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Friday, December 08, 2017


The Barons #2



✮✮✮ 4.5 STARS ✮✮✮

Two rival football players begin a game with higher stakes than the Super Bowl in this steamy romance from the author of Illegal Contact. 

Simeon Boudreaux, the New York Barons’ golden-armed quarterback, is blessed with irresistible New Orleans charm and a face to melt your mama’s heart. He’s universally adored by fans and the media. Coming out as gay in solidarity with his teammate hasn’t harmed his reputation in the least—except for some social media taunting from rival linebacker Adrián Bravo.

Though they were once teammates, Adrián views Simeon as a traitor and the number-one name on the New Jersey Predators’ shit list. When animosity between the two NFL players reaches a boiling point on the field, culminating in a dirty fist fight, they’re both benched for six games and sentenced to joint community service teaching sullen, Brooklyn teens how to play ball.

At first, they can barely stand to be in the same room, but running the camp forces them to shape up. With no choice but to work together, Simeon realizes Adrián is more than his alpha-jerk persona, and Adrián begins to question why he’s always had such strong feelings for the gorgeous QB…

Homophobia is vile, there is no whitewashing it. It attacks a person's choice of who they love and that in itself is evil. Most of the MM books make it a theme one way or another but Santino Hassell  always puts his own stamp on it. Just take the setting of the book: two players in one of the most hypermasculine sports and let them butt heads on a football field.

On one side there is Adrián Bravo, who slams homophobic comments towards Simeon Boudreaux, who is the guy playing for the other team, in more than one sense - Simeon is Adrian's rival on the football field. After an altercation between the former-friends-turned-enemies that turned violent they are forced together, working at a Community Center for the length of their suspension.

Simeon is out and proud and completely unapologetic about his sexuality. His charm and easy-going, laid-back manners make him a favorite of the press, and me. Simeon is kind, affectionate and totally lovable. He's also very observant and calls Adrián out when he messes up but that mostly comes from a good place. I fell in love with him in the first book in this series and nothing has changed. Especially thesweet affectionate little gestures which he bestowed on Adrián made me break out in a smile repeatedly. He is an endearing, sweet character with his heart in the right place.

“I need you to tell me I won’t ruin your career by being in your life. Because no matter how hard I try to be discreet, I know somehow . . . I’ll screw it up. ’Cause that’s me, boo. I’m a mess. A loveable mess, but still a goddamn mess.”

Adrián seems shallow in the beginning. His behavior toward Simeon is more the one of a grade school boy pulling pigtails, seemingly unrepentant about his actions. It takes a while until he can admit to himself where his hostility towards Simeon stems from and until then he acts a lot like a brat.
From the moment he has his come-to-Jesus-moment Adrián pulls out all the stops to make it up to Simeon. I loved how he fought for their relationship, how once he realized that he was falling in love he was all in. Adrián is a complex character, adorkable, hilarious, with a too-smart-for-his-own-good mouth, but his devil-may-care attitude is only for show. Underneath there is an insecurity, a vulnerability and a sensitive soul that surfaces the more time he spends with Simeon.

Simeon touched my hand, fingers so tentative and so light it broke my heart. He shouldn’t be afraid to touch me.

I adored them together. They are playful, cheeky, their dynamic is sizzling and totally engrossing because both of them are dominant characters but with Simeon being the more relaxed one of the duo they find common ground. He lets Adrián set the pace of their developing relationship. When they get dirty it's downright combustible, their chemistry is insane.

That Santino Hassell chose people of color doesn't go unappreciated. It's s rare to find in MF books, even less in MM. The way the two main characters talk feels entirely natural, authentic, which made their interaction even better. The dialogues are full of wit and banter and their exchanges made the book lighter than I thought it would be.

“Motherfucker, I do not have no small dick.”
“If you say so, partner. No judgment here in the land of seven inches.”
“And ain’t no need to front over here in the land of eight.”
Adrián leaned farther across the table. “Wanna check?”

This enemy-to-lovers story is powerful, has enough grit to make it not too sweet and has an important message. The writing is top-notch, gripping and keeps you invested in Adrian and Simeon's journey. Santino Hassell is quickly becoming a favorite. I am super curious who the next book will be about. I'll definitely pick it up!

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