Monday, May 1, 2017

ARC Review:Concourse (Five Boroughs #5) by Santino Hassell

Book 5 of THE FIVE BOROUGHS Series

Can be read as a standalone

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.

What I thought about Concourse

I'm going to be honest. There was a moment I thought about not finishing this book. I wasn't in love with the characters. I didn't feel any connection to them. The first quarter of the book seemed too slow, as a matter of fact, it didn't even seem like Santino Hassell's writing. But I'm glad I ignored that voice in my head, or I would have missed out on some very special moments. 

Just as I was about to put this down, there's this lovely conversation between Ashton and Nunzio that turned this book around for me. It sealed the deal on just how awesome of a character Nunzio is in this series and more importantly, showed me an  Ashton I could love, and I really did love him by the end of this book.

The friends-to-lovers romance between the flamboyant socialite Ashton and the demisexual Val is complicated not only by the differences in their social class and overall world, but by big secrets that could crush both tender and stubborn hearts.  While I didn't connect with Val all that much, I really felt I got Ashton. He's smart and sensitive and plagued with self esteem issues that really cover up who he really is. Val understood him, and Ashton craved that understanding. And it wasn't just one way -- Ashton understood things about Val, too. Their friendship was a solid foundation to their love story that just couldn't be ignored by either character.

The story also puts a light on the nastiness that is homophobia. I thought it worked well to increase awareness without sacrificing realism or being preachy. The escalation from words to physical attack put me in someone else's shoes for a moment and increased my personal awareness. I liked that about Concourse.

But really, the star of this tale was Ashton.  I just totally fell for him, and I thought the epilogue was one of the best I've read this year. It left me smiling so hard and that's a terrific way to end a book!

Overall, I did enjoy Concourse, in spite of a few pacing issues at the start. I was glad that I stuck with it because it was really worth my time. 

An ARC was provided for review.  

About the Author

Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, then a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into an unlikely romance author.

Santino writes queer romance that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.

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