Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Falling In Love with a New Author

Santino Hassell is an author I'd known of in the romance genre, but whose books I hadn't read yet. But once I finally picked up Strong Signal (of which he co-authored with Megan Erickson), I started gobbling up his other books. There is a way that he writes that is so brutally honest. He gets what adulting is and can be. He gets the queer experience. He writes realistic characters who don't always know what the hell they're doing but who are trying so hard anyway. He writes life. And I am addicted to his stories. I've already read three others besides the first, and I've got the rest on my wishlist. So y'all, if you're a fan of romance, you WANT to read his books! TRUST ME.

Strong Signal

Aw, I enjoyed this one! I wasn't super into in the beginning, and I needed time to warm up to Garrett (he came off super assholery and a bit creepy when he raged in Kai's Twitch stream), but I came to care about him and especially Kai a lot. They both had things to work through, but their relationship felt so real and was formed on a foundation of mutual interest and a strong online connection. It was great to also see Kai working through his anxiety (more on the social side, but he definitely might have agoraphobia too). I just wish there'd been more on that, it all seemed a bit fast at the end. But still, I so appreciated this book and how it showed sexuality and mental health and finding your people through the internet.
Rating: 3.5 Paw Prints! 

Fast Connection
I'm not sure if I enjoyed this more than the first. I had a few issues with Luke and his reactions to some situations, but I liked how he was Dominic's biggest cheerleader, how he was constantly building this guy up and giving him a safe space to be himself. I just thought he self-sabotaged way too fucking much. And oh, Dominic. I hadn't been the biggest fan of him because of how much of an asshole he was to Garrett in the first book, but he's changed a lot. And he deserved to have that time to figure out his life and who he is and the messy complications that can arise from falling in love. It also doesn't hurt that he's just so damn adorable. ;) But ultimately, they both realized how so very worth it their relationship was, and I loved that they were all (Luke's kids, and Dominic's fam) able to become one big family. Can't wait to read the next book in this series!
Rating: 3 Paw Prints!

Illegal Contact

*eARC kindly provided by Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley*

This was my first Santino Hassell-only book (I've previously read two of his and Megan's), and I think I've found a new favorite author. I love his gritty, sensitive, and real stories. They are particularly needed in the romance genre, and I love that in Illegal Contact he tackled toxic masculinity and the things queer guys (especially athletes in very aggressive sports, like football) have to deal with. Gavin was a rough-edged guy with anger problems, but with a super soft heart, and a loyalty toward his fam that endeared me to him. His friendships with Simeon (heyheyhey I better get a Simeon book!) and Marcus had me all heart-eyes throughout the story. And Noah was a post-college guy trying to move on from a disastrous ex-job and ex-lover situation and figure out what he wanted in life. There was so much animosity between the two of them at first, but they formed a bond, and this relationship gave them both so much more than they'd ever expected. A love worth sharing with the world. And that ending has me hopeful for Gavin being able to be openly bisexual without losing football. He deserves both love and his career, and gah, I just love him and Noah. There was so much good here in this book, guys! And I can't wait for more Barons stories! :D
Rating: 4 Paw Prints! 

Sutphin Boulevard
I loooove the friends-to-lovers trope so much, especially in the romance genre. So I could not wait to start this as it features one, and focuses so heavily on what it means to move beyond merely friends into something more. And with Nunzio and Michael, they don't always know how to make it work. They've been best friends for twenty years, and they don't want to lose that connection. A bond super unshakable, even when it's tested to the limits. Though Nunzio is definitely a main character, it's really Michael's book. It's his struggles, and his fears and pain and failure and rock bottom. It's his redemption story. His successes and triumphs. He's not always a character easily likable, because he could be so unbelievably selfish and obtuse, but he's trying. And while he's figuring it out, he's still got precious cinnamon roll Nunzio by his side. I loved their relationship so much, how though sometimes it could be co-dependent and it took them a long time to get to the ending, it was worth seeing them fall together. SO MUCH ADORABLE AND SNUGGLING AND FEELINGS. MY HEART.
Rating: 4.5 Paw Prints! 

I think I clearly prefer Santino's solo work, but it's all so good. I can't wait to read more of his and Megan's. Have you guys read any of their books yet? If so, what did you think of them? Which one should I read next? Let's talk! :)

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