Title: Concourse (Five Boroughs #5)
Author: Santino Hassell
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: May 1st 2017
Page Count: 366
Reviewed by: Ele
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
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.
Our boy Ashton finally got his story y’all! There is something truly special about the 5 Boroughs series. First, Santino Hassell gets queer, urban life so right! Second, the characters. The background is always New York, but there’s so much diversity. We ‘ve got teachers from Queens, uptight businessmen from the Upper East Side, boxers from the Bronx, rich Instagram celebrities…Layered, fully realised characters. Characters so different than me, but with the ability to evoke so much empathy in me.
Ashton Townsend: Instagram celebrity. Dismissed and slut-shamed for the biggest part of his life. Forced into modeling as a kid. Told not only that he’s not good enough to make something of himself, but also that he’s a really bad influence to others. Also: whip smart, kind hearted, giving, funny, gorgeous, sexy as hell.
Val Leka: Boxer from the Bronx. Demisexual. Hard working. People pleaser. Too responsible for his own good. Tired. Val carries the weight of the world on his shoulders.
” I think I’m in love with you. And I don’t know what to do.”
Ashton’s heartbeat tripled, slamming against my chest as if it were my own. His fingers dug into my back.
“I don’t know what to do either,” he breathed. “No one has loved me before.”
And damn if that didn’t crush me.”
Considering their upbringing, background, and their shared history, Ashton and Val’s hang ups, the back and forth, the way they always try to keep themselves in check, resonated a lot with me. But they also bring out the best in each other. Ashton will finally find way to take care of others, and Val will finally be able to take care of himself.
Their chemistry is off the charts, but my favorite part was the way the acted around each other: unable to stop touching, always gravitating toward each other, always in tune.
The only part of New York I can relate to are probably the Greek restaurants, but Hassell’s narrative creates such a strong sense of place and a very tangible atmosphere. I practically feel like I’m walking these streets myself, every time.
“There was no denying the pulse of my neighborhood sometimes beat wild with adrenaline that tended to have its residents on the defensive, but the dozens of different cultures living in the brick buildings along the Grand Concourse, the blast of salsa or hip-hop with too much bass from open windows and car radios, and the smell of Dominican food from the five solid spots in a six-block radius,…”
I can’t not mention Nunzio. I know a lot of people were surprised by his decision to quit his job in Sutphin Blv. You should see him here, guys. He is really shinning as a teacher in Gateway Academy. This is where he’s meant to be!
I can go on and on about this but I ‘ve already said too much. Technically, you can read this as a standalone. But you ‘d be missing out on an amazing series.