by Santino Hassell
Released: July 31st 2015
Series: Five Boroughs #1
Published by Dreamspinner Press
Narrator: Rusty Topsfield
Length: 8 hrs and 54 mins
“Santino Hassell’s voice is raw and gritty, filled with emotion and packing a sexual punch.”
~ Under the Covers
I’ve wanted to read something by Santino Hassell for a while but honestly I was scared that the hype wouldn’t live up to the reality. But living in NYC myself, the premise of this series was just too tempting to pass up, so I snatched up the audiobook and dove in, trying to leave all expectations at the door.
Santino Hassell’s voice is raw and gritty, filled with emotion and packing a sexual punch. You can get this right away when you start reading SUTPHIN BOULEVARD. There is something very real in the way he tells his story, and I can definitely appreciate that. And when I say emotion, I mean this may teeter into the edge of angsty. Now, you may know that I’m not the biggest fan of angst in my stories. But when it’s done well, when it makes sense in the way it’s told, I’m there. In this case, it did.
SUTPHIN BOULEVARD is told in first person POV from Michael’s perspective. Both good and bad for me. Being immersed in the head of this thirty something Puerto Rican half closeted gay teacher had a lot of ups and downs. He’s going through a lot at this point in his life. His mother passed away a year ago, his abusive father has come back and is ill, there are changes at his work, his brother won’t get a job so the financial burden of the family rests on him, and he just broke up with his no good boyfriend. There’s a lot on his shoulders. Through it all there’s always been a constant in his life. His best friend Nunzio. A best friend of 20 years. But over the summer that friendship line was crossed in the way of one hell of a sexual experience. So now those feelings that Michael never considered before about wanting his best friend in a way that is more than friendship are now at the forefront of his mind and mingling with the rest of the chaos in his life. Where everything seems to be falling apart.
The premise of this book was very interesting for me because it explores Michael as a character in depth. Yes, there’s the romance and how Michael and Nunzio will move from best friends forever to lovers. But for me the focus was about Michael’s down spiral. It was real in the way the author portrayed it. Seeking refuge in alcohol from his world’s problems. Michael had to grow up fast and take responsibilities early on. It was interesting to see how this affected him, and eventually how he handled his problem. I was also happy that in the end this wasn’t all swept under the rug but it’s addressed as an ongoing thing that needs to be worked on. With the support of loved ones around him.
But back to the romance, shall we? I would’ve liked to see Nunzio’s POV because sometimes Michael was a bit oblivious and a lot of the bases for the connection and romance is in the fact that they’ve been friends forever. I love stories about best friends turning into lovers because they already have such a deep connection, it’s just a step farther. But I would’ve liked to see a bit more on that progression. The opening scene in this book, and the one that crosses that friendship border, finds them having a threesome with a younger guy they pick up at a bar. Holy Smokes! What a hot intro to this author that was. From there you just know the chemistry between Nunzio and Michael is undeniable and when they let go of all the sexual tension that grows between them and pushes them apart at times, they are just sizzling.
This was an enjoyable angsty, gritty experience about love and about healing. It’s definitely left me wanting to read more from this author for sure!
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