Review: Concourse (Five Boroughs, #5) by Santino Hassell

Ashton Townsend is the most famous celebutante of Manhattan’s glitterati. The black sheep of his wealthy family, he’s known for his club appearances, Instagram account, and sex tape. Most people can’t imagine him wanting for anything, but Ashton yearns for friendship, respect, and the love of his best friend—amateur boxer Valdrin Leka.

Val’s relationship with Ashton is complicated. As the son of Ashton’s beloved nanny, Val has always bounced between resenting Ashton and regarding him as his best friend. And then there’s the sexual attraction between them that Val tries so hard to ignore.

When Ashton flees his glitzy lifestyle, he finds refuge with Val in the Bronx. Between Val’s training for an upcoming fight and dodging paparazzi, they succumb to their need for each other. But before they can figure out what it all means—and what they want to do about it—the world drags them out of their haven, revealing a secret Val has kept for years. Now, Ashton has to decide whether to once again envelop himself in his party-boy persona, or to trust in the only man who’s ever seen the real him.

Ashton Townsend and Valdrin Leka are two very different men. Ashton is a rich socialite heir from Manhattan, while Val is a struggling boxer from the Bronx.

Yet a shared childhood and an unacknowledged love ties the two together.

At first, I wasn’t a fan of Ashton. He came across as self-absorbed and oblivious, an apparent product of his wealth and privilege. Sure, his family had basically written him off, but Ashton’s worries in life were fairly superficial.

It wasn’t until the second half, when Ashton finally started taking a hard look at himself and the changes he needed to make, that I could begin connecting with him.

Val, on the other hand, was immediately likeable. His only concern is to take care of those he loves - his sister and Ashton.

Val’s refusal to acknowledge that his love for Ashton went beyond just friendship was a bit frustrating, but I could understand where he was coming from. The power disparity between the two is a real thing, and something that couldn’t be overcome easily.

It takes a while for the romance to get going. The two MCs circle around each other for the majority of the book, both of them refusing to make the move that they very clearly wanted to make.

It was incredibly annoying, because the two were so clearly meant to be together. I could have done without the ‘one step forward two steps back’ routine.

But once they finally did give in, it was exactly what I’d hoped it would be. The MCs have to work out the kinks and figure out how to be a couple, but the foundation was already there, built over the years of pining for one another.

Also, they were absolutely hot together. Once the two give in, they do their best to make up for the years of lost time.

The ending was perfect for Val and Ashton. It takes a lot of hard work for them to finally get their HEA, but it was all necessary. These are two flawed men who find in each other the only person who truly understands what makes him tick.

Overall, I liked ‘Concourse.’ Had Ashton and Val spent less time denying themselves, I probably would have given this book 4 stars. Even so, this is an enjoyable read with complex characters and a realistic romance that plays out against the backdrop of New York City.

A review copy was provided by NetGalley.

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