Review: Sunset Park (Five Boroughs, #2) by Santino Hassell

Raymond Rodriguez's days of shoving responsibility to the wayside are over. His older brother wants to live with his boyfriend so Raymond has to get his act together and find a place of his own. But when out-and-proud David Butler offers to be his roommate, Raymond agrees for reasons other than needing a place to crash.

David is Raymond’s opposite in almost every way—he’s Connecticut prim and proper while Raymond is a sarcastic longshoreman from Queens—but their friendship is solid. Their closeness surprises everyone as does their not-so-playful flirtation since Raymond has always kept his bicurious side a secret.

Once they’re under the same roof, flirting turns physical, and soon their easy camaraderie is in danger of being lost to frustrating sexual tension and the stark cultural differences that set them apart. Now Raymond not only has to commit to his new independence—he has to commit to his feelings for David or risk losing him for good.

Have you ever had one of those reading experiences where you HATE putting the book down but get excited when you realize you're about to get back to it? Those reads are few and far between for me and Sunset Park was one of them. I stayed up too late reading it. I procrastinated work related activities until there was no more room for procrastinating. I half-assed some daily activities because I wanted to get back to Rayvid. Rayvid are yet another dysfunctional couple who start out as friends until Ray reveals his bicuriousity. I probably should refrain from making this global statement but I'm me so... *shrug* I feel like The Hassell has made Dysfunctional his bitch, like, he has Dysfunctional tied up in the basement to "muse" on periodically. I'm sure they have their "honeymoon" phases and by "honeymoon phase" I mean...


But The Hassell's got Dysfunctional by the short hairs.

Anyhoo... what I'm trying to say is if you enjoy healthy couples and conflicts involving first world problems... back away. Back away slowly. Rayvid's story is more character driven and doesn't tackle as many weighty subjects as its predecessor, but still. The Hassell brings a realism and grittiness to his couples that fascinates me. His characters are well developed and complicated. Frequently I found myself trying to puzzle out why both of them were doing certain things making it an exhilarating read as well. Figuring people out is in my wheelhouse and I do love a character I can sink my teeth into and in this case I got two!

Raymond is Michael's younger "slacker" brother. He's a professional at getting baked, gaming and general time suckage until Michael decides to rent the house they grew up in which means Ray's got to try to adult. He struck me as almost debilitatingly insecure with a propensity to admit defeat before the race has even begun. I don't think I've ever been so charmed by a character, though. He must've gone through the charisma line, like, twelve times. I hated a lot of things he did but I loved being in his head, his voice, his bluntness, his sarcastic and witty jibes and even his mean mug. There's a frankness about him I found refreshing. He leads with his heart and lets his actions speak for him but he kinda sucks at empathy.

"You always want to figure things out and ask yourself what they mean instead of letting things be the way they are."

He meets David and they have serious chemistry, they banter, they snipe. Honestly, they are one of those couples that you see canoodling and think, 'now how dafuq did that happen?'. Ray's brash NYC with a temperament and the chaotic upbringing to match to David's hyper-motivated, Connecticut white breadedness with the supportive parents and steady job. Ray is touch starved and needs the demonstrative affection David readily provides. David needs to be needed and desired the way Ray does after spending the better part of his adult life denying how important his sexuality is to him. He stayed in a "good on paper" relationship with Caleb for 2 yrs, minimizing his need for intensity and passion in lieu of stability. At first I thought David was a shallow twink on a mission to secure a semi-permanent side piece of Latin D, but as the story unfolded more layers were revealed. The crux of his problem is how does he choose between what he "should" do vs. what he wants? With Ray sending mixed signals he has a truckload of angst about making "the right choice". But Ray is a force. A hot Puerto Rican force. A hot Puerto Rican force with a 12 pack. And a man bun. And tattoos.

          I feel David. I feel his feels SO MUCH!

They dance around each other and game play all while truckloads of UST and UNF build. They both have a temper and are crazy jealous. They have that fire. They can't stay away from each other. They ping pong between fucking and fighting so much I feared I'd get whiplash. I kept thinking, 'COULD ONE OF YOU USE YOUR WORDS'?

Rayvid's Answer:  'Shut it, Cupcake. You know you like it.'

Tis true. I have some reservations about their longevity mostly because they're so volatile but they should burn bright pounding, ruining and wrecking the bejeeeezus out of each other while it lasts. Yes, again, with the crazy stupid hot sex. The sex force is strong with The Hassell. Still ain't mad at it either. And multiple choices made my eyes glassy. I read the last one a couple times. For science. But the edging scene... *grunts* Have I told you how much I love it when they beg?

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The only reason I'm dropping a half heart is the ending. Can't you give a girl an epilogue? What's the rush? Let's enjoy the halcyon days for a minute. I got smacked me around and wrung out for 16.5 chapters and then took an upper cut with 'The End' after half a chapter in Pleasantville? 

C'mon Maaaan! Uncool!

Aside from that I continue to be enamoured with The Hassell's writes and am looking forward to what's sure to be another trip to Dysfunction Junction only with caviar and likely some pretension in one of the "fancy" boroughs in the next installment.

I'll be there to sop that crazy up with a biscuit.

A review copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Find out more on Goodreads and Dreamspinner Press.

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