Diego Hernandez grew up in a rough Los Angeles neighborhood with gangs and drugs that put him and his family at constant risk. Diego did his best to stay out of trouble, but his older brother got caught up with the wrong crowd, and seeking to protect his family, got in trouble and ended up disappearing. Hector’s loss still haunts Diego and he keeps his distance from the man that lured Hector into trouble.
Diego made it out of the neighborhood and into college, where he fell for his roommate Beck Zell. Diego has kept his feelings hidden all these years, worried that sharing how he feels will ruin things between them if Beck doesn’t feel the same. But Beck is sending signals that are starting to give Diego hope, and he is thinking now may be the time to open up to his friend.
Diego is keeping another secret from Beck, however, and that is the abilities he inherited from his grandmother. He grew up with her telling him tales of mysterious creatures and Diego has an ability to sense an otherworldliness in some people he meets. But he has suppressed that side of himself, believing his mother that it is all superstition and wanting to put it behind him.
When trouble comes to Diego and Beck’s door however, the secrets can’t stay hidden any more. It is clear that a lot more is going on with Beck’s job than he has been sharing with Diego. Someone is out to hurt the men and Diego has no idea why his past is now suddenly seeming to connect back to Beck and their current life. The guys must open up to one another about what is really going on and hope that they can escape from those that are hunting them.
So this story surprised me in that it wasn’t at all what I expected from the title and reading the blurb. I picked it up because I knew Crissy had really enjoyed the original version and it seemed like a good fit for Friends & Enemies to Lovers Week (though I was impartial in my review as I haven’t read her review in years). So I’ll start with the relationship end of things and say I liked both of these guys, but things started a little slow between them. The story is told from Diego’s POV and we are really pretty solely in his head throughout the book. The first portion is mostly about Diego’s experience growing up and what happened to his brother. Once the guys meet, much of their interaction is recounted for us by Diego, so we don’t see the relationship developing on page very much. Still, I could get sense of Diego’s feelings and the tension between his attraction to Beck and wanting to be cautious about revealing his feelings. I just wished we could see more of the romance grow between them, especially since the guys don’t get much time together before things all hit the fan.
What surprised me here is that this story is really a paranormal, and I totally didn’t see that coming. The blurb focuses on the two guys, and the drug lord from the past coming back to affect them in the future. There is nothing to indicate a paranormal element, so it kind of threw me when the stories and superstitions told to Diego by his grandmother ended up turning into him having real paranormal abilities and those otherworldly creatures actually being real. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, and I think the story goes in an interesting direction, it just was kind of a surprise. I do think the pacing could have been smoother as the ending has a bunch of revelations without much time to absorb them, but I think Anders takes this story interesting places and this book sets things up nicely for continuing on in the series.
I think my biggest issue here was struggling with some editorial problems. First off, I ran into some typos and grammar errors. It was mostly the wrong words being use (has versus as, for example), things that spell check would miss. There were also some continuity things that were problematic. For example, Diego has a necklace his grandmother has given him. When he meets Beck, Diego reaches for the necklace because the stone is the color of Beck’s eyes, but he remembers “that he didn’t carry the stone Abuela gave him; he was afraid he would lose it on a run.” Then later, he is thinking about when his grandmother gave him the amulet and the book says “He never took it off, not even when he was free running,” which completely contradicts the earlier passage. Later on Diego mentions it again, and this time he is carrying it in his pocket. It was just a frustrating inconsistency for something that is such a key part of the story. Another example is in regards to the drug lord that they know as Cadillac Man. At one point in the story we are in Diego’s POV and he thinks of Cadillac Man by his real name. But then later, Diego is surprised when someone mentions Cadillac Man’s real name, as if he didn’t already know it or realize they were the same person. This wasn’t a consistency issue, but I also found it hard to believe that Diego supposedly was a successful gambler in college (presumably from his paranormal abilities) and won enough money to pay for college for himself and his four sisters, as well as to give his parents money to move. That is a crazy amount of money (five college tuitions is well into the hundreds of thousands), yet this is just mentioned in passing and then glossed right over. In particular, I am wondering how this poor kid even got money to start gambling, and how he suddenly comes into all these riches in a short time without drawing attention to himself in his super poor neighborhood. These aren’t major things, and maybe someone less picky wouldn’t notice them. But I couldn’t help but be thrown out of the story quite often and found myself jumping back and forth trying to follow some of these issues.
In the end I fell on this side of enjoying this story and the characters. I think Ander has pulled a lot of creative things into the book, and I think it is an interesting mix of paranormal and contemporary. There were a bunch of places where things didn’t come together as smoothly as I would have wanted. But I think for readers who enjoy a story with some darker themes and the mix of a light paranormal with their contemporary, this one may be worth checking out.
Note: This is the second edition of Ruby Red Booty Shorts and according to the publisher it has been “heavily revised/rewritten from the first version.” My review is of the new edition of the book, and the review Crissy wrote that I referenced above is from the original edition.