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Sutphin Boulevard - Santino Hassell

Written by
Format: M4A
Unabridged

Genre: Contemporary Romance, Drama
Length: 90k words / 9 hours
Sexual Content: Very Explicit

To me, this book is more literary than romance novel, but it is published by Dreamspinner, so the official blurb reflects that. I will add that at the end, though. I hope that more people will discover this writer. He is in a different league to most in that stable.

Firstly, it's immediately apparent that this is a book actually written by a man, and a gay man at that. The sex scenes are explicit, and very hot, but they are also much more convincing and realistic than usual. So too are the characters and their lives. Most books in the MM romance genre appear to be written by and for women with no real interest in actual gay men's lives. If you are looking for muscular men in the roles of suburban mother, or a pair of men who dream only of having family and children, with most of their ambition directed towards a wedding day, this is not for you. If you are interested in the realistic depiction of young gay men in NYC, who have messy lives that include hot sex as well as relationships, then it is.

In a nutshell, it is the story of two life-long best friends in their 20s. They are both school teachers in NYC. Their relationship changes from friends, to FWB to more. There follows the fairly predictable angst-ridden rocky road of denying the emotions, maintaining FWB status, fear that the other will not want more, misunderstandings and so on.

But the story is way more than that. It is also the story of familial bonds in both positive and negative light; of generational family dysfunction and change; of addiction and recovery; of internalized homophobia and self-denial; and co-dependence. This all sounds rather dull, but the quality of the writing prevents it from being preachy or soap-operatic. It's more Brideshead Revisited than Bold and the Beautiful.

This book is written from one character's POV, and yet the reader can see how distorted his view is, and also see into the souls of the other characters, often more that the MC's. Instead of the gay characters who are really women in most MM romance books, these characters are male and do not discuss their every emotion and discuss their every confusion and hope and so on. Instead the emotions, which are deep and clear, are revealed to use through actions and from what is unsaid.

Blurb: Michael Rodriguez and Nunzio Medici have been friends for two decades. From escaping their dysfunctional families in the working-class neighborhood of South Jamaica, Queens to teaching in one of the city’s most queer friendly schools in Brooklyn, the two men have shared everything. Or so they thought until a sweltering night of dancing leads to an unexpected encounter that forever changes their friendship. Now, casual touches and lingering looks are packed with sexual tension, and Michael can’t forget the feel of his best friend’s hands on him. Once problems rear up at work and home, Michael finds himself seeking constant escape in the effortless intimacy and mind-blowing sex he has with Nunzio. But things don’t stay easy for long.

Review Excerpts:

- Everything about this story was on point. The writing, the editing, the character development. EVERYTHING!

- This story starts off with a bang. You don’t anticipate what happens in the first few chapters but hot damn, I was hooked. Probably one of the hottest sex scenes I’ve read in a romance. I started reading it during my commute to work, and I swore flames were about to shoot up out of my Kindle, LOL!

- This story is so much more than a friends to lover’s tale. It’s about vulnerability and pushing away the people who love you. It’s about battling demons, it’s about self-expression, and telling the people you care about how you feel while there’s still time.

- Captivating read with complex characters, dirty romance, and stellar setting. I couldn’t put this book down once I started it.

- Michael was a captivating narrator. I was immersed in his life: the mistakes he made, his struggles, and his triumphs. Michael’s relationships with his brother, father, fellow teachers, students, and best friend/love interest are realistic and complex.

- This book and these characters offer a gritty and realistic view of life while offering a complex and multi-layered story of true friends that become lovers. This is the first book in a new series and the main characters for the second story look to be equally as promising. As for the author, Santino Hassell, he is definitely a talented author to watch.

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