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.
Insight, by Santino Hassell
Series: The Community, Book 1
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: March 13, 2017
Growing up the outcast in an infamous family of psychics, Nate Black never learned how to control his empath abilities. Then after five years without contact, his estranged twin turns up dead in New York City. The claim of suicide doesn’t ring true, especially when a mysterious vision tells Nate it was murder. Now his long-hated gift is his only tool to investigate.
Hitching from his tiny Texas town, Nate is picked up by Trent, a gorgeous engineer who thrives on sarcasm and skepticism. The heat that sparks between them is instant and intense, and Nate ends up trusting Trent with his secrets—something he’s never done before. But once they arrive in the city, the secrets multiply when Nate discovers an underground supernatural community, more missing psychics, and frightening information about his own talent.
Nate is left questioning his connection with Trent. Are their feelings real, or are they being propelled by abilities Nate didn’t realize he had? His fear of his power grows, but Nate must overcome it to find his brother’s killer and trust himself with Trent’s heart.
Cover Design By: Kanaxa
Gay & Bisexual Character
Content Warning for:
Highlight for Spoiler: Incestuous Family
Dubious Consent between the Main Couple
Attempted Rape via Psychic Coercion
Mention of Child Abuse
Talk of Suicide
This review contains mild spoilers. Trigger warning for discussion of dubious consent and attempted rape.
The first part of the book is a little bit slow but I didn’t really mind that. Our protagonist Nate is introduced, his fucked-up family as well, and time spend with Trent on their road trip to New York is nice. Once in New York the suspense started to suck me right in which was absolutely lovely. It’s the kind where you forget everything around you— bus stops, people, food. I read the second half more or less in one sitting, which is really rare for me. I loved that.
However, I think the plot development is rather linear—always climbing, climbing, until the big crescendo—which is fine, but it underlined the predictability of the plot for me. I wasn’t really surprised by any of the resolutions and even foresaw one or the other.
I also wondered in parts why Nate was running into danger with his eyes wide open; why he even cared. Well, at least, I was not entirely sold.
I like where this series seems to be going. While a first story arc is satisfactorily resolved, there is more to come and I’m curious as to where this is all developing. I am also looking forward to Holden’s story who is the protagonist of the next book. He’s a character with many layers and I am torn about whether I like him or not—which makes me all the more excited about getting to know him better.
Nate is a character that I found easy to like and root for. He’s insecure and self-conscious in the beginning without being a doormat and he’s growing a lot during the course of the book, which I generally love to read about.
I am actually impressed that Trent, although not having any psychic abilities or whatever, stands his own in this book. He has agency and plays an active role in everything. He’s not only a nice guy holding Nate’s hand while he’s figuring out what is going on with the Community and his brother’s death. Speaking of, the secondary characters in the Community and Nate’s family are… Hmmmm, I think they are basically fine but in parts maybe a bit overdone? Too antagonistic, too annoying and hostile? But by now, having read the whole book, I am really interested to read more about Holden, and Chase as well, although I couldn’t really stand his hostile attitude during most part of the book.
Nate and Trent when meet have an insta-connection. Because of Nate’s psychic ability Trent feels very good to him. Safe. Warm. And so he is drawn to him. But during their road trip and the time after in New York, I feel like their relationship is developing naturally and in a believable way. Their sexy and cuddly times were very satisfying to read about. Heart-and-else-warming, so to say…
While Trent’s jealousy seemed plausible to me, Nate’s doubt about whether his psychic ability was influencing and coercing Trent to love him felt a little overdone to me. I couldn’t shake the feeling that there just had to be internal issues for the couple to overcome and that it wasn’t enough to have to struggle with the outer stuff, which made me not like this as much.
I haven’t seen other reviews mention it, but I want to add that there is a sex scene in this book with dubious consent between Nate and Trent. Readers sensitive to this should be aware before starting it. (Highlight for spoilery discussion of it.) When Nate fears that Trent is leaving him, he psychically compels him into having sex with him. He is so afraid and wants to show Trent what he is feeling, but he ends up forcing the connection at a time when Trent is mad at him and clearly does not want to have sex. At least, that is how it looks at the time of the scene. Later on, when they talk about it, Nate apologises and Trent says he willingly had sex with him, that he realised what Nate was doing, but, err, I dunno. I feel the “dubious” tag is definitely warranted here.
Additionally, Holden tries to force himself on Nate by using his psychic ability. (Highlight for spoilery discussion of it.) While he does stops himself before they actually do the deed, this definitely crossed the line into non-consent. Nate had told him again and again that he wasn’t interested. Fortunately, Holden came to his senses just in time.
Both instances were ok for me to read, although I have to say that I was surprised by it. I think I would have preferred to explore this part of being an empath in another way.
All in all, I enjoyed reading this book and had a very good time with it because it was so consuming. Even if it seems that I have niggles about a lot of smaller things, I recommend the book and am looking forward to more.
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 twenty-something, 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.