Saturday, May 20, 2017

Concourse by Santino Hassell

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.

NOTE: This title is a stand-alone story in the Five Boroughs universe.

Add to Goodreads –

Book 5
Buy Links

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B&N  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo
Riptide  Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Only in Santino Hassell’s New York would a wealthy celebrity club kid and a blue collar amateur boxer make any sense at all. But Ashton and Val are made for each other – the lifelong friends just have to find their way past the many barriers in their way.

These are two prickly, awkward men. They have exquisite chemistry together, but neither man is capable of honestly talking about his feelings. As Val’s mother was Ashton’s nanny, the two boys spent a great deal of time together while they were growing up. They have been friends forever. But Val feels the class gap intensely and he still harbours resentment towards Ashton’s family. Ashton is emotionally needy. He lives for approval – be it from random men or the millions of Instagram fans he seduces with glamorous photos of his celebutante life. In contrast, Val is quiet, serious, and self-contained.

As a romance, this is a frustrating read. I kept wanting to bash some sense into these two and make them talk. Instead, they kept hurting each other. Sexually, Ashton is adventurous and uninhibited. He flirts with gender boundaries and he’s game to try just about anything. Demisexual Val has only felt sexual attraction a couple of times in his life, so his attraction to Ashton has always been both important and confusing. These two know each other better than they know their own family members, but they don’t get each other.

I loved Val and Ashton’s clashing New York realities. Val’s proud working class community is gritty, physical, and honest. Ashton’s world of penthouses and paparazzi is prettier but more superficial and ultimately more dangerous. Their journey towards common ground and a relationship with an equal balance of power is complicated and very slow. I like that both Val and Ashton have to learn to give and take to make their relationship work.

This is another wonderful story by Santino Hassell. He always makes me fall for his characters, even when they are as prickly, selfish, and clueless as Ashton and Val.

Avid Reader☆☆☆
M/M Romance

I was sad to put 3 stars down, but I just could not see these two together. Despite their long history, their relationship was flat.

Val is a fighter, but not really. He fights so that he can help his sister through college. He loves Ashton, but it turned into romantic love a long time ago. The angst that he feels about his love for Ashton is both annoying and sometimes sweet.

Ashton has no regard for people, with the exception of Val. He loves Val. But, because of his family never approving of him, he has these deep-seated issues. When his brother comes to him and asks him to flaunt himself in order to close a deal, Ashton simply wants to get the approval, so he says okay.

This story was more about finding yourself. Knowing what makes you happy and not being afraid of going after it. Val knows he doesn't want to fight and Ashton knows he doesn't want people to expect nothing from him the rest of his life.

Overall, this was just an okay story and I didn't feel this was really a romance. The two main characters were friends with benefits until they weren't, but there was a serious lack of communication in their relationship, which just put a damper on things.

Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school-cutting grunge kid, then a transient twentysomething, and eventually transformed into an unlikely romance author.

Santino writes queer romance that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.

Connect with Santino

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Google+  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Concourse (Five Boroughs #5) by Santino Hassell to read and review.

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