Friday, April 15, 2016

[ARC Review]: "First and First"

I am aware of the situation with Santino Hassell. While I will no longer be promoting or recommending Hassell’s books, I am leaving up my reviews and ratings for the books I’ve already read. My feelings and experiences with those books at the time are valid and were never connected to my view of the author anyway. Please disregard any mention of “own voice” or similar remarks that may be in these old reviews, as that is no longer true.
Danielle (TBQ)

First and First by Santino Hassell
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press; 1 edition (April 18, 2016)
Series: Five Boroughs, 3
Genre: M/M Romance -- Contemporary 

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.

Where to Buy*:
More Info:

My Review:

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

I love Hassell's writing, the characters he creates, and the stories he tells. I love this entire series, and highly recommend them to any M/M reader. First and First is no exception. Caleb and Oli's story is extremely sexy, has Hassel's usual snark and wit thrown in, as well as some light angst (though nothing like Michael and Nunzio's book).

While this is the third in the series, and previous characters show up a bit, I would say you could, technically, read this one as a standalone. But really, why would you do that and miss out on all the amazing bits that came before this?!

"How do you know I like to be massaged?"

"David mentioned it once. He said it was the only thing that unwinds you."


"I told him he must not be fucking you good enough if you don't unwind after sex."

Caleb's been trying to live the life others expect him to, but it's never really made him happy. Now he has the chance to try a few new things, thanks to Oli, and it's a thrill he never thought he'd experience. Caleb figures out that some of those things are great as a fantasy for him, and nothing more, which is fine. I loved watching these two figure out what worked for Caleb and what didn't. It was a sexy ride, and I highlighted quite a few of the dirty bits. Of course.

For example, Oli's loving dominance and desire to show Caleb just how sexy he is:

“You’re so sexy,” Oli panted. “And you don’t even know it, and that just makes me want to destroy you. Take you apart and fuck you until you’re trembling and begging and saying my name.”

And the dirty-smexy goodness of this quickie phone sex session:

Oliver: Are you watching?

I replied one handed: Yes.

My phone rang immediately, and once I answered, Oli's voice filled my ear. "Let me hear you come."

"I want to, but I can't," I said in a desperate whine. "I'm so hard, but I can't."

"Use lube. Get it messy. I want to hear your hand slicking up and down that cock."

My balls tightened. 

"Do it, Caleb."

I did it.

Besides the fantastic sex and chemistry, there's also sweet-angsty scenes that will give you the feels. For example:

"But regardless of what you think of yourself, when I look at you, I see someone beautiful. Someone who makes me insane, because all I can fucking think about is touching you. Being close to you. Being inside you. And there's a reason for that, baby."

and this:

"Having these feelings for you is making me act like an irrational idiot. It would be worse if we started making promises."


"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."


"I want to know what I am to you."

"You're the guy I feel all of the feelings for."

Give me a minute to recover from that swoon. *sigh*

I found myself highlighting a lot of things. Quotes that I could relate to. Quotes that made me smile or laugh. Even as quote-heavy as this review is, it's barely scratching the surface of quotes. But how about one more? Just because.

"What do you want from me?"

"I want to be your friend."

"A friend who touches my dick in public."

I felt the hint of a smile against my cheek. 

"Those are the best kind," he said in my ear.

Caleb and Oli's story brings the heat and the snark, and will definitely be going on my keeper shelf along with the previous books in the series. Santino Hassell has quickly become a favorite author for me. I just can't resist his gritty, sometimes raw and angsty, always sexy, romances. And frankly, I don't even want to try resisting. :) Obviously, I need the next book NOW. 

4 1/2 STARS! 

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I received an e-ARC of this book from the author.

*Note: The quotes used belong to Santino Hassell; TBQ's Book Palace does not claim them. Any mistakes or typos in the quotes are my own fault.

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Seriously, this review was *this* close to being comprised completely of quotes and squeeing.

. . . Okay, so it ended up being pretty much just that. I can't help it! :P

Remember, since this is a Royal Pick, come back on April 28th for a chance to WIN an ecopy of your own!

This weekend only, grab 1 & 2 on sale!
Sutphin Boulevard: $0.99 | Sunset Park: $1.99 |


Until Next Time,


  *TBQ's Book Palace is a member of both the Amazon and Barnes and Nobles affiliates program. By using the links provided to buy products from either website, I receive a very small percentage of the order. To read my full disclosure on the matter, please see this post!

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