Audiobook Review: First and First (Five Boroughs #3) by Santino Hassell

Caleb Stone was raised on the Upper East Side, where wealth and lineage reigns, and “alternative lifestyles” are hidden. It took him years to come out to his family, but he’s still stuck in the stranglehold of their expectations. Caleb knows he has to build his confidence and shake things up, but he doesn’t know how… until Oliver Buckley enters the picture.

Oli is everything Caleb isn’t—risk-taking, provocative, and fiercely independent. Disowned by his family, Oli has made his own way in the world and is beholden to no one. After a chance encounter on New Year’s Eve, Caleb is smitten.

As Caleb sheds the insecurities that have held him back for years, he makes bold steps toward changing his career and escaping years of sexual repression. But for Caleb to take full control of his life, he has to be brave enough to confront his feelings and trust Oli with his heart.

Listening time: 8 hrs 40 mins 
Narrated by Michael Ferraiuolo

Recently an author essentially called me a hardass reviewer and I was all... huh? wut?

Here I thought I was middle of the road but I'm about to be a hardass reviewer because there is no nice way of saying you don't like someone's voice, is there? I wish there were because I take no joy in saying it.

Ferraiuolo's voice for Caleb is nowhere near the register I heard in my head nor is his interpretation of him. Oli is marginally better, but the overwhelming feeling I got from both of them was disaffected and that is not a word I'd ever think to use for either of these characters. Maybe it's a New York thing? I'm not sure and to be fair to Ferraiuolo just because our interpretations didn't align doesn't mean it's not a worth a listen. He does a decent job of varying some of the voices, though I couldn't tell the difference between Aidan and Oli or Ashton and Charles and as the narrative evolved I noticed more frequent lapses in character differentiation.

It's entirely possible that if I hadn't had such a strong reaction to both Caleb and Oli when reading First and First it would be a non-issue, but I did. Hells bells, read my term paper review of it. Talk about wordy. But that's how strongly I invested in and attached to them so maybe my expectations were too lofty.

I tried to get past it. I even went to Home Depot to got some wood but my bridge was... shoddily crafted.

I'd get so far and then one of those scenes that I'd recall with perfect clarity just how much I connected to them would happen and make me all, who the hell are you and what have you done with Caleb? I need for someone to blink twice if Caleb's being held in a basement somewhere so rescue efforts can commence forthwith.

Still, he did a commendable job of conveying their sexual compatibility and their intensity, but I will think twice before listening to this narrator again.

Even though it was a bust for me I would recommend the audiobook to those who've not read the book or didn't invest as much in the characters or maybe New Yorkers? Hell, IDK maybe he's spot on. He certainly pronounces a whole bunch of words nothing like me or anyone I know does so... *shrugs* What I know is it was not what I heard in my head and I felt like I was swimming upstream the whole time trying to connect to two characters I thought clicking with would be instantaneous.

A review copy was provided.

Find out more on Goodreads & Dreamspinner Press.

See our eBook review here!

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