Series Review: Five Boroughs, Books 5-6

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Series Review: Five Boroughs, Books 5-6Concourse by Santino Hassell
Series: Five Boroughs #5
Published by Riptide Publishing on April 29, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 366
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
AmazonThe Book Depository
Goodreads
four-stars

Ashton Townsend is the most famous celebutante of Manhattan’s glitterati. The black sheep of his wealthy family, he’s known for his club appearances, Instagram account, and sex tape. Most people can’t imagine him wanting for anything, but Ashton yearns for friendship, respect, and the love of his best friend—amateur boxer Valdrin Leka.

Val’s relationship with Ashton is complicated. As the son of Ashton’s beloved nanny, Val has always bounced between resenting Ashton and regarding him as his best friend. And then there’s the sexual attraction between them that Val tries so hard to ignore.

When Ashton flees his glitzy lifestyle, he finds refuge with Val in the Bronx. Between Val’s training for an upcoming fight and dodging paparazzi, they succumb to their need for each other. But before they can figure out what it all means—and what they want to do about it—the world drags them out of their haven, revealing a secret Val has kept for years. Now, Ashton has to decide whether to once again envelop himself in his party-boy persona, or to trust in the only man who’s ever seen the real him.

Of all the full length novels, Concourse is lower on my list. This one certainly took the longest for me to get through, and it was one I shipped a bit less. All that said, Hassell always seems to work for me, even if I’m not as invested, because he does such a good job building the whole world.

Part of the disconnect with Concourse is that Ashton and Val are on the fringes of the friend group I’ve grown to know so well and love so much. While often I don’t really like couple cameos from earlier books in romance novels, I love seeing more of Hassell’s cast. I feel like part of their little family, even though I would absolutely not fit in with them. Ashton’s friends with a few of the people from Five Boroughs, and he’s showed up in scenes here and there, but not enough for me to really have any feelings about him. Val was completely new to me.

Hassell has a clear preference for friends to lovers scenarios, and this is another of those. Val has been in love with Ashton Townsend for ages. Being in love with the wealthy, self-destructive son of the man his mother worked for is a tricky spot for Val, especially when Ashton’s also his best friend. One of the best parts of the book is the handling of Val’s demisexuality.

Like a number of these, Concourse is hard to take at times. Ashton has very little self-worth, and most of the people in his life are using him. His Chuck Bass of a brother is trying to trade Ashton’s sexual favors to obtain a good deal for the family business, and Ashton doesn’t feel he deserves better treatment. The emotional journey of the book ends up being very satisfying, but it’s a painful road to get there.

Initially, I didn’t think this was an installment I’d revisit, but with the time that’s passed since I read this, I think I’d probably reread all of these novels. Hassell’s massively talented, and if you have any interest in m/m romance, absolutely do not miss out on his books.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:


Series Review: Five Boroughs, Books 5-6Third Rail by Santino Hassell
Series: Five Boroughs #5.5
Published by Author on October 25, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 87
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads
four-stars

Third Rail can be read as a standalone but chronologically takes place after Interborough in the Five Boroughs series.

Christopher Mendez has always known his sexual identity had a swerve. No straight guy would have low-key lusted after his childhood best friend, right? Unfortunately, a combination of insecurity and overall lack of game has prevented him from further exploring his sexuality. That changes once he agrees to participate in a photoshoot for a queer dating app and meets Jace Fairbairn.

Jace is beautiful, fey-like, and in an open polyamorous relationship with his gorgeous linebacker-looking husband Aiden. Once they set eyes on Chris, they’re instantly in lust and determined to broaden his sexual horizons. But what’s supposed to be a straight-forward sexual encounter gets complicated once a one-night-stand has repeat performances, and Jace and Aiden begin to fall in love.

This collection of shorts explores the start of a relationship that eventually blossoms into something the three men realize they cannot do without.

When I started Concourse, I was confused because it seemed to have rewound some of the progress from Third Rail. Then I checked and saw that I’d accidentally gotten the order wrong. So yeah, I actually read this before Concourse but I can’t review them in that order because my brain would explode.

If you’re a person who typically skips novellas (I’ve been this person and sometimes I still am), do NOT skip Hassell’s novellas. For one thing, they’re free so like why the fuck not read them? For another, they are full of hot threesomes which I mean yes to that.

