Please note this book was reviewed prior to the revelation of author’s identity and actions. Please read this statement from Riptide Publishing for more information. [Note: Dreamspinner Press is no longer selling books by this author.]
Sutphin Boulevard, by Santino Hassell (A Five Boroughs Story)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (July 31, 2015)
Page Count: 264 pages
Genre: Gay (M/M) Romance
Rating: I have chosen to remove my rating for this book.
Summary: 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.
My Thoughts: Every so often a book comes along that absolutely shatters you. You know what I’m talking about; it’s that book that tears you apart from the inside, the one that makes you want to hide behind your fingers because you’re so invested in the characters that you feel their pain and suffering as your own, but is so captivating that you just can’t look away. For me, Sutphin Boulevard is one of those books.
This book is gritty and real and honestly a little fucked up… but, then, so is life, and that’s what Hassell is showing here. All of these characters are flawed, but that makes them all the more perfect because they’re relatable. And while the friends-to-lovers trope has been done a thousand times before, trust me… the friends-to-lovers scene here will rock your world!
The story follows Nunzio and Mickey, best friends but nothing more for two decades, until a night of drinking ends in the best sex Michael’s ever had. It’s the catalyst for a series of events that starts to fracture the friendship between them, even as they grow closer physically. Michael is terrified of losing their friendship, but he can’t turn off the sudden influx of feelings for Nunzio.
His hand moved just enough to stimulate, but the intensity of our kiss swelled until my mind was void of everything but him. The sound of his breathless signs, the feel of his hand releasing my dick to slide upward so he could hold me tighter, our bodies grinding languidly together, and the way we both poured everything into the other until we were raw and undone.
A tremor stole over me, and, finally, I had to pull away. He stared at me wild-eyed and shattered with his lips damp and parted. (ePub location 108-109)
And while the negatives keep piling up– Michael’s dysfunctional family, trouble at work for both men, and a steady decline into the oblivion of drugs and alcohol as Michael struggles to keep his head above water– the one constant is always the friendship that they have, and the love between them.
In the end, I wasn’t sure how to review this novel. It was amazing, and heart-wrenching, and raw and beautiful and seriously, seriously brutal. I loved it, plain and simple. But I’m not sure if I’ll be able to read it again anytime soon… it was honestly a bit too much in a way, because it emotionally compromised me worse than Spock on the Enterprise. So yes, read it. Let Santino Hassell crush your soul and show you what romance in the real world is all about.
(Post-script: Just two weeks ago I did a Q&A and was asked what the last book I lost sleep on was. The answer was In the Company of Shadows by Sonny and Ais. I didn’t realize at the time that the Sonny from that amazing and soul-devouring series was about to publish a novel under another name. And while I didn’t lose sleep on this one (because I was smart enough to read it during the day!), I definitely almost got written up at work because I literally could not put it down.)
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