First and First by Santino Hassell ~ Buddy Review by Mel and Caroline

FirstandFirstLGTitle: First and First

Author: Santino Hassell

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Cover Artist: Ashley Kaye Hayes

Mel’s Rating: 5.00 of 5 Stars
Caroline’s Rating 5.00 of 5 Stars

Publication Date: 04/18/2016

Length: Novel (~ 50K-100K)

Genre: Contemporary, Gay, Gay Romance

Blurb:

A Five Boroughs Story

Caleb Stone was raised on the Upper East Side, where wealth and lineage reign and “alternative lifestyles” are hidden. It took him years to come out to his family, but he’s still stuck in the stranglehold of their expectations. Caleb knows he has to build his confidence and shake things up, but he doesn’t know how… until Oliver Buckley enters the picture.

Oli is everything Caleb isn’t—risk-taking, provocative, and fiercely independent. Disowned by his family, Oli has made his own way in the world and is beholden to no one. After a chance encounter on New Year’s Eve, Caleb is smitten.

As Caleb sheds the insecurities that have held him back for years, he makes bold steps toward changing his career and escaping years of sexual repression. But for Caleb to take full control of his life, he has to be brave enough to confront his feelings and trust Oli with his heart.

Mel’s View:

“And what feelings would those be?”
“All of them,” he growled. “I have every single one for you. I hate it.”
“No, you don’t, or you’d be fighting this harder.”

Actually… I am not sure fighting any harder would have been possible but let’s start with the characters:

Oli:
“I fuck around with a lot of my friends. Intimacy doesn’t have to be normative. We can just… enjoy each other’s company and sometimes enjoy each other’s bodies. And right now I want to enjoy yours.”

I do love Oli’s attitude towards intimacy. It’s so liberating. Problem is, in this particular case, it comes with the combination of no strings attached. At least, that is what Oli keeps telling himself and Caleb, although it’s bullshit from the first page on.

Caleb:
I’ve spent my entire life trying to be what everyone expected me to be even though I was depriving myself all along.

I stood facing the window with my forehead pressed against the glass and watched the slowly moving traffic below.
There were millions of people in this city and sometimes it helped for me to think in terms of the hundreds of thousands of people living in the five boroughs who felt like me. Anchored to nothing, too afraid to take a chance. Lost and not quite fitting anywhere—even the places we wanted to be. I felt less alone when I considered all of those other aimless souls. Maybe one day we’d find each other.

I think they did.

Oli and Caleb both got under the other’s defences. While Caleb managed to keep his former lover David at arm’s length, Oli slipped right through. Being totally drunk on New Year’s Eve definitely helped with that, and once Oli had seen the ‘worst’ of him, there was no need for hiding anymore. It was the start of a sexual awakening and discovery.

Oli has been left by loved ones too often, so he never wants to be dumped again. He doesn’t want to be vulnerable and get into a romantic relationship, and surely labelling the thing he has going on with Caleb would be the first step to doom everything.

I could really understand where both Oli and Caleb are coming from. Their fear and insecurity are very believable, but, very important, never annoying or too much. Their struggle was plausible and, quite frankly, even a joy to witness—and I don’t say that often 😉

This is also, plainly spoken, the HOTTEST book I’ve read by Santino… I can’t even with how panty melting hot this is. I don’t want to spoil any details… Just… 😀 Hehe, read it yourself 😉 Uhhh, the things you have coming…

“How do you know anything is wrong?”
“Because we’ve been inside each other so much during the past couple of days that your body is basically my body now.”

But this book isn’t all hot and dirty sex. Oli and Caleb are also lovely together and talk and open up to each other. This one scene had me smiling so much. Oli knows the best way to say sorry.

It’s so important for me to see that the protagonists have lives and relationships beyond their love interest. Oli and Caleb don’t live in a love bubble but have friends like Charles and family like Aidan. In this particular case, I absolutely loved the business aspect of the book. Oli, Caleb and Aidan become business partners and found a start-up. I thought this was so interesting and was an awesome device to move the story along as well. I hope Santino got the idea patented or something, because this needs to be a thing…

I am seldom so sure characters are actually living on this earth, but when I someday visit NY, I’ll make sure to say hi to them all.

Another point that is important for me is that this book doesn’t feel like the same old story that I’ve been reading too often. It’s a fresh breeze, with not only very real characters and a story that is true to them, but with great new aspects of love, sex, and relationships.

The opening scene grabs the reader right from the start and there is not a single boring minute while reading the book. I nearly missed my stop on commute, I read way too long in the night, and I’m sad it’s over now.

I can’t wait for the next books in the series and I need to find out who the protagonists for the next books will be. I’d love a story for Charles and/or Ashton, by the way… But really, I will just about read anything Santino writes. Highly recommended. Another wonderful book in his Five Boroughs series. A great addition that shows us the lives and love of two great guys from Manhattan this time.

Caroline’s View

Hands down the favourite of the series so far. First and First builds on the first two amazing books and made me like a couple of characters like that were really quite unlikeable!

At first glance Oli and Caleb’s story is different. They came from wealth, they didn’t know or live with the struggles that the previous characters in the series did and even now their lives are quite different. Realistically it’s all a façade – money doesn’t buy or bring happiness and that is certainly true for both our MC’s.

Neither man turned out to be what I expected. One night of drunken passion that could easily be forgotten, should easily be forgotten plays through Caleb’s minds on a never-ending loop and he finds himself pulled to Oli no matter how hard he tries to fight it. Oli fights it even more determinedly but Caleb slowly breaks down the walls the other man thought he had so carefully erected.

Caleb and Oli are hot together – that’s the only way to describe it. Initially everything about their unexpected friendship revolves around sex and it’s dirty and often frantic. For Oli this is nothing new but for Caleb it’s like waking form a long sleep and realising he’s not broken. Santino has a wicked way with words and weaves a story that feels very realistic with characters that aren’t at all perfect but are perfect for each other.

Along with all the hot and steamy you also get tender and romantic – the author hits it right every single time and by the end of the story Oli and Caleb became two of my favourite characters. First and First did not disappoint in any way – it raised the bar in an already brilliant series.

Links

First and First on Goodreads
Dreamspinner Press
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
All Romance eBooks

I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.

Farewell Giveaway
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,

Brandilyn
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