#NewRelease — Concourse (A Five Boroughs Story) #5 by Santino Hassell — Review

TITLE: Concourse

SERIES: A Five Boroughs Story

AUTHOR: Santino Hassell

PUBLISHER: RIPTIDE PUBLISHING

PUBLICATION DATE: May 1, 2017

PAGE COUNT: 366

GENRE: Contemporary, LGBT

THEME:

  • FRIENDS TO LOVERS
  • GENDER EXPRESSION
  • FIRST LOVE
  • FAMILY
  • FINANCIAL GAP

BLURB: 

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.

 

*Buy from the publisher & read excerpt—click below

...

about the author

Santino was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed grunge kid, then a transient twentysomething, and eventually transformed into a guy who spends his days and nights writing romance with an edge.
Santino is a dedicated gamer, a former fanfic writer, an ASoIaF mega nerd, a Grindr enthusiast, but most of all he is a writer of LGBT fiction 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.

Connect with Santino:

...

Review

Concourse, book five in the Five Boroughs series by Santino Hassell, is intense, emotional, raw, and beautifully written exposing the inner turmoil, fears, doubts, and insecurities two boys—now men—live with daily.

Due to circumstances out of his control, Valdrin Leka grew up next to the wealthy and beautiful Ashton Townsend eventually forging a friendship that would carry a lifetime of burdens and lies, but—most of all—a love so deep Val is afraid of what it could mean causing him to struggle daily with his feelings and his self-worth.

Ashton Townsend is a man of many layers. Very few, if any—other than Val—know the real him and most of the time he prefers it that way. He craves attention, he loves sex, and he wants his family to accept him, as he is, and see him as a valuable member other than the black sheep he has been cast aside for. Too often, he puts himself in vulnerable situations telling himself he can handle it and he knows what he's doing ...

God, I’d been pathetic for the majority of my life. So desperate for him to see me as something besides a whiny rich kid he had to take care of, and always failing. I had been a whiny rich kid. Now, I was a messy one. Not exactly boyfriend material, which had been my secret desire since we’d been ten.
— Ashton Townsend
 

Val is also a conundrum. He trains religiously to become a pro in boxing. Works out long hours daily but he hates it with a passion. He loves to fight but he doesn't want to be a fighter, but he owes his trainer, Tony, so much. Partly, I think because in Val's eyes Tony stepped in almost as a paternal figure when he needed that and he feels he needs to repay that debt.

He works two other odd jobs to pay for his sister's college education so he is working himself to death. He also carries a secret from his past concerning Ashton that is killing him, mainly in fear of what Ashton will do when/if he learns the truth, and because he struggles with the decisions he had to make at such a young age. But, can he walk away from Ashton, focus on himself, and leave his soul, aka Ashton, behind?

Unfollow his social media accounts, keep myself from responding to his calls, and cut him off completely. Simplify my life. Focus on my training. Stop wondering what he was doing, and who he was with, and whether he was okay. Even as I went through the list, I knew it was bullshit. I could never stop thinking about Ashton, and I would never stop missing the quiet moments when it was just us and he was a devastatingly beautiful force of nature that had calmed just for me.
— Valdrin Leka
 

Dating for Val has been almost non-existent. He's busy, he's tired, but when he stops to think about it or someone brings attention to the subject, he realizes he's not interested in dating. Other than Ashton. Once Ashton comes around, everything changes for Val and he becomes interested immediately. Once he begins to understand his demisexuality everything starts to make more sense and he seems to let go of his reservations. 

Concourse is a slow-burn and a representation of true friendship because regardless of what Ashton posts on Instagram or what party he attends, if he needs Val to come and get him, he is there, no questions asked. He understands Ashton, his drive for validation and acceptance, and he wants to make sure Ashton understands that he sees him... the real him. 

I really connected to this story. The characters are always so real that Santino Hassell writes, the emotions so poignant and exposed. I have a nephew the same age as Ashton, ironically living it up on Instagram—posting modeling pictures—living his dream, and while the situations are not the same it doesn't make it any less real that deep down—underneath the facade—there is a heart that needs to be cherished. 

I understood both of these young men, each fighting for their place, hoping to land safely in the comfort of loving arms, helping others along the way and once they understood themselves, they were able to give freely to each other. They struggle with their feelings but when they let go, especially Val, it's beyond heart-stopping beautiful. 

I do want you. And it’s all going to go to hell soon enough, but I can’t help it. The idea of you being with anyone else drives me insane.
— Val
Then have me,” he shouted, grabbing my shirt the way Luis had grabbed his. “Kiss me. Fuck me. Do whatever you want with me. I want to be yours!
— Ash

 

As always, Hassell writes gripping and thought-provoking stories that not only tell a raw and realistic story but also allows the reader to learn and grow. I think this may be my favorite out of the series, and it didn't hurt that the cameo with Nunzio was very smile inducing to the point of sore jaws. 

Highly Recommended!

 

5 Stars

* My copy was provided by Net-Galley in exchange for an honest review *

 

 

...

other books in the series