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.
Concourse, by Santino Hassell
Series: Five Boroughs, #5
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: May 1, 2017
Star rating: 3.5 out of 5 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.
Friends to Lovers
New York City
*looks at star rating* So…first and foremost I should probably mention that Santino Hassell is my favorite author currently– I put currently cause ya’ll know how I am about phases. He’s probably what’s kept me reading M/M for so long. And this is going to sound really shitty, but when someone is “the best” in your mind, then the only fair thing to do is judge them against themselves.
My favorite book out of this series is the first, Sutphin Boulevard, followed closely by the 2nd, Sunset Park; everything from there has just never reclaimed that feeling for me. I like a (ugh… I loath to say it) grittier side of NY that Hassell writes (I’m a kimono-wearing cliché), and I personally could care less about the extremely wealthy characters he’s incorporated into the series, which is why this one didn’t rate as high, I’m sure.
What worked for me was the friends-to-lover’s aspect. I think no one really does the angst of “does it make sense to ruin a lifelong friendship for what might amount to short lived lust” the way Hassell does. Ashton and Valdrin (that’s a lusty name I must say) are childhood friends who sort of latch on to each other, for lack of a better word. Ashton grew up in a family who saw him as an unfortunate possible embarrassment, and through a weird turn of events he befriended his nanny’s son, Valdrin. This is something else I think the series really understands: that the friendships you cement in childhood, no matter how potentially toxic, are hard to shake. These two are almost like family by the time we are introduced.
At first I– and no one is more surprised than I am here– loathed Ashton. I did see him as self-centered and detrimental to Val’s boxing career. Eventually I warmed up to him, because at around 50% you see him start to try and put Val first, and I found his pinteresting Betty Crocker ways endearing. Val… I don’t know I just… he made me miss Ray, really the whole Queens crew. I couldn’t figure out what it was but we just never gelled.
There are cameos from many characters from past books, alluding to a threesome that I still need to find the illusive short for, and Nunzio is present a few times. For those that care about this type of thing, the sex is hot, descriptive and unique, which after 900+ M/M books I appreciate. Another thing I really like about this series is the promotional use of pinterest, Instagram and a Spotify playlist to introduce and flesh out characters; it is kind of brilliant. I find I enjoy that almost as much as I do the books.
Santino is a dedicated gamer, a former fanfic writer, an ASoIaF mega nerd, a Grindr enthusiast, but most of all he is a writer of LGBT fiction 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.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.