Author: Santino Hassell
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Mel Seser, Natasha Snow Designs – Model Juan Forgia
Rating: 4.75 of 5 Stars
Publication Date: 07/31/2015
Length: Novel (~ 50K-100K)
Genre: Contemporary, M/M Romance
A Five Boroughs Story
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.
If I had reviewed Sutphin Boulevard straight after finishing reading it – my review wouldn’t have made much sense, just a lot of ‘omg’ and drool and ‘rawr’ etc – very un-British, and so I waited a little.
Santino Hassell writes gritty, modern drama and romance in an intense believable, fluid way, which tends to make what you read immediately after, pale by comparison. I have felt, recently, a little jaded about sex scenes in some m/m romance, but Sutphin Boulevard has definitely been the read to re-light my fire!
In this novel we have two friends forever, Michael (Mikey) Rodriguez, and Nunzio (Zio) Medici. Has there ever been two more real, urban yet adorable, male leads. Michael is from a dysfunctional family and Nunzio’s family has just ceased to function for him completely. They have grown up together and been everything to each other – except lovers. They both ‘escaped’ from the South Jamaica area of Queen’s, New York where they grew up, which is served by the subway train that stops at Sutphin Boulevard. This tube stop can be the way out to more affluent, or up and coming areas of New York – one of which contains the school both MCs teach at. However, it can also be how you return to unsolved issues regarding self and family. As I have said this story is gritty, and realistic revealing many different types of love, including how love can destroy, encourage, protect, change and surprise.
The opening pages of this novel lead to one of the hottest threesomes I’ve read in a long time – it is also one, which has repercussions for all three participants. I love Santino’s style of writing, which is definitely not slushy, or overtly romantic, he expresses emotion in a very visceral way, which stays with you a long time. The characters are so vivid, their lives are not easy – no billionaires here, but Santino Hassell shows us purpose and meaning. So often novels present those in poverty especially with different cultural heritages, as an homogeneous group. Here we see individuals, but also how education can remove you from the environmental dangers, but not take away the dangers that lurk within a person’s soul.
Nunzio is incredibly likeable, sexy and a genuine leading man. He stands by Michael, his younger brother Raymond, and Michael’s family throughout. Nunzio is Michael’s rock in life, but Michael doesn’t realise just how much he depends on, and cares about Nunzio, until he is danger of losing him.
Michael is lovely, but tired of the struggle at home. Since his mother died young – he has shouldered the burden, he feels killed her. He attempts to keep a nice home for him and Raymond, but the poverty, neighbourhood problems and return of their father – an errant drug addict and alcoholic – prove too much for him. Michael’s brother Raymond, is the character – after Michael – who changes the most during the novel, and I believe the next novel is about him.The secondary characters are beautifully written, no matter how short the time they have in the novel, which adds to the richness of the storytelling.
This book is tagged as an erotic romance – if that means there is lots of hot sex – I suppose it is, and I loved it. However, to me an erotic romance is where sex is the most important part of the story, and that is definitely not the case here. The story involves two hot blooded New York men in their prime – it would look strange if they hooked up with men, had lemonade then asked for a phone number. This is a modern, urban, gay romance.
There is a very strong plot line, but I want to leave it to unfold as you read, and give no spoilers. So much of the enjoyment for me was immersing myself in these lives – the Spanish words, the foods, the routes to places, attitudes and sorrows – all serve to take an English reader to South Jamaica, New York for the duration. I loved Sutphin Boulevard and I cannot wait to read the next in the Five Boroughs Stories.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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