Friday, April 28, 2017

[ARC Review]: "Concourse"

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)

romance novel covers, contemporary romance, m/m romance, Royal Pick, Concourse by Santino Hassell
Concourse by Santino Hassell
Publisher: Riptide Publishing (May 1, 2017)
Series: Five Boroughs, 5
Genre: M/M Romance --  Contemporary

Ashton Townsend is the most famous celebutante of Manhattan’s glitterati. The black sheep of his wealthy family, he’s known for his club appearances, Instagram account, and sex tape. Most people can’t imagine him wanting for anything, but Ashton yearns for friendship, respect, and the love of his best friend—amateur boxer Valdrin Leka. 

Val’s relationship with Ashton is complicated. As the son of Ashton’s beloved nanny, Val has always bounced between resenting Ashton and regarding him as his best friend. And then there’s the sexual attraction between them that Val tries so hard to ignore.

When Ashton flees his glitzy lifestyle, he finds refuge with Val in the Bronx. Between Val’s training for an upcoming fight and dodging paparazzi, they succumb to their need for each other. But before they can figure out what it all means—and what they want to do about it—the world drags them out of their haven, revealing a secret Val has kept for years. Now, Ashton has to decide whether to once again envelop himself in his party-boy persona, or to trust in the only man who’s ever seen the real him.

Where to Buy*:
Kindle | BN | NOOK | Kobo
More Info:

Reviews of Hassell's Previous Novels:

First and First (#3) -- TBQ
Interborough (#4) -- TBQ

Strong Signal (#1) -- TBQ
Fast Connection (#2) -- TBQ

My Review:

He needed me. I wanted him in my life. It should have been that simple.

Val and Ashton’s story marks the fifth book in the Five Boroughs series, and once again Hassell does not disappoint. This is a friends-to-lovers story that has a good amount of angst and complications going on, as well as Hassell’s usual snark and entertaining voice.

Val and Ashton met and became friends under unusual conditions: Ashton, the youngest son of a wealthy Manhattan family, and Ashton, the son of the nanny hired to watch over Ashton. The two literally come from two different worlds, yet somehow none of that mattered when it came down to it, and they hit it off. Years later and they’re still friends, but so much has happened, and their friendship threatens to break for good – or change forever. It’s not as easy as simply moving from best friends to forever lovers; Val is still trying to figure out his sexuality and his future, Ashton is trying to get a handle on his life – balancing the fake with the real – and there’s a secret between them, one that Val’s kept for years because he knows it would hurt Ashton to find out the deal he made with Ashton’s father . . . 

I didn’t judge him for his various sexcapades. I just hated the fact that he thought he needed them to make people like him.

Val is a demisexual (he needs a deeper emotional connection to someone before feeling sexual attraction), though he doesn’t realize this until Ashton brings it up. He’s spent years assuming he was broken for not wanting sex, for not looking at men or women like everyone else does – except for his complicated attraction to Ashton, which terrifies him a bit. Not because of the attraction itself, but because he doesn’t want to ruin their friendship and he doesn’t want to come across as just another man wanting a piece of the beautiful, famous A-Town (a nickname the gossip mags gave Ashton).

With both of his parents gone, Val’s entire focus has been on boxing, working up to hitting it at the pro level so he can use the big money to pay for his younger sister’s college. The problem is while he’s technically great at the sport, he doesn’t have the head or the drive for it, and he’s quickly wearing himself down trying to bust his ass to go pro, even though he doesn’t love it, and trying to do part-time jobs to bring in some money until then. He’s only good at boxing though, has never had any other dreams or goals, and doesn’t know what to do if he can’t make it in the sport. Worse, he doesn’t want to admit those fears and uncertainties to anyone, so he keeps it all in and just pushes on, even as he’s slowly slipping further and further down.

Playing pretend wasn’t always a bad thing . . . until everyone realized how fake my whimsical cheer was.

Ashton isn’t ashamed of his life, or anything he’s done – not the men, not the parties, not the Instagram life – but he’s starting to realize that life is draining on him, that he’s tired of the fakeness sometimes, that he’s tired of always playing the rich-slutty-gay-boy that society has labeled him as. While, yes, he definitely comes from a place of privilege that Val does not have, he’s struggling with some of those same basic fears of failure and an unclear future. People only want him around for his fame, for his family’s name, for his body – who could possibly want him for something more, what career could he possible land with his sordid track record of being in the spotlight? No one takes him serious, they only see the glitzy, sexy mask he’s worn for years. But he’s tired of it, and it seems like Val is the only one who really sees past it all.

“Fuck, Ashton,” I said roughly, panting wetly against his face. “I think I’m in love with you. And I don’t know what to do.” 

Ashton’s heartbeat tripled, slamming against my chest as if it were my own. His fingers dug into my back. “I don’t know what to do either,” he breathed. “No one has loved me before."

The road from Ashton and Val’s friendship to a HEA is not easy or quick. There’s a fair amount of angst and obstacles, and each man must work out some of their baggage before reaching out to the other. I loved watching their story unfold, as it had its sweet moments, its sexy moments, and its “Shit, this kind of hurts, stop it!” moments. So basically, Hassell's usual mix. :)

I will say though, I thought the ending was too rushed. I would have preferred to see more page time, even in an epilogue setting, showing each of them finding themselves and what they want to do before moving forward as a couple. I wanted them to be a bit more solid in their newly found agency, not just their new relationship.

"I’m trying to have friends I haven’t fucked.” 

“Good luck with that,” Charles said into his drink. “Didn’t work out too well with Tonya.” 

“Shut up, Charles,” Mere said, laughing. “I barely knew her, and it doesn’t look like I’ll ever get to know her, since she didn’t bother to get my number after fingerbanging me to kingdom come.” 

“I feel sorry for the staff members who had to clean up all your kingdom’s come."

I loved the glimpses we got of the rest of the Boroughs gang – Numzio (*sigh*) and Steph, etc. I loved the teases Hassell gave of Mere and Tonya (please, give them a book!), and the hint of a possible triad starting up (M/M/M with an established couple), not to mention the “It’s complicated” of Steph and Sharky (Angel). Basically, I love this entire group that Hassell has put together and I want ALL THE BOOKS. No pressure, or anything. #greedyreader

Another great read from Hasssell, this time that of a demi boxer and an androgynous Instagram model finding their way from long-time friends to something so much more. Concourse could easily be read as a standalone, but I highly recommend this entire series.

4 1/2 STARS! 

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I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley.

*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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If you want to read more quotes that I highlighted, check out my Twitter!

Remember, since this is a Royal Pick, come back on May 25th for a chance to WIN an ecopy of your own!


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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