Sunday, 17 April 2016

REVIEW: First and First (Five Boroughs, Book 3) by Santino Hassell

***NOTE: (Updated Mar 2018) Leaving my review on this one as I received an ARC for this and I want to hold up my end of the bargain. This is no way a denial of those hurt by the author and and I actually do want to give a shout out to all the brave souls who bared themselves and told their stories. May they find the healing they deserve.)



Caleb Stone was raised on the Upper East Side, where wealth and lineage reigns, and “alternative lifestyles” are hidden. It took him years to come out to his family, but he’s still stuck in the stranglehold of their expectations. Caleb knows he has to build his confidence and shake things up, but he doesn’t know how… until Oliver Buckley enters the picture.

Oli is everything Caleb isn’t—risk-taking, provocative, and fiercely independent. Disowned by his family, Oli has made his own way in the world and is beholden to no one. After a chance encounter on New Year’s Eve, Caleb is smitten.

As Caleb sheds the insecurities that have held him back for years, he makes bold steps toward changing his career and escaping years of sexual repression. But for Caleb to take full control of his life, he has to be brave enough to confront his feelings and trust Oli with his heart.



The third standalone book in the Five Boroughs series, this is Caleb and Oli’s story. If you haven’t read the first two, it’s all good. If you’re like me and read the first two, then you’d have met both Caleb and Oli briefly in the second book. On that note, I was really curious as to what Santino will do with them.

Caleb may not have started on his best foot when I first met him in Sunset Park (my review here), but that’s not entirely his fault; and same with Oli. Sunset Park wasn’t their story to be told after all.

Caleb and Oli came from the same strata of society, had similar upbringing, but they couldn’t be more opposite in personality. Caleb, despite his tenuous relationship with his family, with the exception of his sister, continues to have his family in his life; whereas Oli is completely estranged from his. Caleb acts like the blue blood that he is, with his actions and even in words, which is actually quite endearing, like a man displaced in his own era, so to speak. Oli owns his black-sheep-ness true to fashion, but out of his struggles, he actually managed to make a decent life. Caleb just wanted to be in a loving relationship. Oli didn’t. Caleb is self-conscious and Oli is everything but. Yet, there they were, finding themselves drawn to each other, stemming from that fateful New Year’s Eve party.

Their relationship teetered and tottered. There was Caleb with his needs and doubts, only seeing so much from Oli, and getting mixed reactions to boot. Then they also have the business relationship to consider with Caleb’s half-brother. There was Oli, self-possessed yet unsure, inconsiderate yet caring. Although seen thru Caleb’s eyes only throughout the story, I felt Oli’s actions and words revealed so much more, even if Caleb couldn’t see it. And dear lahwd, can that boy do the dirty talk or what!

I love how they balance each other out. They’re like “Page Six” materials with a heart and substance; none of that born-with-a-silver spoon attitude. To see them move forward, becoming secure with themselves and their feelings for each other, it was beautiful to see. Caleb and Oli together, it was explosive, figuratively- and biblically-speaking, teehee… HOT!!! (I think that goes without saying, seeing this is Santino)

I appreciate how Santino gave me all kinds of jargon without losing me. I felt like Caleb sometimes with some of the language; it’s like an education on its own. I thought Santino continued to capture the energy of the city itself. The dialogues were engaging and mentally stimulating, very smart. And at the root of it all, there’s authenticity in the emotions. 

I will always have a soft spot for Nunzio from Sutphin Boulevard. Same goes for Ray from Sunset Park. But I have to say, Caleb and Oli, I love them individually and together, equally.

This series can keep going, for all I care…. Officially a Santino fan now, just sayin… *off to social media to quietly stalk follow Santino* *g*

*As of 18/04/16

Sutphin Boulevard
Amazon || Kobo || B&N || iBook

Sunset Park
Amazon || Kobo || B&N || iBook

About the Author

Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, then a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into an unlikely romance author.

Santino writes LGBTQ romance that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.

To learn more about Santino you can go to:

Thanks for dropping by!


(GIF via google search)

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