What I’m most passionate about in my reading of romance now is diversity. I actively search stories that highlight and reflect the diversity in the world — ethnic, social, sexual, physical, etc. And one of the romance series that explores this diversity in a most profound and engaging manner is the Bend or Break series by Amy Jo Cousins.
This is a series of four novels so far, with another full-length novel and a sequel novella coming out soon. They are mostly m/m romances, although the third book, The Girl Next Door, features a m/f couple though the woman is actually bisexual (and there is a super hot m/f/m threesome as well) , so the series can be summed up as diverse queer romance.
It all begins with Tom and Reese in Off Campus — a New Adult college romance that explores serious social issues. Tom’s dad is in prison after committing a Ponzi scheme, so Tom’s is a fall-from-grace situation, and now he’s struggling to stay in college. This story also explores the consequences of being a victim of sexual assault (Reese) and how it affects and changes a person. At the same time it’s a story of self-discovery (Tom is coming to understand that he actually likes both girls and guys) and coming out. One of the main strengths of the series is the way Amy Jo portrays so realistically young, college-age people, with all the confusion and urgency and exuberance of youth. The characters make mistakes, there is miscommunication and some wrong and hasty assumptions made, yet I find them fitting to the young age of the boys and part of their journey into adulthood.