Also by this author: Strong Signal, First and First, Fast Connection, Hard Wired, Mature Content, Oversight, Illegal Contact, Third Rail
Series: Five Boroughs #1
Also in this series: First and First, Third Rail
Published by Dreamspinner Press on July 28, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Romance, M/M Erotica, M/M Romance
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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.
Now, casual touches and lingering looks are packed with sexual tension, and Michael can’t forget the feel of his best friend’s hands on him. Once problems rear up at work and home, Michael finds himself seeking constant escape in the effortless intimacy and mind-blowing sex he has with Nunzio. But things don’t stay easy for long.
When Michael’s world begins to crumble in a sea of tragedy and complications, he knows he has to make a choice: find solace in a path of self-destruction or accept the love of the man who has been by his side for twenty years.
Erin: I’m one of those readers who absolutely loves when a favorite author branches out and tries something new, so when I heard that the wickedly talented Santino Hassell (co-author of the beloved, epic In The Company of Shadows) was writing a contemporary romance set in NYC, I was on board from the word go. Sutphin Boulevard did not disappoint and as a matter of fact, exceeded all of my expectations and then some. This book is gritty and real and once I started, I couldn’t put it down.
I have to say that one of the things Hassell did so amazingly well in this novel was create and bring to life an entire neighborhood, South Jamaica in Queens. The ambiance, the family dynamics, the accents, it all just added a depth to Sutphin Boulevard that completely engrosses the reader from the very beginning. Michael Rodriguez and Nunzio Medici have been best friends for over twenty years and coming from the same background, understand one another in a way that makes their friendship the most important relationship in their lives. Both come from broken homes, they teach at the same school, the party together … all these elements play havoc after a hot, steamy night (and when I say hot, I mean SCORCHING) brings to light feelings both men have been fighting for a long time.
“I told him not to, I wanted to talk to you myself. In person.”
“Was asking me to come in your ass the conversation you planned?”
“No. That wasn’t on the agenda.” I propped myself up on my elbow. His body was still generating heat, but I wasn’t prepared to back away. “I just wanted to talk but you’re disgustingly beautiful, so molestation happened. Sorry.”
“You should apologize. It was a real hardship.”
“Was that a pun?”
The best friends to lover trope is done so well in this book; everything felt completely authentic and genuine.
Hassell writes both men, even though the story is told only from Michael’s brutally honest at times point of view, with raw, visceral realism. Michael is a cynical Puerto Rican, somewhat disillusioned teacher who has a brother that can’t hold a job (and doesn’t want one), an alcoholic, abusive father who is dying from cirrhosis of the liver, and an extended family that continues to heap guilt on him. Nunzio is his opposite: dirty talking (and when I say dirty, I mean the dirtiest of the dirty), free spirited and sarcastic. He is Michael’s rock, the one person in his life who gives him unconditional love and acceptance. It’s this part of Nunzio that is both Michael’s heaven and hell. He wants Nunzio, but is terrified of losing his safe place, knowing he has one person who will always be by his side.
There are touches and smiles, and bouts of raunchy, incendiary sex between these two as they move closer and closer to the precipice of happily ever after. Unfortunately, the road is never easy and Michael stumbles and keeps stumbling. His spiral into depression and self-destruction was written in such a way that Hassell will grab your heart and squeeze and squeeze until you can’t breathe. I will admit that there were parts of Michael’s fall to rock bottom that bothered me; he was a bit to self-pitying and really seemed to wallow in his decline, but overall, this angsty, emotional part of the book really showcased Santino Hassell’s superb writing.
The secondary characters lent a lot of color to the story, as well as their diversity. Michael’s students and fellow teachers helped show a different side of Michael. The banter between Michael and Nunzio was engaging and biting and the perfect way to highlight their deep friendship and unconditional love for one another. Overall, Sutphin Boulevard is an excellent book that should not be missed. This is the first book of the series and I, for one, will be waiting not-so-anxiously for Book 2 and so will you, I promise.