Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Release Day Review: Illegal Contact (The Barons #1) by Santino Hassell

IllegalContact3Title ~ Illegal Contact (The Barons #1)

Author ~ Santino Hassell

Publisher ~ Intermix/ Berkley Publishing

Published ~ 15th August 2017

Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance





New York Barons tight end Gavin Brawley is suspended from the team and on house arrest after a video of him brawling goes viral. Gavin already has a reputation as a jerk with a temper on and off the field—which doesn’t help him once he finds himself on the wrong side of the law. And while he’s been successful professionally, he’s never been lucky when it comes to love.

Noah Monroe is a recent college grad looking for a job—any job—to pay off his mounting student debt. Working as Gavin’s personal assistant/babysitter seems like easy money. But Noah isn’t prepared for the electrifying tension between him and the football player. He’s not sure if he’d rather argue with Gavin or tackle him to the floor. But both men know the score, and neither is sure what will happen once Gavin's timeout is over…


Debra’s Review

This is definitely on the lighter angst side and heavier romance side than the other books I’ve read by Santino Hassel. If you’re not into football don’t worry, neither is Gavin at the moment so you don’t need to know anything about the game to enjoy it. He’s been suspended for the season and is on house arrest in his mansion after punching out a frat boy. He definitely has anger and aggression issues, but there’s more to what happened than the media and fans want to believe, but Gavin’s not talking.

Noah needs a job, even if it is a six month temporary PA position with the sexy but cranky football player, but that doesn’t mean Noah is going to sit back and take crap from the incredibly hot but unlikeable man. Noah is mouthy, but he gets things done and yes, I’ve mentioned it several times because man does Noah think Gavin is hottest thing he’s ever seen even though he doesn’t like football or really care who Gavin is. That attitude is one of the things Gavin first likes about the sexy but nerdy Noah.

So it begins as Noah spends his days taking care of Gavin’s day to day life, his house, his fan mail, his online presence, eventually moving into the house on weekdays. As they begin to actually get along the tension heats up. Gavin knows Noah is gay, but Noah believes Gavin to be straight. When Noah goes out on a date Gavin gets jealous and then tries to make Noah jealous, dropping the bomb that he’s bisexual and completely short-circuiting Noah’s brain, but Noah’s not going to fall into that trap again. Hooking up with Gavin would only be trouble.

After a while the antagonistic banter becomes less so. They still have a great back and forth but now Gavin’s friends and fans have noticed what comes to be known as #DatBrawleySmile – the smile no one expected Gavin was capable of and only Noah can bring out. If you think cranky Gavin is sexy, he doesn’t hold a candle to love struck Gavin. Noah finds out that there is so much more to Gavin than what the media reports. Gavin had a tough hand dealt as a child, but he is smart, loyal and has a huge heart.

As the two get close, the potential pitfalls are many, but they are in their own little world in the big house in the Hamptons having great sex, so it’s easy to push it aside, but the outside world is still there just beyond the door. Noah has a past that included getting involved with someone at his last job which resulted in his firing, something that eats at him even as he’s falling for Gavin. Gavin risks everything if his bisexuality becomes public knowledge. His image is just starting to recover and he’s still in the middle of his suspension and lock down. He’s got an agent and manager that are looking out for him, even if it comes down to Noah being a casualty of the cutthroat business of being a celebrity ball player. When one of the potential pitfalls becomes reality, Gavin and Noah completely broke my heart. Seriously, the last 15% or so of the story left me an emotional wreck, but no fears, there is a happy ending.

“Who’s gonna put that smile on your face when you’re not with me anymore…”

“Nobody … You ruined me for anyone else.”

This is a fantastic slow burn romance with soooo much sexual tension as two complete opposites learn to live with each other, slowly falling in love. There’s not so much as a peck on the lips until more than halfway through the book, but when these two finally hook up it’s no holds barred. I loved the dual POV and the secondary characters were all very well written. Aside from Gavin’s management team, we are also introduced to Noah’s best friend and his father, as well as Gavin’s two friends and teammates, Simeon (who I adored and is up next) and Marcus. Two very different characters whose stories I can’t wait to dive into. Hopefully we’ll also get a peek at just how Noah and Gavin worked out their future living arrangements as well.

Purchase Links



Meet Santino Hassell

SH imageSantino Hassell was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, then a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into an unlikely romance author.

Santino writes queer romance that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.



  1. Great review! This was a 5star for me too.

    1. Thanks Tanya. Glad you loved it too. I'm really looking forward to Simeon's story.

  2. Hey Debra,
    Thanks for your review. I'm not into sports or jocks (although I was a hockey fan years ago) so I don't read sports romance. BUT, I loved Santino's Insight, read Oversight, can't wait for Sightlines, and am currently reading Strong Signal, so I DO like Santino Hassell's writing. (I have the 5 Boroughs series up next on my TBR pile.) After reading your review, I think I may just add these books to my TBR mountain too, because they seem to be more of a romance with a MC who just happens to be a sports professional, moreso than a romance heavily focused on sports. Will this be a series, do you know, or just a trilogy? Thanks again for changing my mind about these books. I know I can trust your reviews because we seem to agree on so much.

    1. Thanks so much Nihcki. I appreciate you reading my sometimes long reviews and commenting. :) This one is definitely low on the sport action since he is on house arrest for the duration of the book, so the sports is incidental. The next book may contain more sports action since that is about an active player to start, but again the circumstances are going to force the MC's off the field. I'm not sure how many books are actually planned for this series, but if I find out anything I'll be sure to share. Both the Five Boroughs and Cyberlove books are fantastic. I hope you enjoy those too.