After enjoying Angelina M. Lopez’s Lush Money, I started following her on social media. She’s talked for a while about wanting to set a romance with Mexican-American characters in southeast Kansas, where she is from, because so many people are surprised to learn there are Mexican American communities in small Mid-western towns. Her new series, which begins with After Hours of Milagro Street, does just that.
Alexandra “Alex” Torres is coming home to Freedom, Kansas after years of being the Best Bitch in Bartending in Chicago. Her grandmother, Loretta, is in the hospital after a fall, and Alex has a plan to save the family bar, Loretta’s, on Milagro Street. Professor Jeremiah Post has found a home renting a room above the bar. Loretta has taken him under her wing, and he also has a plan for the bar – to turn it into a museum focused on the history of Freedom’s Mexican American community, starting with the Traqueros who built the railroads after the Chinese Exclusion Act caused a labor shortage. Each suspects the other of using Loretta for personal gain. They start off with a literal bang when they meet in the middle of the night.
Alex is driven with an explosive temper and a huge (well earned) chip on her shoulder. Her relationship with her family is fractious enough that it’s not unreasonable to think she may not have their best interest at heart. Added to that, Alex is available to save the bar because she was filmed having a spectacular blow out with her boss and is now unemployed. Alex’s suspicions about the very white, clearly from money, Jeremiah are rooted in the history of white people appropriating the history and struggles of others. It’s only when a larger threat to both their plans is revealed that they work together. The attraction simmering between them grows as they come to like each other.
Jeremiah is much quieter. Lopez doesn’t try to make him match Alex in force of personality. While he is quiet, he is also smart and perceptive. He is much quicker to let go of the rivalry than Alex, once he realizes that yes, she really does have a plan that will modernize Loretta’s without gutting it.
After Hours on Milagro Street is another example of the micro trope where a man and woman are directly competing for something and the woman wins both the prize and the man’s love. I would like to see more of it.
Racism and family history play big roles in the internal and external conflicts. There are ghosts, both metaphorical and literal.
CW: on page and historical racism, parental neglect, alcoholic parent, misogyny, the intersection of capitalism and racism.
I received this as an advance reader copy from Carina Press and NetGalley. My opinions are my own and freely given.