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


cover-santinohassell-sunsetparkRaymond 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.


Dates read:
Edition read:
December 11, 2015
Dreamspinner Press
Contemporary, M/M, GLBT+
230 e-book pages
1st person, multiple POVs
Series, book 2
December 11-12, 2015
Kindle Edition
See the book  on GoodReads.

Rating:         ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Ratings are 1 to 5 stars and based mostly on GoodReads standards.
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I went kinda spazzy fangirl over the first two Santino books I read because they both gutted me. They dug deep into my soul with such profound words that were sharp enough to pick at nerves I didn’t know I had, and they carved away at scar tissue I’d thought hardened with age and cynicism.

They got at me…personally. And I was convinced Santino Hassell was an all-powerful word wizard. I was kinda scared of him with all the literary voodoo. But mostly, I was awed, kind of like how David Blaine and his street magic both amaze and terrify me. Have you seen that shit?

Don’t go here unless you want to get stuck a state of mind-fuckery for about an hour. YouTube-David Blaine

But see, I’m not scared anymore.

‘Cause he didn’t get at me this time around, and I was safe in my book fort hidey-hole (aka the back porch).

I loved this.

I did.

Except this time he told me a story that I could observe safely from the periphery. I wasn’t pulled in by some inexplicable hoodoo force, and my emotions were left intact. I’m relieved, but also…like, what happened? I was prepared to be laid to waste with the feels.

In the first book of the series, I felt like I was walking the streets of New York with Michael and Nunzio. I could smell the smells, feel the air against my skin, hear the noise, see the lights. I was there. I felt New York wrapped around me. And I loved it.

In that first book, I was parts and pieces of Michael and Nunzio. Some of their emotions and experiences resonated so hard I felt them in my bones in an alarming way.

All I could think was, how does he DO that?

This time wasn’t as much of a sensory experience. Except once. Once I felt truly and physically drawn into the scene—when David was running his fingers along carvings in the wood floor of a gazebo. I felt the grooves under my fingertips and imagined grains of sand and gravel in the crevices that had been tracked in from shoes or breezy gusts.

This book seemed far more character and dialogue driven. That is definitely not a bad thing…I mean, it’s romance. It’s supposed to be about the characters. But, at the same time, I love that balance of sensory prose that puts me there. I thought Santino excelled with that in the first book. So, I missed getting a virtual return trip to NYC.

Ray and David didn’t gut me this time either. Part of me is all neener neener you can’t catch me. But…part of me is thinking Santino is likely to get at someone else with his sorcery this time, so I ain’t laughing. Nor do I think he’s lost his powers.

I liked Ray best. He did the most growing up, had the biggest life-changing transformations, and seemed to have more meaningful introspection that moved him, and the story, forward. Plus, he’s fucking hot as hell with his abs and his tats and that hair and his glare and I want to lock him away in my soooper seeekret tower-o-fun for a long weekend. Kidding. No I’m not….suuuure I am. (about it being for just a weekend)


David. Okay. Truth? I didn’t like him at all in the first book. We weren’t supposed to. When I found out this book was about him…I thought, okay fine. I know plenty of authors who make an unlikable dude from one book all squishy and lovable in a later book. It happens a lot in romance series. So, sure. Buuuut, for me it didn’t happen. He had moments where I liked him. Moments where I thought he was growing. Then he’d backslide to whiny and wishy-washy. For his big Ivy league education, I didn’t get a lot of his actions and decisions. He never truly grew on me.

I didn’t fully feel the attraction between them, other than their touchy-feely familiarity. I didn’t latch on to an emotional connection that felt truly authentic. Even in the end, I wasn’t fully convinced these guys would be able to go the distance.

Overall, the writing was gorgeous. Me being a Gen X-er, there were a few new-fangled millennial slang terms I wasn’t familiar with that I had to look up on that Urban Dictionary interwebery site. So, thanks for making a chick feel old. I’M NOT OLD. dammit. Am I? I don’t fuckin feel old. I DON’T HAVE WRINKLES. Or gray hair…anymore. shut up.

No really. The writing is beautiful. I knew it would be. And the story was highly enjoyable. But the first stands as my favorite, and this didn’t quiiiiiite live up to my high expectations.

I truly think Santino Hassell is one of the best around these days, and I’m definitely all-in to watch him grow as an author.

This review also posted on GoodReads, pg-13 version posted on Amazon.

7 thoughts on “📚Review: Sunset Park (Five Boroughs, 2) by Santino Hassell

  1. Awesome review and I totally agree with everything you’ve written. Santino is defnitely an author to watch out for. His writing is crazy good.


    • Thank you. I kinda struggled writing this because I was confused about being a little disappointed but still liking it so much. Also, I really adore that broody Santino and his crazy skills.

      I love how much we have in common with the books!

      • I think you articulated your points very well. The review was stellar. I think from an author standpoint it’s always great to hear from readers what didn’t exactly work for you. I know I love hearing that from readers. What I see in my head playing out isn’t always what the reader picks up so different views are indeed welcome. A four-star review is still pretty darn great.

        Authors put forth our best effort and hope that people can relate. Sunset Park was great, but David and Raymond didn’t have me in my feels as hard as Michael and Nunzio. Okay, lol maybe Raymond did a little.

        • Yeah….Raymond, mmmmmm.

          No doubt SH probably got a bunch of people in the feels with this.

          It’s so incredible to me how everyone gets something different out of a story–and it may not be what the author had in mind. Once it’s out there for the readers the impact and interpretations can go anywhere.

Tell me what you think!