Genres: Romance, Contemporary, Adult
Series: The Barons #1
Published by InterMix on August 15th 2017
Source: Provided by Publisher, Netgalley
Amazon, Barnes & Noble
The rules of the game don’t apply off the field in this first Barons novel.
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…
“Happy endings are good for hard times.”
Santino’s name has been everywhere on my twitter feed so of course I couldn’t have been more thrilled when I saw I had been approved to review one of his latest book releases. Illegal Contact not only delivered on the hype, but it exceeded all of my expectations.
To start off, most of you know I don’t like the enemies turned lovers trope one bit. It’s hard for me to imagine falling in love with someone you hate. However, Illegal Contact may have just changed my mind thanks to two men named Gavin Brawley and Noah Monroe.
From the beginning I was hooked with these two. Gavin is mean; he’s broody; he’s a cliche just waiting to happen and I love him. Getting inside his head was exciting and it made me giddy every time I read about his thoughts about Noah. I loved seeing his development as a person; growing from this gruff man who had lost faith in ever letting someone into this gentle, loving soul who worships the ground his lover walks on. His childhood life was enough to make my heart break for him and I wanted him to be happy with every page I read. Who knew I would be calling an eternally angry, bisexual football player “my son”?
Noah Monroe appears to be this sweet nerdy boy next door but trust me, my boy will sass you through hell and back, no matter who you are. His chemistry with Gavin is electric and though it is kind of a slow burn, the tension made everything so much sweeter. I also loved that this story was extremely domestic; two guys stuck living together for six months. They were bound to create a beautiful bond and friendship that, luckily, helped them both grow as people and helped them learn more about themselves and their sexuality.
The dialogue was gritty and crass and many times, laugh out loud funny; the sex scenes were incredible, I was blushing by the end of each one. Trust me, they’re that good.
Its obvious that the main focus of the story is the budding romance between these two but the plot also incorporates important themes such as poverty, homophobia in the NFL and the world in general and the importance of healthy, consensual relationships. There’s also a great deal of sex positivity which I always enjoy.
Romances tend to give you little background on the secondary characters mainly because they want there to be space for a spin-off novel one day. While Santino did do this I did have enough scenes with them to know I adore them with all my heart. Simeon and Marcus were phenomenal in each scene and I can’t wait to read more about them. The only one I did hate for most of the book was Joe; I hate homophobes, honestly.
This series is officially on my radar, Santino Hassell has become one of my favorite writers and I can’t wait to dive into all of his other stories.
I’ll admit I’m not a big sports books person, especially if I’m not a fan of the sport itself. So, imagine my surprise when I devoured Santino Hassell’s Illegal Contact in less than 5 hours.
What first drew me into Illegal Contact was our protagonist, Gavin. What we first find out about him is the fact that he’s hot tempered and is currently under house arrest for aggravated assault. Gavin comes off as rough around the edges and is [in]famous for his glare. He’s not afraid to speak his mind, and is seen as the team’s grump. However, we see that Gavin is actually extremely loyal and supportive of his friends. We see why he doesn’t trust easily, and slowly but surely, we fall in love with Gavin just like Noah does.
Noah is described by everyone as a hotter version of Clark Kent. I loved Noah from the first moment he appeared. He’s very dedicated to his dad, he’s a great friend, and he has big dreams to help LGBT youth. Plus, he’s snarky and sarcastic, and he never missed a beat in calling Gavin out on his attitude. Him and Gavin’s interactions always produce sparks.
“The warmth in my chest and butterflies in my gut made it plain as day that my miserable ass really fucking liked him. In the hand-holding kind of way, not just the ass-pounding way. Although I wanted to do that too.”
THE ROMANCE IN THIS BOOK IS ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. They get off on the wrong foot when they meet, and things only get more interesting after that. Just imagine what it’s like for them to be together every second of every day….
What I loved about their romance is that when they finally get together, they turn SO SOFT. Gavin turns into an absolute mush ball who loves kissing, and Noah just wants to protect Gavin from the world. It’s really so incredibly cute. Not to mention that Santino writes such amazing SMUT that I’m left speechless at how he can write a simultaneously hot and sweet scene all at once.
Surprisingly enough, I also loved the sports aspect! I loved the complexity behind Noah and Gavin’s relationship, because while Gavin is bisexual, he hides that part of his identity because he doesn’t know how it’ll affect his career. In the book we also see that playing football is just one part of the whole thing. Off the field there are a lot of complexities that I was surprised but delighted to read.
Overall, Illegal Contact is a sexy and sweet m/m sports romance that you NEED to get on your radar. You’ll fall in love with Gavin and Noah and absolutely fall in love with Santino Hassell’s writing. After finishing, you’ll want to read every other thing he’s written.
I can’t wait to read the next book in this series, Down by Contact. It’s about Simeon, one of Gavin’s teammates and friends, who’s a gay PoC. It’s enemies to lovers, and it promises a love interest from a rival football team that I’m almost sure must be a PoC as well. 2018 can’t come any faster.
If you liked my review, please consider voting for it on Goodreads.
Check out the book’s Pinterest board if you’re still not sure about reading it!
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