Author: Santino Hassell
It’s not an exaggeration to say that I’ve been waiting for Sunset Park since I turned the last page of the inaugural novel of the Five Boroughs series, Sutphin Boulevard. The latter marked the beginning of what has, so far, been an outstanding couple of stories, and I was thrilled when the sequel not only lived up to my expectations, but blew them out of the water entirely. Raymond and David may have carved out a place for themselves in the first story, but in Sunset Park, they handily and conclusively outshone everyone else around them.
Of the two main characters in this story, David continued to be the more difficult for me to become attached to, even though I already liked him a great deal by the end of Sutphin Boulevard. That isn’t to say that I never grew to love him, because I absolutely did, just that putting a lot of faith in David seemed to be a shaky prospect at times—which is ironic, given some of his actions and comments throughout the story. But, that’s not a bad thing, either, since the result was decidedly sweet. Choosing between stability and being happy is a gamble, and, having been hurt by “questioning” guys before, David likes to hedge his bets by eliminating as many unknowns as he can. I did think that David’s ex-boyfriend, Caleb, got this much right when he says:
“and now you are trying to find rational motivation for an irrational action.”
Regardless, there seems to be a big difference between David as an observer and David as a participant, and he’s overwhelmingly hyperopic when it comes to himself.
Raymond, on the other hand, won me over from the very beginning. He is straightforward, thoughtful, proud, and far more capable than he’s given credit for. What you see is what you get with him, for those who bother to look without their own pre-defined filters, anyway—which most people seem averse to doing. His acceptance of the immediate status of a situation is often taken for indifference, leading to a lot of frustration for both Raymond and those who care about him. But, the lack of an obvious trajectory with regards to these situations in no way means he doesn’t, or won’t, have one, making David’s faith in him even more significant. Raymond has an almost nonexistent “bs” threshold, which I appreciated a great deal, as well as a distinctive take on things, in general, that I couldn’t (and didn’t want to) resist. And leave it to Raymond to come up with what is arguably the best description of unrequited love I’ve ever heard when he says:
“There were only so many ways I could explain that he’d infiltrated every nerve, pore, and vessel of my being before it started sounding like I was comparing my unrequited feelings to an infectious disease. But maybe that’s what it was.”
And then later:
“Masochism was legit.”
I can’t argue with that.
As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to successful chemistry between his main characters in this series, Mr. Hassell is two-for-two. Raymond and David are marvelous when they connect, both physically and otherwise, and I found Raymond’s longing for David to be so lovely that it hurt. Even though I admit to being more invested in Raymond’s overall well-being while reading Sunset Park, I couldn’t help wanting them both to be happy more than anything.
Sunset Park is one of those narratives I needed to reread immediately because I couldn’t stand the thought of letting go of the story yet, and dove right back in with no small amount of unapologetic glee. Although it’s also set in NYC, and the characters are familiar, Sunset Park has an entirely different feeling to it than Sutphin Boulevard did, and Mr. Hassell expertly weaves the varying personalities of the city itself into every chapter. I can’t speak highly enough about this series as it now stands, and have even rearranged my favorite bookshelf to accommodate the paperback copies I bought to keep. I’m sure the rest of the series will look just as good there.
Raymond Rodriguez’s days of shoving responsibility to the wayside are over. His older brother wants to live with his boyfriend, so Raymond has to get his act together and find a place of his own. But when out-and-proud David Butler offers to be his roommate, Raymond agrees for reasons other than needing a place to crash.
David is Raymond’s opposite in almost every way—he’s Connecticut prim and proper while Raymond is a sarcastic longshoreman from Queens—but their friendship is solid. Their closeness surprises everyone as does their not-so-playful flirtation, since Raymond has always kept his bicurious side a secret.
Once they’re under the same roof, flirting turns physical, and soon their easy camaraderie is in danger of being lost to frustrating sexual tension and the stark cultural differences that set them apart. Now Raymond not only has to commit to his new independence—he has to commit to his feelings for David or risk losing him for good.
Release Date: December 11, 2015
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Series: Five Boroughs #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance, LGBTQ, m/m
Format(s): paperback (230 pages), e-book
Book Source: Publisher/Author
Sunset Park (Five Boroughs #2)
Reviews in the Series:
Sutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell (Five Boroughs #1)