Sunday, March 27, 2016

ARC Review: First and First by Santino Hassell

First and First by Santino Hassell
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.

Jewel's rating:

First and First is the best of the Five Boroughs series, so far! Santino Hassell takes two characters that were not widely liked (by me, anyway) in the previous books and made me love them. When an author accomplishes that, I stand up and applaud! Santino Hassell writes real people with real problems and his stories have a grittiness and a realness to them I don't often see elsewhere.

First and First also has a touch of a different feel to it, than the first 2 books. The MC's have a completely different background, being from very wealthy families and they have different perspectives and problems they have to deal with every day. Also, and this surprised me a bit, because I am not used to it in this author's writing, there was a touch of sweetness between Oli and Caleb that just made my heart sing.

If you've read the previous books, you might remember Caleb as being David's closed off, but still needy, ex. And Oli as the the "player" friend of David's who hit on Raymond. So, neither of them seemed all that likable at the time. But these men have layers and histories that make up who they are.

At the start of First and First, Caleb is closed off and very much sexually repressed. He's never been one to take any kind of risk, instead essentially following the rules laid out by his overbearing father. And now that Caleb is in his mid-30's, he doesn't know how to break out of his shell. He's not all that sexually experienced, compared to other gay men his age and he has no idea how to let go and enjoy the moment. Until one drunken New Year's Eve when he goes home with Oli.

And Oli isn't boyfriend material. He loves sex, but he doesn't do monogamy. Any hint of attachment will send him running in the other direction. But with Caleb, he's different. Caleb responds so beautifully to Oli that Oli just can't get enough.

First and First is very much a journey for both Oli and Caleb. For Caleb, becoming comfortable in his own skin and learning to let go, and for Oli, learning to let someone in and trust that they will still want you tomorrow.

The sex was hot, like I've come to expect from Hassell, and Oli shows Caleb a whole new world. Every single sex scene was necessary and crucial to the journeys that both men are taking. From the first word to the last, I wouldn't change a thing. (But if Santino Hassell ever decided to write an epilogue, I wouldn't object.)

An ARC copy of First and First was generously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

First and First by Santino Hassell

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