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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Book Review: Illegal Contact (The Barons #1) by Santino Hassell

Illegal Contact (The Barons #1)
by Santino Hassell
August 15th 2017
by InterMix
The rules of the game don’t apply off the field in this first Barons novel.

New York Barons tight end Gavin Brawley is suspended from the team and on house arrest after a video of him brawling goes viral. Gavin already has a reputation as a jerk with a temper on and off the field—which doesn’t help him once he finds himself on the wrong side of the law. And while he’s been successful professionally, he’s never been lucky when it comes to love.

Noah Monroe is a recent college grad looking for a job—any job—to pay off his mounting student debt. Working as Gavin’s personal assistant/babysitter seems like easy money. But Noah isn’t prepared for the electrifying tension between him and the football player. He’s not sure if he’d rather argue with Gavin or tackle him to the floor. But both men know the score, and neither is sure what will happen once Gavin's timeout is over.

I don't read many sport romances, but this one caught my eye for two reasons. It is a gay romance and published by InterMix (Penguin Publishing Imprint). I am happy that lgbt romances are getting the recognition they deserve and published by traditional publishers. Lgbt representation has a long way to go, but this is another step in the right direction. Penguin has published many other lgbt books too.

Back to Illegal Contact. Santino Hassell is a new-to-me author. The whole jock in closet/out nerd gay romance thing has been done to death and the plots are cliché. But this one took a different route. The characters are professional adults. The jock, Gavin, is an NFL football player, kind of a jerk and bi. The nerd, Noah, is unemployed, drowning in college loans debt, living with his father who just got laid off, soft-hearted but no push-over, and openly gay.

Circumstances bring the two together. This is also and enemies to lover’s story and a boss/employee story. They are both physically attracted to each other, but refuse to act on it because they have stereotyped each other. They story's heart is in how they verbally spar and slowly learn more about each other, eventually fall in love...the author doesn't ignore the reality of Gavin's NFL career and the affect is has on this new relationship.

Near the beginning of the story I thought about putting the book down because of the cliché elements, but I really liked Noah and sympathized with Gavin's situation. Illegal Contact is written in first person POV from both characters. Once invested in them I had to know how this would work out. There is very emotional chapter that had my heart breaking for both of them.

Illegal Contact is a quick and satisfying mainstream mm romance read.

4 "tackle me" Sheep

About the Author:
Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family but grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into a grumpy introvert and unlikely romance author with an affinity for baseball caps. His novels are heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, and his desire to write relationships fueled by intensity and passion.

He’s been a finalist in both the Bisexual Book Awards and the EPIC Awards, and was nominated for a prestigious RITA award in 2017. His work has been featured in BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Washington Post, RT Magazine, and Cosmopolitan Magazine.


  1. Writing sounds like it contains a lot of 'real' elements. :-)

    sherry @ fundinmental

    1. yes...the characters act like men...which is nice to see...usually one of the male characters is subjugated to the "girl" in the relationship. That isn't the case here...