Caleb Stone was raised on the Upper East Side, where wealth and lineage reigns, and “alternative lifestyles” are hidden. It took him years to come out to his family, but he’s still stuck in the stranglehold of their expectations. Caleb knows he has to build his confidence and shake things up, but he doesn’t know how… until Oliver Buckley enters the picture.
Oli is everything Caleb isn’t—risk-taking, provocative, and fiercely independent. Disowned by his family, Oli has made his own way in the world and is beholden to no one. After a chance encounter on New Year’s Eve, Caleb is smitten.
As Caleb sheds the insecurities that have held him back for years, he makes bold steps toward changing his career and escaping years of sexual repression. But for Caleb to take full control of his life, he has to be brave enough to confront his feelings and trust Oli with his heart.
I cannot say this loud enough … Santino Hassell has a unique and inspiring writing style that everyone should experience. I’m not going to tell you that every book I have read by him has been perfection, because they weren’t, but this book was pretty damn close to flawless…
If you start from the beginning with this series, there might be some apprehension or you may feel some discord towards Caleb, but it’s only because he didn’t get to open and shine before First and First. In previous books, he played in the background of the story, and not very favorably, and he didn’t get to come forth into the light and have us meet the real man.
First and First is his story. His time to grow. His moment to shine. And shine he did. His actions, past and present, were given meaning and understanding. And it’s impossible not to feel for him. From page one, Caleb took residence in my heart and in my soul and he never let go. And Oliver … **sigh**…what a thing of beauty this man turned out to be. He just stormed right into Caleb’s life and took residence for the long haul. And he didn’t even know he was doing it 🙂 Both of these men were ridiculously destined for each other but could not have been more opposite. Caleb with his closed off uptight demeanor and Oli with his free as a bird take life by the moment attitude made for an explosive, tender and ridiculously perfect pair!
One of the things that I have found in Santino’s writing that seems to be a recurring theme is multiple journeys intertwined within one another to form the story. First and First was not just a story of Oliver and Caleb finding one another. It was a story of Caleb finding himself and accepting his self-worth. It was a story of Oliver pushing his boundaries and allowing himself to feel. It was a story of family and friendship and growth and love and acceptance and best of all, it’s relatable.
I honestly did not think that Santino Hassell could make me feel more than he had when I read Sutphin Boulevard, but he did. Unbelievably so. I didn’t just feel for Caleb and Oliver … oh no, Charles and Ashton and Aiden, they ALL took residence in my heart. These men and their lives, their struggles, their accomplishments, everything about them … it spoke to me. And that kids is all because Santino can write. He will pull you into the story and you will be right there!! #TRUST
There’s not much else I can tell you to convince you that this author needs to be on your radar. Except maybe a play by play of the story and I’m not going to do that. You’re gonna have to trust me because if you don’t, you will miss out on one of the best literary experiences of this decade! #TRUST
Sutphin Boulevard (Five Boroughs Book 1)
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.
When Michael’s world begins to crumble in a sea of tragedy and complications, he knows he has to make a choice: find solace in a path of self-destruction or accept the love of the man who has been by his side for twenty years.
Sunset Park (Five Boroughs Book 2)
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.
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.