Series Review: Five Boroughs, books 1-2 by Santino Hassell

Series Review: Five Boroughs, books 1-2 by Santino HassellSutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell
Series: Five Boroughs #1
Published by Dreamspinner Press on July 31, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 264
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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Goodreads
four-half-stars

Michael Rodriguez and Nunzio Medici have been friends for two decades. From escaping their dysfunctional families in the working-class neighborhood of South Jamaica, Queens to teaching in one of the city’s most queer friendly schools in Brooklyn, the two men have shared everything. Or so they thought until a sweltering night of dancing leads to an unexpected encounter that forever changes their friendship.

Now, casual touches and lingering looks are packed with sexual tension, and Michael can’t forget the feel of his best friend’s hands on him. Once problems rear up at work and home, Michael finds himself seeking constant escape in the effortless intimacy and mind-blowing sex he has with Nunzio. But things don’t stay easy for long.

When Michael’s world begins to crumble in a sea of tragedy and complications, he knows he has to make a choice: find solace in a path of self-destruction or accept the love of the man who has been by his side for twenty years.

Hassell’s books have been on my TBR since Dahlia read and shouted lovingly about how amazing and hot they were. Obviously, I listen to Dahlia. I even bought the first one, because hello. (Sidebar: These are also my absolute favorite ab covers. They’re simple and reserved and kinda classy while still being like heyo get ya sexy times here.) The Dahlia hypetrain was absolutely accurate about the awesomeness of Hassell. Sutphin Boulevard was absolutely unputdownable from that remarkable first chapter.

This book. THIS BOOK. The first chapter opens with best friends Michael and Nunzio getting ready for a night out. Some background: they’ve been friends since childhood, hook up with lots of people but never each other, and are both teachers at the same school. They go out cruising, and Michael pulls a cute blond guy, who ends up coming home with them both. They proceed to have a massively hot threesome from which I’m still trying to recover tbh.

Though typically I’m hit or miss on friends to lovers romances, this is just the sort that I absolutely love. The threesome is the moment where everything changes. I’m all about character arcs and watching those feelings shift, and damn was that a fun way for things to shift. Nunzio and Michael have such an amazing friendship, and they’re absolute fire when they hook up. Like, hot damn, read this in the winter or turn the A.C. up because wow.

Sutphin Boulevard does get darker than I typically like in my romances, but I didn’t mind, aside from the fact that it emotionally destroyed me a little bit. Michael’s dealing with some serious family issues as his wayward shit of a dad comes home to die of cirrhosis. He puts way too much pressure on himself to keep the tensions minimized between his father and little brother, Raymond. His character arc is life-ruining but also just really fucking good. Nunzio has a bit less of a character arc, because it’s not his POV, but he grows emotionally and works through issues with his career.

Sutphin Boulevard is just the kind of romance that I love. The ship has mad chemistry, the sex scenes are ridiculously amazing, and both characters and the supporting cast are well-developed with strong emotional arcs. God, this book was just so fucking good.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

Series Review: Five Boroughs, books 1-2 by Santino HassellSunset Park by Santino Hassell
Series: Five Boroughs #2
Published by Dreamspinner Press on December 11, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 230
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
Goodreads
four-stars

Raymond Rodriguez's days of shoving responsibility to the wayside are over. His older brother wants to live with his boyfriend so Raymond has to get his act together and find a place of his own. But when out-and-proud David Butler offers to be his roommate, Raymond agrees for reasons other than needing a place to crash.

David is Raymond’s opposite in almost every way—he’s Connecticut prim and proper while Raymond is a sarcastic longshoreman from Queens—but their friendship is solid. Their closeness surprises everyone as does their not-so-playful flirtation since Raymond has always kept his bicurious side a secret.

Once they’re under the same roof, flirting turns physical, and soon their easy camaraderie is in danger of being lost to frustrating sexual tension and the stark cultural differences that set them apart. Now Raymond not only has to commit to his new independence—he has to commit to his feelings for David or risk losing him for good.

Even thought I was supposed to be reading a whole bunch of other stuff, I absolutely cheated my schedule and launched immediately into Sunset Park. Listen, I am a person of intense and strange principles which include following my schedule with anal-retentive zeal, but SHIPS, guys. It’s not my fault. I should not be held accountable for this. Anyway, it’s hard to regret a damn thing when Sunset Park was also really damn good, albeit not quite as perfect as Sutphin Boulevard.

Raymond, Michael’s little brother, and David, the three-way participant and surprise coworker from book one, have become close friends. David’s flirty and cuddly, and Raymond goes along with it, but everyone thinks it’s all just a joke. Except for Raymond, who has always known he was bi-curious, and who is really questioning his sexuality the more time he spends around David. Also, he accidentally walked in on his brother and Nunzio (they were in the living room, so it’s not like he was intentionally creeping), and he’s feeling pretty on board for trying out the dude side.

David has it bad for Raymond, so he offers to help Ray experiment, even though he’s terrified Ray will go use what he learns on other guys. While also being terrified he’ll just go back to girls. David, for all that he’s the most overtly cuddly of the guys and the least stereotypically masculine, is the one with the biggest fear of commitment. What I really liked about their dynamic is that it wasn’t Ray who was freaking out about his sexuality but David freaking out that Ray might be freaking out (which is the sort of absurd over-thinking anxiety spiral I find very relatable).

I really, really like this ship, and I absolutely love romances where someone (or two someones) are questioning their sexuality because the feelings are so intense. However, I was annoyed by how long the jealousy thing with David’s ex Caleb continued. It’s totally a realistic dynamic how David feels torn between the guy he finds safe but boring and the guy he’s completely into but afraid will break his heart, but it went on for so long, and I would have liked to see David’s emotional arc settled in a less dramatic way. That’s what nudged the rating down just a wee bit, but I still absolutely am into this book. I’d also like to see a bit more of them actually together, because I don’t have much of a sense of how well they’ll actually work as a couple. Still, I’m rooting for these two.

Ray’s also got a really solid character arc. He’s always been the baby of the family and not expected by anyone to amount to anything. Now that the life insurance from his mother’s death is drying up, he has to get a job and pay rent (since Michael moved in with Nunzio and rented their mom’s place, leaving Ray to get an apartment with David). Ray has no idea what he wants to do, and he has to learn a lot of patience and smoke a bit less pot so he can figure out what he actually wants. It is absolutely relatable for basically every milennial (even if it’s not your arc, you absolutely no one person or twelve who went through something similar).

I know I should go read something else, but I’m off to dive headfirst into First and First and not look back.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

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