I love hurt-comfort stories. I recently led a panel at Euro Pride Con about the appeal of the underdog character. I get more emotionally involved when a character has some difficult personal challenges to overcome such as a disability, homelessness, abuse, or other trauma in their past. I get very invested in seeing this type of character find love and get their HEA.
Some of my favorite books in the m/m genre that fit this theme are "Ethan, Who Loved Carter" by Ryan Loveless, "Blind Faith" by N.R. Walker, and "Love Comes Silently" by Andrew Grey. I've also written my share of books with an underdog hero including "The Mating of Michael", "Falling Down", and "Tender Mercies."
I just read "Love Me Whole" by Nicky James and it goes into the top tier of my favorite hurt-comfort slash underdog love stories. In this book, the love interest, Oryn, suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder, or multiple personalities. This was presumably caused by horrific childhood trauma. Wisely, Nicky doesn't get into spelling out what that was, instead focusing on the "here and now" -- Oryn, as a young man, trying to navigate his life when he often loses time to these other personalities and has very little control over his world. Vaughn is the love interest, a man who befriends Oryn after they meet in a college class. He falls for Oryn despite the challenge of being in a relationship with someone who can disappear in the blink of an eye.
I loved this book. Not only was it highly readable and addictive, it was also fascinating. I learned a lot of things about DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) that I didn't know before. I especially loved the way the Vaughn had to navigate, not only his relationship with Oryn, but with each of the other personalities that resided within Oryn as well, including one who was very much a "straight dude bro" and another that was a child. Vaughn had to respect each personality as a separate individual, win them over, and earn their trust. And his relationship with the "main" personality, Oryn, had to be taken extremely slowly due to Oryn's tendency to trigger when Vaughn pushed too far too fast in a physical relationship.
This book was SO well done. I highly recommend this hurt-comfort story as one of the best. Cudos to Nicky James for managing a very, very difficult narrative and pulling it off 100%.