The rules of the game don’t apply off the field in this first Barons novel.
New York Barons tight end Gavin Brawley is suspended from the team and on house arrest after a video of him brawling goes viral. Gavin already has a reputation as a jerk with a temper on and off the field—which doesn’t help him once he finds himself on the wrong side of the law. And while he’s been successful professionally, he’s never been lucky when it comes to love.
Noah Monroe is a recent college grad looking for a job—any job—to pay off his mounting student debt. Working as Gavin’s personal assistant/babysitter seems like easy money. But Noah isn’t prepared for the electrifying tension between him and the football player. He’s not sure if he’d rather argue with Gavin or tackle him to the floor. But both men know the score, and neither is sure what will happen once Gavin's timeout is over…
Illegal Contact illustrates exactly why I love Santino Hassell's writing. He writes with a realism and grittiness that never feels trite. And, it would seem, that no matter what genre he is trying out, when I sit down to read his words, I lose time. Gladly.
I'm not a sports fan. At all. I don't watch football, hockey, or any other sport. And much like Noah, I find football payers to be overpaid gladiators. But I get that, for some, football is as close to religion as they get. It's more than a love or a hobby or a competition. I don't watch sports, but I do enjoy a good sports romance. Even overpaid gladiators deserve happy endings and, well, when it comes down to it, we all love what we love, be it football or Star Trek or whatever else.
I loved Illegal Contact. Loved. Both Gavin and Noah felt real and flawed and so well drawn. And their cautious beginning all the way to their HEA just drew me in. It very easily could have bored me, considering that the setting is pretty much just Gavin's mansion, but it didn't bore me at all. I found the characters - primary and secondary, alike - to be interesting and the story compelling. And the last quarter, or so, just killed me ded. Just f'ing wow. The passion. The feelz, people!
So, football -- Gavin Brawley has a reputation of not having any fucks to give, regarding to how the general public views him. Football is his life and as long as he can play, he doesn't care what anyone says or thinks about him. You see, Gavin grew up in the system, and if it weren't for football getting him out of there, who knows what would have happened to him. Well, with his anger management issues, we can guess that it would not have been good.
After growing up where he did and then seeing just how everyone treats him like he isn't even a real person, Gavin simply does not trust easily. There are too many people out there that would try to get a piece of him, just for kicks and cash. And I can't imagine what that must be like. He doesn't have many friends, just a couple guys on his team are it. To everyone else, he is a commodity or entertainment.
Which brings us to Noah Monroe. I loved Noah. I loved how Noah couldn't care less about football or that his prospective employer was an NFL player. I loved how he spoke his mind to Gavin and also how his assumptions about Gavin were so far wrong. Noah, like everyone, assumed that Gavin was a bully and that working for him would probably not be worth the trouble. But, Noah needed the job and he was not afraid of a challenge. Even when it felt overwhelming.
Noah hasn't always had good judgement, though. Goodness, no. His previous employment ended after he had an affair with his boss. His boss turned out to be slimy and well, he slithered out of any consequences, while Noah ended up out of a job. But Noah is ready to put that behind him and work for Gavin for 6 months to give him some cushion so that he can look for work in his chosen field of social work.
Through Noah, I fell in love with Gavin. Noah brought out the human being in Gavin. Not that it wasn't there before, but no one had ever really bothered to look or give Gavin any incentive to show that side of himself. In reality, Gavin was a guy who gave a damn about the kids in the system that wrote to him, he just didn't know how to really show it. And Gavin is loyal to the people he cares about. Fiercely loyal and protective. You just won't find a more stand up guy, in that regard. And because Noah went out of his way to treat Gavin like a real person and would give as good as he got with the snark and was never afraid to speak his mind, Gavin wanted more of that. Wanted more of Noah.
And. I. Loved. It. Every word, every page. Santino Hassell got it right -- again.
ARC of Illegal Contact was generously provided by the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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