Dual Review: First and First by Santino Hassell

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1st &1stFirst and First by Santino Hassell
Series: Five Boroughs
Release Date: April 18, 2016
Pages: 244 • Format: eARC
Published By: Dreamspinner Press
Purchase Links:
Dreamspinner Amazon ARe

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.

five-stars

Mika: “Warning: Santino Hassell books have the potential to help you conceive. Read his books with caution and a side of birth control if it’s not something you want!”

Ginger: HA! Mika knows what she is talking about!

So… book three in the Five Boroughs series is finally here, we finally get to be in the head of Caleb, get to understand how he ticks and what drew David to him and kept David going  back as his friend more times than most of thought he should and we get Oli… oh hell yes do we get Oli.

When we first met Caleb in Sutphin Boulevard via David I felt bad for him knowing David was screwing dudes behind his back. Then we got more of him in in Sunset Park and I needed to know his story because I adored the hell out of David and I knew that man wouldn’t keep helping and being available to someone who wasn’t worth it.

Mika: Not once in my mind did I think Caleb was going to be as interesting or likeable as he is. I mean in Sunset Park I literally wore my RBF face whenever he was mentioned. I disliked him, he seemed so arrogant and entitled and I couldn’t see why my sweet David was interested in him. He wasn’t someone I was interested in and I didn’t know how Santino was going to make up for his douchery in S.P. Well as usual I end up eating my words! This book lived up to all the potential that I thought and more.

Ginger: I totally agree about how we met Caleb, but then we got to the First and First and we meet Caleb, we get a chance to be inside his head and we know, we know the crap he has had to deal with, his family dynamics and at the borderline self-hatred he has for what he wants sexually and of course, the utterly sexy AF reaction he has when he finds that one person to let go with.

There were millions of people in this city and sometimes it helped for me to think in terms of the hundreds of thousands of people living in the five boroughs who felt like me. Anchored to nothing, too afraid to take a chance. Lost and not quite fitting anywhere—even the places we wanted to be. I felt less alone when I considered all of those other aimless souls. Maybe one day we’d find each other.

Mika: So different from the first two books in the series, but it can definitely stand on the same merits. He was able to take two guys from similar backgrounds and make them completely opposites in nature. Oliver is such an amazing character. I love his straight forward nature; love his care free personality and also his ownership of his sexuality. That means something to him based on how he grew up and what transpired from his teenage years to his adulthood. Caleb comes from the same privileged life style; where you are put on a pedestal and expected to live in your families’ footsteps. Caleb differs from Oli in a lot of ways. His internal monologue is so angsty. ARGH!!! It pained me to see him like this. I understand why. Look at his family, and all the weight that comes with his last name has denied him a sense of self. At 36, he lacks the sexual experience that is the norm maybe. You can see on page where his insecurities lie in. Reading this story his reservations seems to be based on his family, but when you get to the bottom of it a lot of it is Caleb. I don’t think he was ever was comfortable with himself.  That’s just my take on Caleb at least.

“Just be yourself.” Oli said easily. “Even if it’s the you that you’re normally too afraid to be.”

 Ginger: I’ll admit to having a rough start with this book and I couldn’t figure out why until I got further into it. I had major preconceived notions of Caleb’s character but was firmly sat on my ass by Hassell when he played Caleb at the other end of the table and shoved everything I thought I knew out the window. Caleb may me more complex than even Michael Rodriguez and possibly more tragic in ways just minus the tragic angst and addiction Mikey had. But Caleb, the dude owns my heart now and it’s not just about his looks (though the image of Ben Hill while reading this had me visiting the model’s IG account more than once) it’s about his tenacity for life, about his desire to do something that he can call his own despite what comes with his last name and it’s about everything he is, he does and how he feels for Oli.

I had no need to lie to Oli. He’d seen me turned inside out and torn apart by nothing more than his touch.

