Review: ‘Down by Contact’ by Santino Hassell

33637825Published January 16th 2018
220 pages

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…

It’s finally here! Well, it got here 5 days ago and I consumed the whole thing in a day and then forgot to write about it, so here we are. It was easily the most anticipated book of the month for me, and apparently everyone else too. And Mr Hassell NAILED IT. Enemies-to-lovers at its finest, and better than Illegal Contact as far as I’m concerned.

Simeon is the same sexy, flirty sweetheart he was in book one, and Adrián…well, Adrián’s a total, straight-up asshole. I couldn’t wrap my head around how Simeon was ever going to fall for this guy. He’s homophobic as much as he likes to say he isn’t, he’s aggravating  and offensive and stubborn and cocky, and it’s hard to see how he’s ever supposed to redeem himself. He needs a serious reality check. He’s also obsessed with Simeon, clueless about how all those feelings churning inside him are actually serious thirst issues, and it was so satisfying seeing it slowly dawn on him and watching him be totally powerless to it.

The dialogue and the thought processes were really funny, I was constantly smiling to myself, and there was great sparring between the two MCs that really amped up the sexual tension. That little game they were playing was only ever going to end one way, and damn when they got down to it, it was smokin’. I’m not sure anyone can write a hotter sex scene than Santino. Raw and real and steamy, seemingly innocuous thoughts that hit below the belt (in the best way). Not necessarily trying to be romantic, just bringing the honesty.

I really enjoyed the backdrop of the community centre, Sheila and Yaritza were absolute gems. Their friendship, their passion and work ethic, their senses of humour; I’d really like to see some more of them. And the kids were total scene-stealers, all smart and sassy and keeping Simeon and Adrián on their toes. Two giant athletes being owned by little punks, I loved it.

I think the attraction to this book was Simeon, falling in love with him in book one and wanting to know his story, but this was totally Adrián’s book for me. I loved being in his head, loved the voice that Santino gave him, acknowledging that he’s a dick like that’s just who he is; then getting to witness his personality overhaul. He accepted the shit about himself and he changed it. He wasn’t having that bullshit anymore. No excuses, just making himself a better human. Can we have some more of that please?

At its core, this is a glorious love story; displaying the good, the bad and the ugly of professional sports, locker room culture and toxic masculinity. It’s a story of attraction and redemption and self-discovery, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Now it’s time to start counting down the days until Book 3 arrives…

5/5 stars

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