Third Rail is a collection of shorts about the same set of character and subject, rather than an actual narrative, though it does create a cohesive picture. The novella focuses on Christopher Mendez (one of Ray’s crew) and Aiden and Jace (Caleb’s half-brother and his husband). Aiden and Jace have been married for years, and they have a somewhat open relationship; they have sex with other people but only together. Until Chris, they’ve never considered settling into a triad, but they really feel different about him than they have to the others they’ve hooked up with.

Chris, prior to this, knew he probably wasn’t hetero but it wasn’t something he’d really talked about or dealt with. He’s a bit uncomfortable with the situation for reasons that aren’t particularly clear within the framework of Third Rail, which focuses primarily on the sexual encounters, leaving gaps between them; there’s a lot going on emotionally in those gaps, which I think will be dealt with in Citywide. When the three of them are together, things are great, but for whatever reason Chris is keeping a distance between them otherwise.

I really, really like the three of them together and I’m looking forward to their OT3 in Citywide.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

Series Review: Five Boroughs, Books 5-6Citywide by Santino Hassell
Series: Five Boroughs #6
Published by Riptide Publishing on November 13, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Short Stories
Pages: 370
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
AmazonThe Book Depository
Goodreads
three-half-stars

A record-breaking heatwave engulfs the Five Boroughs, and emotions run as hot as the temperatures.

In Rerouted, Chris Mendez is trying to live a drama-free life. That doesn’t include another threesome with Jace and Aiden Fairbairn. But then a citywide blackout leaves them trapped together, and Chris is forced to re-examine everything he thought he knew about relationships and his own heart.

In Gridlocked, former Marine Tonya Maldonado is keeping real estate heiress Meredith Stone on permanent ignore. Mere isn’t Tonya’s type. Not even close. Who cares if she kisses like a dream and has the filthiest mouth this side of the East River? But then a security detail at a summer party ends with her saving Mere’s life and discovering they have more chemistry than she’d ever imagined.

In Derailed, Stephanie Quinones escapes the heat and her complicated love life by going on a company retreat. Trouble is, it’s a couples’ retreat, and she lied about having a boyfriend. Unfortunately, the only person willing to play pretend is her on-again/off-again fling, Angel León. They’re currently “off again,” but after a week in the woods, Stephanie realizes she wouldn’t mind them being permanently on.

As anticipated, Citywide is my least favorite of the main novels in Five Boroughs, mostly because it is not actually a novel but a collection of novellas. It irritates me no end that it’s called book 6 and not 5.7 or something, but that’s neither here nor there in terms of quality.

Hassell’s got representation to the max always, and that’s even more true in Citywide which adds an f/f couple to the mix. Admittedly, “Gridlocked” was probably my least favorite story of the three, though “Derailed” about the het couple of Stephanie and Angel also didn’t knock it out of the park. They’re both good, but they lack the incredible heat of Hassell’s m/m work. Also, I really didn’t feel a need for a heterosexual relationship in this series, so even though it’s pretty good I couldn’t help being a bit underwhelmed.

My main issue with “Gridlocked” is probably mostly because it’s a novella. Both Tonya and Meredith are characters I’ve met a handful of times briefly in other novels and novellas in the series, but they’re very much not characters I know well. I didn’t background ship them at all, and there isn’t enough emotional development to get my shippy engines all revved up. Tonya and Meredith seem mostly just to be into each other physically, which is cool but not quite enough to have me squeeing.

However, I do love the novellas about Chris, Jace, and Aiden. Until Hassell’s books, I didn’t know I enjoyed reading about threesomes, but zomg Hassell’s so good at them. This group really seems to fit together in a magical way and, though I’m admittedly a bit skeptical on balancing three people in a relationship, I feel like these guys would work. (Admittedly my skepticism is related to my own issues and personality, so I mean no judgment whatsoever on people for whom this is the ideal relationship; I just mean that I couldn’t totally see how it would work and be equally emotionally/physically fulfilling for all until this novella, if that makes any damn sense. The blackout’s a delightful shippy set up, and it’s hot both literally and figuratively. If you loved the threesome at the start of Sutphin Boulevard, you do not want to miss the two novellas about this throuple.

In case it’s not already obvious, I’m fucking in love with Hassell’s books. He’s a new favorite author without question, and I need MOAR Five Boroughs. I’m nowhere close to getting tired of these characters he’s created. In fact, it’s only been a couple of months and I just want to start all over and read them again.

 Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

One response to “Series Review: Five Boroughs, Books 5-6”

  1. Sando says:

    Thanks! Beautiful design

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