If you asked me last year what romance tropes I was fairly “meh” about, the list would have included sports romance and slow-burn. Reading Mariana Zapata has reminded me once again that it isn’t about the trope; it’s about the writing.

I started with The Wall of Winnipeg and Me on recommendations from an agent. Despite knowing nothing about American football, I was drawn right into the characters and fascinated by their struggles. The main character, Vanessa, hooked me, and I wanted to cheer when she took absolutely no more nonsense from Aiden. I loved the deep POV and slightly unreliable narrator, as Aiden’s motivations and inner self slowly unfolds from behind the curtain of Vanessa’s annoyance and assumptions. I love that Vanessa has her own dreams to pursue and defends them so strongly. I loved it so much I re-read it three times in as many months, and went hunting for more.

After devouring Zapata’s entire Kindle Unlimited catalog, I put her squarely among my favorite authors. I think they are all on my re-read list, but my top three are definitely:

1. The Wall of Winnipeg and Me
2. Under Locke
3. Lingus

With From Lukov with Love a close tie for third.

Dear Aaron was a really interesting take on the epistolary novel, as the MC exchanges emails with a soldier stationed overseas for the first half of the book. I’ve never really connected well with epistolary novels, but if you’re a fan of the style, this should resonate well.

You can see Zapata’s full catalog with descriptions and purchase links at https://www.marianazapata.com/books. Many of her books deal with sensitive subjects such as childhood and domestic abuse, so individuals with trauma histories should beware. Most or all are available as audiobooks.

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