Book Review: Sutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell

Sutphin Boulevard by Santino HassellTitle: Sutphin Boulevard
Series: Five Boroughs, Book 1
Author: Santino Hassell
Genre: Contemporary Romance, M/M Romance
Sensuality Rating: Erotic
Source: Review copy provided by author
Published: July 31, 2015

Michael Rodriguez and Nunzio Medici have been friends for two decades. From escaping their dysfunctional families in the working-class neighborhood of South Jamaica, Queens to teaching in one of the city’s most queer friendly schools in Brooklyn, the two men have shared everything. Or so they thought until a sweltering night of dancing leads to an unexpected encounter that forever changes their friendship.

Now, casual touches and lingering looks are packed with sexual tension, and Michael can’t forget the feel of his best friend’s hands on him. Once problems rear up at work and home, Michael finds himself seeking constant escape in the effortless intimacy and mind-blowing sex he has with Nunzio. But things don’t stay easy for long.

When Michael’s world begins to crumble in a sea of tragedy and complications, he knows he has to make a choice: find solace in a path of self-destruction or accept the love of the man who has been by his side for twenty years. 

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Reviewed by: J9

In a Nutshell: Captivating read with complex characters, dirty romance, and stellar setting.

Why I Read This Book: Blurb caught my attention.

What I Liked: I couldn’t put this book down once I started it. Though normally not a fan of first person narration, I thought Michael was a captivating narrator. I was immersed in his life: the mistakes he made, his struggles, and his triumphs. Michael’s relationships with his brother, father, fellow teachers, students, and best friend/love interest are realistic and complex. From his disappointment in his father to his love for Nunzio, all Michael’s thoughts and feelings are laid bare on the page and I loved this total immersion. This story is told over time so Michael’s growth as a character, as well as his changing feelings for Nunzio, happen incrementally but in powerful ways. For instance, the book opens with Michael deciding whether he should cancel his Italy trip with Nunzio because of his father moving back into his childhood home. The decision is made there but the repercussions ripple through the story. This is masterful character development here!

Nunzio wasn’t as developed since this is clearly Michael’s story but that was okay with me. The emotional ties between Nunzio and Michael are powerful and formed over many years and experiences together. I love the Thanksgiving holiday scene where the men regroup (and more!) in Michael’s bedroom. Like their entire relationship, the scene is emotionally intense and sexually explosive. This is the rare book that combines dirty and romance perfectly!

I have to also mention the stellar setting of this book: NEW YORK F*CKING CITY! This author captures the smell, sound, taste, and feel of my beautifully-ugly home city. I’d say the setting is nearly a third character in this book and I couldn’t be more happy. This author clearly is a native and perfectly captures the gritty glory of NYC.

Note: The synopsis doesn’t do this book justice at all; it paints a simple friends-to-lovers romance when this story is more about addiction and recovery with a secondary romance plot. This totally worked for me as I have personal experience with addiction and recovery and this novel handles it with realistic optimism (no, that’s not an oxymoron!) Readers should be aware however, that Michael’s decline into addiction is on-page, as is his beginning recovery so if that’s triggering for you then you should pass on this book.

What I Didn’t Like: To me this book was about depth and nuance but the ending has a very sudden emotional denouement between Michael and Nunzio. I got worried as the story progressed and the percentage remaining kept going up that this would happen and it did: the ending between Michael and Nunzio was soap opera quick. Given the layers and complexity of their relationship, as well as Michael’s addiction recovery, I expected the ending to be less traditional romance and more…more. Not sure what I expected but not the quick conversation that fixed it all. Still, it didn’t prevent me from loving this complex book or romance.

IMO: Stellar read that I highly recommend for its dirty romance and strong narrator.

J9’s Rating:
4 1/2 Frogs

About J9: Vegan. Avid runner. Android addict. Never without a book in hand. Currently devouring MM romance but reads historial romance and paranormal romance as well. Follow J9 on Twitter.


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