My review cross-posted from Wit and Sin
A warning to anyone about to start Illegal Contact: make sure you leave yourself time to read the entire book in one sitting. Santino Hassell has a compelling writing style that makes Gavin and Noah’s love story impossible to put down. Even if you’re not a football fan, this is one sports romance you don’t want to miss.
Gavin Brawley isn’t your typical hero. He may be gorgeous and talented both in the bedroom and on the field, but he’s also got a short temper that he lets fly. Add in an attitude and an unwillingness to be anything but straightforward and it’s easy to see why he’s a public relations nightmare. Gavin isn’t wholly the jerk the media makes him out to be, but he’s got a chip on shoulder and the forced confinement of house arrest (even if that house is a mansion) makes him even more irritable. So why did I find him so compelling? What sold me on Gavin from the start – even when he was at his most disagreeable – was that he’s utterly and completely loyal, protective, and caring when it comes to his friends. I loved peeling back the layers of his character and watching Gavin grow and change over the course of the story. He’s never going to be the smiling sports star pictured on your boxed cereal, but he does become an ever better, more well-rounded version of himself.
Noah Monroe is the catalyst for Gavin’s change, and I flat-out loved him. Noah is one of the most relatable protagonists I’ve come across in quite some time. When he applies for the job of Gavin’s personal assistant, it’s not because he’s a football fan or a celebrity-chaser. He’s simply a recent college grad drowning in student loan debt and desperately needs a job. Noah may be smart, no-nonsense, a bit of a geek, and look like a sexy Clark Kent, but he’s also an over-thinker with flaws of his own. Noah isn’t cowed by Gavin’s temper and his straightforwardness with the other man about how he comes across is part of the reason why Gavin starts to examine his own attitude.
Noah and Gavin don’t hit it off from the start; in fact, they piss each other off more often than not. The sparks fly fast and furious and I loved watching Gavin and Noah go from antagonizing one another to respecting each other to becoming more than cranky football star and overwhelmed employee. While there’s definite attraction in the beginning, the romance is a slow burn. I loved that Gavin and Noah actually got to know each other before the love story kicked things into high gear. And when the sexual tension between the two men boils over…watch out, because you’re in for some dirty, sexy fun. I loved these two together, but even after they start to fall in love, you know things aren’t going to be easy. Coming out as bisexual could destroy a career that has saved Gavin, and homophobia isn’t something you can wave a magic wand at and make disappear. I won’t say how things work out, but I will say that the ending of Illegal Contactleft me with a huge smile on my face.
Illegal Contact is the first book in Mr. Hassell’s Barons series and I can’t wait for more. Noah and Gavin are complex, interesting characters and their love story is layered, engaging, sexy, and surprisingly sweet at times. I also fell in love with Gavin’s teammates and best friends Simeon and Marcus, and I cannot wait to see what Mr. Hassell has in store for Simeon in Down by Contact. Until I find out, I’m content to keep re-reading Gavin and Noah’s story – their romance is just that addictive.
FTC Disclosure: I received the e-book edition of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.