Audio Review: Santino Hassell – Sunset Park (Five Boroughs 2)

sunsetAuthor: Santino Hassell
Reviewer: Barb
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: MM Contemporary

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Narrator: Michael Ferraiulo

Summary: Raymond Rodriguez’s days of shoving responsibility to the wayside are over. His older brother wants to live with his boyfriend so Raymond has to get his act together and find a place of his own. But when out-and-proud David Butler offers to be his roommate, Raymond agrees for reasons other than needing a place to crash.
David is Raymond’s opposite in almost every way—he’s Connecticut prim and proper while Raymond is a sarcastic longshoreman from Queens—but their friendship is solid. Their closeness surprises everyone as does their not-so-playful flirtation since Raymond has always kept his bicurious side a secret.
Once they’re under the same roof, flirting turns physical, and soon their easy camaraderie is in danger of being lost to frustrating sexual tension and the stark cultural differences that set them apart. Now Raymond not only has to commit to his new independence—he has to commit to his feelings for David or risk losing him for good.

Review: Ray Rodriguez has to get his act together when his brother Michael (Sutphin Boulevard) informs Ray he wants to move in with his boyfriend, Nunzio. When he hears the news, Ray’s friend David, who was actually once upon a time in a threesome with Michael and Nunzio, offers to find a place with Ray. Caleb, his on again off again boyfriend, has finally left for good, and David can’t afford to live alone.

They both are actually attracted to each other, though neither wants to verbalize it out loud, and doesn’t think the other will be interested. Ray is straight, right? Nope, he’s bisexual and his fantasy man is his good friend David. Ray manages to land a decent clerical job, with Nunzio’s help in strategizing and dressing for success, though it bores him out of his mind. And when Oli, one of David’s friends, sets up his phone and shows him the wonderful world of Grindr, Ray is on his way to being a carefree man who loves men. Or at least, that’s what he lets David think. In reality, he badly wants to get David in his bed.

Always flirtatious as friends go, the sexual chemistry between the two heats up when late one night they discover each other on the active list for Grindr. Ray was just perusing the app, whereas David was actively seeking relief for his sexual frustration. With little to no persuasion, Ray makes his way down the hall to David’s room and learns first-hand that he is indeed attracted to men, specifically David.

Of course, nothing runs smoothly for this couple. Ray puts on a tough guy persona; he’s frustrated with his worthless job; and he’s still in the closet to his brother. Thankfully, Nunzio knows and provides a much-needed sounding-board for both sex talk and career prospects. David is a private school teacher from the “upper class” and lily white Connecticut neighborhoods, and has an annoying habit of continuing to hang out with Caleb, even after Ray has asked him to keep Caleb out of the apartment.

The explosion was bound to happen. Neither man knows how to communicate with the other, and David pushes Ray’s buttons one time too many. The result could potentially upend everything Ray has worked to change and might drive the last wedge between the two to the point where they can’t recover. One thing is for sure, they need to talk and reveal their true feelings or it’s over before it can begin.

Narrator Michael Ferraiulo brought these characters to life with an outstanding narration. The voice he gave Ray was so perfect and so very different from David’s tone that I honestly kept forgetting that those vocalizations were coming from the same narrator. I allowed myself a week to listen to the audio. I finished it in 18 hours. I did, after all, have to sleep, but there’s no doubt that the narration made the story even better than it would have been if I had simply read it. And, make no mistake, the story was indeed excellent.

The author gave us two very different personalities from two very diverse backgrounds and created a highly believable, gritty, emotional drama with a touch of humor and a big dose of romance thrown in for good measure. I can’t recommend this book and this series highly enough. Add that to this extraordinary audio narration and I can honestly say those who purchase this audiobook will not be disappointed. If I could give more than 5 hearts, I would definitely do so!


Dreamspinner Press

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