ARC Review – Down by Contact by Santino Hassell

Posted January 16, 2018 by smutmatters in ARC, M/M, Reviews / 0 Comments

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

ARC Review – Down by Contact by Santino HassellDown by Contact by Santino Hassell
Series: The Barons #2
Published by InterMix on January 16th 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Sports
Pages: 220
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooks

Two rival football players begin a game with higher stakes than the Super Bowl in this steamy romance from the author of Illegal Contact.

Simeon Boudreaux, the New York Barons’ golden-armed quarterback, is blessed with irresistible New Orleans charm and a face to melt your mama’s heart. He’s universally adored by fans and the media. Coming out as gay in solidarity with his teammate hasn’t harmed his reputation in the least—except for some social media taunting from rival linebacker Adrián Bravo.

Though they were once teammates, Adrián views Simeon as a traitor and the number-one name on the New Jersey Predators’ shit list. When animosity between the two NFL players reaches a boiling point on the field, culminating in a dirty fist fight, they’re both benched for six games and sentenced to joint community service teaching sullen, Brooklyn teens how to play ball.

At first, they can barely stand to be in the same room, but running the camp forces them to shape up. With no choice but to work together, Simeon realizes Adrián is more than his alpha-jerk persona, and Adrián begins to question why he’s always had such strong feelings for the gorgeous QB…

Hot football players, sarcasm, snark, forced proximity, enemies-to-lovers; trust me when I say that I was salivating for this book before I’d even finished the first one in the series, Illegal Contact. And, guys, trust me again when I say it was so, so worth the wait. Also, can we talk about the fact that these 2 NFL players aren’t white? The NFL is 70% black, and yet if you do even a cursory look at the vast number of NFL romance novels, you’d be hard-pressed to find any non-white main characters. It’s one of the reasons I don’t read very many sports books, football specifically.

Simeon Boudreaux and Adrian Bravo hate each other. The kind of hatred you can only have for someone you used to be friends with. But then Simeon left the New Jersey Predators and signed with the New York Barons. The Barons decimated the Predators every game that season (which…. if this is in the NFL, wouldn’t the Barons and the Predators only have played each other twice? So while that sentence is technically true, it reads strangely to me. It’s not like they played each other every week and the Barons just dominated. They won, probably, two games. And that’s dependent on them being in the same division. If they’re in different divisions they would have only played each other once) and Adrian accused Simeon of giving the Barons the Predator’s entire playbook.

After a confrontation on the field results in Simeon’s throwing arm being injured, the two are forced to spend their suspensions doing community service at a local community center working with the new youth football league. Needless to say, neither of them are very excited about this, but after the events of the previous book, and now this near-brawl on the field, the NFL (well, “The League” as it’s referred to here) is over dealing with the drama and the bullshit, and if these two teams, and these players specifically, can’t get their crap together, their careers are in jeopardy.

So that’s the really basic setup for this book, but it doesn’t give you an idea of the depth of this story. Simeon is out, he came out in the last book, but Adrian has always identified as straight. I was a little concerned about this, worried that it would play as gay-for-you, but I should have known that Santino wouldn’t let it go that way. Adrian eventually identifies as bisexual, and he seems to accept this easily, (maybe a little too easily), but once he realizes it, once he decides that he’s in on this relationship with Simeon, he is all in. He is not fucking around, he is not playing, he’s not interested in hiding their relationship. He goes along with Simeon’s plan to hide it for a while, but it chafes, and he knows he won’t be able to do it for long.

To be fair, Simeon isn’t trying to hide their relationship because he’s ashamed of it or doesn’t want anyone to know about it. In Illegal Contact, Simeon was caught in a compromising position, which was the incident that resulted in Gavin’s suspension and kicked everything in this series off. Because of that incident, Simeon is understandably reluctant to put any relationship in the spotlight, and he just wants to keep Adrian to himself for a while before the inevitable media shitstorm. Adrian gets it, but still grates at the constraints. Now that he and Simeon are together, he wants everyone to know.

And that’s probably the biggest reason this was 4 stars instead of 5, despite my love of this series, these characters, and this entire book. Especially in the beginning, Adrian was a little hard to take. His constant need to be a smartass with everyone all the time was annoying, to put it mildly. And I was surprised by how easily he accepted his bisexuality. As far as I could tell, he had never even considered it as a possibility before, but there wasn’t anything to indicate he even gave this enormous change in his life a lot of thought. He thought about how people would react, of course, his family especially, but he didn’t really spend any time thinking about the fact that his entire identity was changing. But Adrian also wasn’t an ass about it; he never denigrated Simeon for either his sexuality or for flirting with him, and Adrian never felt the need to prove his heterosexuality by talking a bunch of shit about women or generally being garbage, so that was refreshing.

Overall, my review comes down to this – go get this fucking book!! If you haven’t read Illegal Contact yet, do that immediately, then read this one. You can read this one as a standalone, but your understanding of the characters, Simeon in particular, will be richer if you read them in order. But whatever you end up doing, do it immediately. You want to read this series.

About Santino Hassell

Santino Hassell was raised by a strict Catholic 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.

Leave a Reply