 Now, we need to talk about one Oliver Buckley and how much the idea of cataloging his back tattoo with my tongue is high on a list of fantasies I’ve gained from books. Oli and Caleb have so much in common and it’s not just about what they want to do with their dicks. It’s not only the fact that they come from money and have questionable relationships with it but they are alike with their morals, with their loyalty and with trust so it was only fitting as we get further into the story to realize, these two would be more than amazing together. Watching Oli slowly lose his armor piece by piece as Caleb discovers himself was amazing. Caleb totally disarmed Oli without even trying and it was heartbreaking to see these two fight against the one thing that they wanted as they tried so hard to pull it all in and hold it tight. I just adored the hell out of Oli and learning his back story as he spoon fed it to us was just… yeah, it was fantastic though painful. 

Mika: And with that growth we start to see both characters grow. It isn’t nice or easy. It’s long and emotional. Which I love!!! Santino writing is so effortlessly done! I mean this book seriously flows, I like the wave of emotions and I love the pacing of the story. I get to see Caleb become Caleb. Jeez he was so freaking hot, and remember my warning at the beginning of the story it was all because of Oli. Now look anyone who knows me; knows that I live for Raymond. All day every day, but Santino and his sex scenes deserve a compilation book all amongst themselves. He is so nasty, but so so good. I live for those moments, it leave you panting, and wanting, and just torturous to yourself if you aren’t able to read through them. Another kudos for him writing these sex scenes is because are not just wanted but are needed. These are some of the most erotic scenes that he has written, and man I can’t say anything without spoiling it. It’s an important evolution of these characters.

“You’re so sexy,” Oli panted. “And you don’t even know it, and that just makes me want to destroy you. Take you apart and fuck you until you’re trembling and begging and saying my name.”

Ginger: I have a thing for the underdog, for the character that you may strongly dislike when you first meet them but they grow on you and you need to know their story. Well, that was Caleb for me and I can’t seem to put into words how much his story blew me away. But blow me away it did and I’m still pretty stunned that book three in a series has me hooked, because series traditionally aren’t my jam. But seeing Caleb go from this the two-dimensional ex-boyfriend of David to this driving force of self exploration, expression and opportunity was gorgeous. To see the way this all bled from Caleb to Oli was a bit well… real talk? It was orgasmic.

Mika:  I get to see Caleb become Caleb. Jeez he was so freaking hot, and remember my warning at the beginning of the story it was all because of Oli. Now look anyone who knows me; knows that I live for Raymond. All day every day, but Santino and his sex scenes deserve a compilation book all amongst themselves. He is so nasty, but so so good. I live for those moments, it leave you panting, and wanting, and just torturous to yourself if you aren’t able to read through them. Another kudos for him writing these sex scenes is because are not just wanted but are needed. These are some of the most erotic scenes that he has written, and man I can’t say anything without spoiling it. It’s an important evolution of these characters.

Ginger: Goodness, the sex… I love that this had what I call the classic “Do what I tell you and just let me watch” sex scene that I have come to associate with Hassell’s books. It’s so damn sensual when we get them, they are so damn hot and so damn liberating that they are bookmarked, highlighted, notes made and possibly read more than once for, research. Yup, research. But the sex, though it’s sexy AF, I mean beyond the beyond, it’s another form of communication when it comes to Oli and Caleb, the bond is formed with their first sexual encounter and through the trust they place in one another, it allows them to finally tear down the walls to be together.

Somewhere along the line, that had become a thrill. I wanted someone to see. I wanted someone to know how badly we needed each other.

First and First, sure the title has a place in the story but I think it has a deeper meaning for me. Both Caleb and Oli have a number of firsts whether it’s what they experience together or apart and it’s how they bring it back to one another. It’s a story about the lines you draw, you draw in sand so you can drag your foot through them to be erased and let someone in. It’s all about taking that first step toward figuring it all out and the rest of the first that follow.


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About Santino Hassell

Santino was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed grunge kid, then a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into a guy who spends his days and nights writing romance with an edge.

Santino is a dedicated gamer, a former fanfic writer, an ASoIaF mega nerd, a Grindr enthusiast, but most of all he is a writer of queer fiction 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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