i only recently stumbled upon the beneath series
the series kicks off with beneath this mask. charlotte is a girl on the run from her past and simon is simply swoon-worthy. he falls for charlie no questions asked. he knows she's hiding things but he goes out of his way to prove that he'll do anything for her. all he wants is for her to trust him, but she is so hurt by her past, so scared of the secrets she is hiding that the trust doesn't come easily. often it's the guys in romance novels who are unsure about the relationship, who aren't 100% committed because of #randomtrope but here the convention is turned on its head. simon is all-in from the get-go. charlie is the one who must learn that what she shares with him is something real and true. and seeing this develop is oh so wonderful.
from there the series delves into the story of constantine and vanessa, charlie's boss and simon's childhood friend, respectively. beneath this ink is good, not as good as beneath this mask, but that's okay. it's hard to top simon as a hero. con has a hardscrabble past and he hasn't given up on the idea of avenging his demons. vanessa has always been the girl too good for him, the princess in the ivory tower. except both of them have plenty of misconceptions about each other, and as they learn to trust in each other, to trust their feelings, to trust the heat and chemistry between them, they learn what it is to love. and they overcome what their lives throw at them and find peace with each other. one of the best things about this book though is meeting lucas titan. he is kind of the villain, but even in this book you can see that he is complicated. and seeing as how i love a good bad boy, you know he's going to be my favorite. except he isn't the hero of the next book, and that was kind of a let down.
lorde and elle headline beneath these chains, the third installment in the series. lorde is con's brother. and elle is vanessa's best friend. lorde has an even more hardscrabble past than con did, and elle has her own family trauma, but really from the get-go these two characters were aware of being in a relationship and loving each other through all their difficulties. there is some mystery going on here, and we are introduced to rix, a local gang leader, who has a more prominent role in a future book. but i think my problem with beneath these chains is that the stakes never felt too high, these characters were never in danger of losing anything or even themselves. and that's fine, but it takes something away from the intensity i guess.
the fourth book in the series, beneath these scars, is about yve and lucas. other than simon and charlotte, these two were my absolute favorites. did i occasionally wish yve weren't so intent on being independent, yes. but at the same time, given her past experience with a domineering man. given the assumptions she made about why lucas was even with her. it all makes sense. but like simon, lucas is all in from the moment he catches sight of yve. he doesn't always admit it, but everything he does is for her from that moment forward. even when he is being an absolute ass, you just love him. or at least i did. lucas and yve are like oil and water from the get-go, but that kind of chemistry just proves to be explosive. and there is so much heat between these two characters. i just loved them.
the latest novel in the series is beneath these lies, and it was not my favorite. the author doesn't seem to want too much given away about who the leads are for this novel, though i suppose it's the male lead in question and not so much the female lead. the problem is, i wanted the other guy to be the lead. i liked him so much better than the guy who wins out. and part of the issue is that the secret at issue isn't really all that surprising. like i suspected it from the previous novel, but to keep the secret viable and to make it a surprise it means that while we get to know valentina well, even though we were only introduced to her briefly in beneath these scars as she and yve share a violent episode in their past, we don't really get to know the main character really. one of the reasons i liked the other guy better was because he'd made enough appearances in the previous novels to be someone i wanted to root for. so now i am dying for the next book in the series because i hope it is about him.