Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell. InterMix. 2017.
Note added 3/9/18: Please see my post regarding this author. I am removing my 5 star rating, but leaving the review for transparency.
I adored this romance! It’s immediately going in my comfort rereads folder on my Kindle. It has so many things that I love, and there were no sharp edges to jar me out of the story, which is pretty rare. I just got to ride along with Noah and Gavin on their rollercoaster.
I loved Gavin’s arc in this, how he starts out grumpy and mean with intense emotional armor and gets all soft inside for Noah because Noah talks back to him and doesn’t take crap from him and is clearly such a good boy. It was lovely to watch him slowly get completely gone over Noah, who is so oblivious about it for so long and just trying to do his job well and be good at it and make Gavin happy. They are two sweet steps away from a very lovely service based D/s dynamic The Entire Time and it was so tantalizing because I could see it in their hearts, see how Noah wanted to be so good for Gavin and devote himself to him, and how Gavin wanted to hold him close and care for him and give him opportunities to shine. It was this huge tease for me as a reader, and I enjoyed that all the way through.
I like how Noah is very much in this in-between place of trying to figure out how to be competent at something new and not make the same mistakes and is also reeling so hard from losing his prior job and the stickiness of that. It was really satisfying to watch him build himself up after that, and work to make his life into what he needed by being real.
I adore the chosen family in this book. They are wonderful and need their own books, all of them. Jasmine and Marcus need a book, and I am excited that Simeon gets the next book. The scrimmage is one of my favorite parts, they both made me swoon.
The roller coaster of their relationship felt really real to me, from the getting stuck in NRE and hot sex and ignoring reality to the devastating heart wrenching separation to the happy ending. It worked so well and was super compelling. Really this one of those books I down in big gulps and then hug for a while afterwards.
I liked that there were references to Gavin’s childhood but not a lot of traumatic detail. It wasn’t necessary to get into that and I really appreciate that it didn’t veer into trauma porn. I liked the clear on the page bi rep. and the way Gavin’s bisexuality felt realistically and respectfully portrayed. I liked the small ways that Gavin’s politics came through in the book, a lot. Just small moments where we saw his thoughts or he makes a comment, no fanfare. Those moments made me want to be his friend. This is a boss/employee relationship, and it felt like it really explored the ways power can get sticky and messy and did that from a place that was about valuing consent. I wish more boss/employee romances did that. These were MCs who both came from working class backgrounds, though one had class climbed, and it felt like it held the class issues in the story with care, which I appreciated.
The sex scenes were so well done, very hot and such a place for movement of story and illumination of character. They had such tremendous heart to them.
You don’t have to be a football fan to like or understand this book. I have yet to watch a football game and don’t understand the fundamentals of the game and I loved it.
This is in my top ten new romances I’ve read in 2017, and in my top ten m/m romances I’ve ever read. It’s really good. Hassell is a wonderful writer, per usual. I especially appreciated his characterization, the voice of each of the MCs, and the way he drew setting in this story.
- Gay man MC
- Bisexual man MC
- Bisexual man author
Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)
Description of a past employer/employee relationship that felt like it walked the line of coercive. Descriptions of violence. Threats of outing. Oblique references to abuse in the foster system in childhood. Consensual sex on the page, including anal sex, rimming, oral sex, frotting.
- Source of the book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
- I am friends with the author on Twitter, and have done a sensitivity read for him.
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