eARC REVIEW: Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell

Illegal Contact CoverTitle: Illegal Contact (The Barons #1)

Author: Santino Hassell

Expected Publication Date: August 15, 2017

Publisher: InterMix

Rating: ★★★★★/ 5 Stars

Genre: Contemporary, sports, M/M romance

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…

It seemed unfair for Gavin to be athletic, attractive, and reasonably intelligent. There had to be a deficit. Oh wait, there was. His personality.

—I received an electronic advanced readers’ copy from NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review.—

Writing this review is probably the most difficult thing I can think I could ever be doing today but I’ll give it a try.

I first requested Illegal Contact on NetGalley because a lot of people on my timeline were gushing about it and I have previously read other Santino Hassell and since I always am open to reading m/m romance written by actually queer authors *looks at straight cis women* it didn’t take me long to be convinced to want this.

Shortly after I requested it, I began reading the Cyberlove books. Now… If you don’t know me… You might have missed the totally awesome epic week when I read these books. Hassell and Erickson are like a dream team of writers who gave me such complex and lovable characters who get their much-deserved happy endings.

So, when I got approved for Illegal Contact a couple of days ago, I lost my epic shit. What I love about reading this book, which I guess is Hassell’s most recent one, is that you can see the progression of Hassell’s writing. I think I’m adding him to my must-read list because I don’t think he can disappoint me. Especially since he’s a fellow bisexual!

Anyway, enough with my gushing about Hassell… but will I ever stop though?

Illegal Contact is a contemporary one but with the subgenre of sports, which is not something I haven’t tried before. In its center is the most lovable asshole football player Gavin Brawley who, because of aggravated assault and reckless driving, is put under house arrest for six months. During the house arrest, he is advised, by his manager, to hire a personal assistant. This is where Noah Monroe comes in. Hot nerdy Clark Kent look-alike who is in need for a job because money is tight since like forever and he is lucky enough his friend Jasmine has connections.

I went into this book totally loving Noah. I saw so much of myself in his organized self, his intense philanthropic interests and his inability not to lose his shit when aggravated. It was only naturally for me to swoon and instantly call Noah my son. Also, I have a thing for proud gay men who’ll stand up to homophobes and shut them down, and who will never be star-struck enough to let a dude dehumanize a woman!

My biggest surprise is with how much I adore Gavin Brawley! When he is introduced, I kind of gleaned that he’s this macho man who’s really closed off, for good reasons too because he’s grown up in foster homes and didn’t have much of a trust in people. Gavin surprised me so much because he was loyal to his best friends Simeon and Marcus who are on the same NFL team as he is (Go Barons!). He was also extremely protective of his own (and their) privacy since he’d signed up to become a pro football player.

The way he came off to Noah is probably how he came off to me: RUDE BINCH. But like Noah, I was shocked when seeing that Gavin was actually a very understanding fellow, with a knack for getting on people’s nerves only because he refuses to play by other people’s rules of being a celebrity. His admiration for Noah stemmed from Noah’s lack of taking any shit and when Noah at some point puts his foot down about not being subjected to very personal questions, Gavin doesn’t dismiss Noah’s concern and actually promises to make sure he’s always safe. Gavin has a really bad reputation and it’s not a surprise since he keeps his kind side closed off, but it’s through his friendship with Noah, which progresses so beautifully, that the world gets to see Gavin for who he is.

I love the two individually but also together. They had such great chemistry and banter, they made me howl and swoon and fall heads over heels for their twosome. They were fun around one another and around their friends.

Noah’s circle consists of his friend Jasmine and his dad, whom he’s very protective of. Jasmine is a piece of amazing work who I want to read 20 books about because this woman is just… the best. She puts even Noah in his place when he lets his insecurities get to his head, and a single eye-roll from Jasmine is sure to make Noah admit that he is maybe overreacting a little bit. I bet we all could use a Jasmine in our lives…

Gavin’s circle consists of his close friends from The Barons: Simeon and Marcus, his manager Joe and Mel (his publicist? I forgot…) Gavin around his friends is an amazing sight. He’s slightly less intense but he’s still the same brand of protective and caring that you will probably grow to love. He doesn’t favor Joe very much because let’s admit it; Joe is a piece of shit who redeems himself a bit in the end while Gavin basically avoided Mel entirely especially after hiring Noah.

Things I loved about this book:

  • Size… difference… every time Noah pointed out how big Gavin was… I grinned…
  • Simeon flirting with Noah and Gavin clenching his fist. *swoons*
  • a big blond cat” “the golden god” “the brooding man” NOAH YOUR BONER FOR GAVIN IS SHOWING, SON.
  • bisexual being used in like chapter one… god bless this bisexual rep.
  • Marcus and Jasmine’s little romance.
  • Gavin being softTM
  • the marketing people said my blank stare screamed serial killer” these people have no idea how soft Gavin is obviously
  • Every. Time. Gavin. Called. Noah. College. Boy.
  • ‘He’s just a guy.’ A really beautiful guy.” OKAY NOAH WE GET IT
  • The smut scenes are like… some of the hottest I’ve read like whoa… whoa…
  • when Noah planned the scrimmage and made Gavin the Happiest Ever.
  • #DatBrawleySmile
  • The fact that hyper-masculinity is discussed especially in sports.
  • A reporter refused to let Gavin be outed by a jealous ex who took inappropriate pictures and tires to sell them to TMZ.
  • Simeon… basically being the best.
  • hate to friends to lovers trope
  • FOUND FAMILY!!! THE BARONS ARE LIKE… SOBS THE BEST FICTIONAL TEAM. just because my bby Gav is on that team… What’s his jersey number btw?

Overall, this book impressed me since I just needed a little pick me up but it ended basically becoming the greatest thing about my day. God bless Santino Hassell and his magical words.

Go buy it now!

For far better reviews that made me love this book even more: check out these links! Xan on Goodreads and of course Leah on their blog! I owe Leah my life, they always recommend me the best m/m books.

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