanna basically ghosts him.
Cut to the present day, 3 years later, when the world has ground to a screeching halt due to a global pandemic (yes this is a book where the pandemic exists, masks and vaccines are mentioned and familiar characters in the series have died from covid) and Angel and Deanna cross paths again while getting their boosters.
First of all, let’s address the pandemic – the book is realistic about it. Families are hurting, businesses, including the family owned brewery started by Sal and Eddie, and Vanessa, are struggling. One of the things I loved about the book is how real the struggle was. I’m not sure everyone wants to read a romance novel that includes the pandemic but for me, the story works because the series and these characters have always been about surviving and persevering even in the most trying of times.
Younger brother Angel, still struggling to find his place in his family’s business is immediately drawn to Deanna and when he finally sees her again after being ghosted 3 years prior, he wastes no time in making his move. Deanna, who is older than Angel by 7 years, is a little bit hesitant but finally gives in, unable to resist the lure he presents.
Let me just say, this entire series has some top-tier sex scenes and this one is no different. Those Rosas brothers are not playing around in the bedroom (or the bathroom or the car or Deanna’s father’s furniture store or even via an extremely steamy bout of phone sex). But beyond the steam, there is a real emotional connection between Angel and Deanna, one that takes root because both of them are trying to find their place in this world.
Deanna, newly unemployed and dealing with toxic family relationships finds safety and comfort in Angel as well as incredibly hot sex. And Angel, forever overlooked as the youngest Rosas brother, the one who escaped the gang life and the prison stint, finds in Deanna a person who actually sees him and believes in him.
And the heart of the story is not just the romance blooming between Angel and Deanna but the community they live in, the one they serve, and their family. I don’t often cry at books but I found myself tearing up at the end because it was so hopeful and healing, even while dealing with topics that we all need an escape from.
If Sal’s story in Thirsty was about redemption and Eddie’s story in Trashed was about rebirth, then Angel’s story in Tanked is about revival. A moving, poignant look at the struggles we all face as human beings and the way we survive and persevere. Tanked doesn’t take the easy way out – there is darkness and death, grief and healing, and ultimately, love and hope to sustain them through all the bad.
Towards the end of the book, Angel summarizes that he’s not the hero in his family’s story, that particular label is reserved for his brothers.
I’m not your hero.
A hero is my brother Sal, who brought our family into the light. A hero is my brother Eddie, who broke our ties with the past so that we could move forward.
But it’s really Deanna who sees him for exactly who he is, who helps him find his place, both with her and within his family.
And all at once, I see him, the survivor and the fighter. The lover and the storyteller.
Finally here – finally home.
Needless to say, I absolutely adored this book (and this whole series). I can’t recommend it enough.
Content notes: pandemic world, side character death (some due to covid), on page covid diagnosis, off page abusive ex-boyfriend in the past, abusive family, violence;