Friday, April 22, 2016

Review: First & First (Five Boroughs #3) by Santino Hassell


Title ~ First and First

Series ~ Five Boroughs #3

Author ~ Santino Hassell

Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press

Published ~ 18th April 2016

Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance





Caleb Stone was raised on the Upper East Side, where wealth and lineage reigns, 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.

Monique’s Review

First and First

Once again Santino Hassell has confirmed just why he is one of my favourite authors and proven his adept and outstanding ability to deliver intelligent versatile writing, with sympathetic characters that will melt even the most hardened of hearts. He has such an effortless style of writing that is music to my ears, I wouldn’t call it poetic or lyrical, more profound, with a depth that definitely hits that spot for me in more ways than one. A connection that is comfortable and familiar. From the first page he always manages to draw me in with ease, assured and confident that the journey I am about to embark on will be one I’m not likely to forget in a hurry. First and First is yet another example of Santino’s talent. It’s not the raw and gritty tale we have become accustomed to so far in this series, in fact it’s really quite angst-less for Santino. With Caleb and Oli both from the upper echelons of NYC society, being gay comes with a whole different set of problems for these two blue bloods of the city.

Caleb and Oli made less than favourable appearances in the previous books so I wasn’t totally convinced that Santino would be able to make them heroes in their own right, but boy was I wrong, he so did… and convincingly, I loved them. Both larger than life and accurately portrayed with distinct voices and characterisations. An intense and visceral insight into two men who despite coming from wealthy and privileged backgrounds, have to deal with the damage, doubts and insecurities caused by their upbringing and parents who leave a lot to be desired.

Told from Caleb’s POV we get more of an insight to his thoughts and feelings and I spent a lot of the time just wanting to hug him. Oli… OMG! I can’t even put down on paper what I wanted to do to him. And together, well, let’s just say that Santino Hassell ignites the pages with his sex scenes.

Caleb is a man who needs to be in control of every aspect of his life. The man is anal, a super conservative worry wart, awkward in social situations and a sexually repressed prude. Resigned and accepting of living his life to the expectations of society and his parents… at the expense of his own.

Oli on the other hand is charming and self-assured and sex incarnate, I’m not kidding! He’s so damn hot with such a dirty mouth... and when I say HOT I mean the super-charged, heart pounding and breathless kind of smouldering HOT, with all the tenacity and poise of an erotic sensual being that just oozes sex with a confidence that beguiles.

After they spend New Year’s Eve together in a drunken night of unrestrained debauched passion. Caleb is mortified by his unabashed behaviour but unable to stop the tummy tingling flashbacks of a night and a man that enabled him to lose all inhibitions (I loved how Santino inserted these scenes) and now finds himself yearning and wanting any little taste of the intense aphrodisiac that is Oli, but at the same time fears the addiction.

For prissy uptight Caleb it was a revelation, a sexual liberation and watching him embrace the wants and desires he had repressed, and abandon all sense of propriety that had been schooled from such a young age was powerful because you can feel the panic and terror in Caleb of letting go of his uncertainties, and I loved how Caleb’s growth in character wasn’t only limited to his sex life. Whilst Oli, our floozy of epic proportions and commitment-phobe starts back peddling and we find out it’s not only Caleb who is vulnerable.

The unexpected development and bond between Caleb and his estranged half-brother Aiden, who he finds out isn’t all that he had pre-determined, was an engaging sub plot which is pulled into the story arc and has me wanting to see more of Aiden and Jace, as well as the adorable Charles who definitely needs a little happiness.

This is an excellent addition to the Five Boroughs series which is fast becoming an all-time favourite. A comprehensive character study that will leave your heart aching, sex scenes that whilst hot and sexy are integral to the growth of the characters, and dirty talk guaranteed to reach the parts other authors can’t reach.

First and First will leave you riding a high better than any drug, which will hopefully keep us going until the release of book #4 in this wonderfully penned, voyeuristic insight into the diverse melting pot that is New York City. 

Purchase Link





SUTPHIN BOULEVARD (Michael’s story) and SUNSET PARK (Raymond’s story), are on sale for $0.99/£0.99 and $1.99/£1.19 until 4/30/16!




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  1. Awesome review. I'm loving this series already and haven't even started it yet, but I absolutely will be soon. Thanks for the intense review, and fueling my interest in this author.

    1. Thank you Nihcki! And I really hope you get to this series soon, it's so, so good!!!

  2. I love reading a review written by someone who truly loves a book as much as I do. Perfect.