Book Review by: Melody Charles
She isn’t the first author to make a name for herself in the explosive category of urban fiction, but Meesha Mink, AKA Niobia Bryant, established herself as a fictional force to be reckoned with ever since her first best-seller, Three Times a Lady, became a nationwide best-seller list in 2001. Since then, the prolific and popular writer has penned many romantic and commercial mainstream fiction favorites, including the collaborative Hoodwives series (The Hood Life, Shameless Hoodwives and Desperate Hoodwives) and Hustle Hard, the final book in her Real Wifeys trilogy.
The protagonist of HH, Sophie “Suga” Alvarez (the childhood friend of Luscious from book two’s Get Money with a surprising connection to Goldie, the main character of book one’s On The Grind), continues the tradition of embodying the fierce and fearless-type females that ‘ride-or-die’ for their loved ones, rep their men to the fullest and are about making as much paper as possible by any means necessary. As she asserts in the prologue, “the man I love doesn’t live within the law. Not slinging dope or gang-banging or some s*** like that; but nothing about his job is nine-to-five. Nothing about his hustle is safe or easy….I have fear that the wrong move on his part will lead up to the feds taking him from me or some n**** on the come-up taking his life. And then where will I be?”
Divided into three parts, the swiftly-paced HH follows “Suga,” her fiance Dane and their lives straddling the fence between legit and and illegal in Newark, NJ. A Senior Account Specialist by trade, Suga may enjoy the perks and the stacks of cash that Dane affords as the area’s top loan shark, but refuses to marry him and start a family until she sees that he’s serious about leaving the shady hustle behind.
With images of wild sex, unfiltered violence and persistent profanity on every other page, the characters and the consequences feel as authentic as the headlines inspiring Law & Order episodes or the mayhem that fuels reality shows like The First 48. With her altruistic outlook and heart of gold, the disgust one might feel for the greasy associates, shady co-workers or Suga’s fractured family ties melts away and readers actually find themselves rooting for her strides to stay above the fray, the narrow scrapes with the law and the eventual downfall of their fragile house of cards and the betrayals of trust in its wake.
Without revealing too many plot twists and turns, the 24-year-old Suga witnesses deaths firsthand, discovers a heartbreaking truth about her already-less-than-ideal dad, realizes how many knives have been perched in the backs of her and Dane and how his ‘protective’ shielding of the truth almost cost them everything. Is it pretty or poetic? No, but the details are so vividly rendered that it plays out like a mini-series in the imagination and keeps eyes widening, the lungs gasping and the pages turning up until the very end.
Not for the squeamish, sanctified or the super-sensitive, HH is a satisfying conclusion as well as a appetite builder for people who are newly-acquainted to Ms. Minks’ style of work and want to explore her previous series or stand-alone novels about ‘that life.’ Contemporary, cutting-edge and a fascinating slice of fiction that you will not soon forget.