Review: Santino Hassell – Illegal Contact (The Barons #1)

51cebO11mCLAuthor: Santino Hassell
Reviewer: Barb
Publisher: Random House Intermix
Genre: Contemporary

Rating: ★★★★★ 


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…


I picked this story up because (a) Santino Hassell is an excellent author, whose work I’ve adored in the past, and (b) the blurb rang some major bells for me. In fact, I recently read a novel that had a similar blurb, so yes, this is my trope. I will mention a quick aside here that the one I read previously was good, but this one is outstanding so there’s really no comparison other than the blurbs themselves.

Once I started reading this book, I quickly became caught up in the world of professional football where tight end Gavin Brawley is on suspension from his Super Bowl-winning team and is under house arrest for assault. Doesn’t matter that the assault was on a scumbag, who was trying to blackmail Gavin’s closeted gay BFF, who happens to be the team’s quarterback. He’s paying the consequences for his out-of-control anger, and that includes being stuck in his barely furnished mansion with no one to talk to for the next six months other than his manager and his agent, and there’s only so many workouts a person can do in one day to keep busy.

When his manager compels him to hire a personal assistant to deal with his fan (hate) mail and to set up a (positive) social media presence, he picks the guy who seems the least suited to the role. There’s something about Noah—a mouthy guy from Queens—that sets him off, and not necessarily in a good way. The guy doesn’t mind telling Gavin what he thinks of him, and wonder of wonder, the guy knows nothing about football!

The slow burn/UST in this story is intense as Noah is highly attracted to the stunning, musclebound man with the hard, always angry-looking outer shell with a bit of a softie inside. And Gavin finds the feisty, cute guy with the tall, willowy frame, the nerd glasses, and the gorgeous smile pushes all the buttons he didn’t even know he had. One of my favorite passages comes early in the story when Noah is assigned the task of taking video clips of Gavin as he works out:
“I’d walked in on him this morning and the sight of his ass and thighs clenching and flexing had nearly caused me to degrade myself.”
And, “Just take videos of him working out…The fans would go wild… I’d also go wild with lust and have to banish myself…”

When they finally do get together, the sex is smoking hot, the scenes detailed, and if one happens to be in public, one’s red face and flushed skin might indicate just how smokin’ hot it is!” Warning: Use of a personal fan is not mandatory, but highly recommended!

This book has everything I love in a romance story—amazing, interesting characters; outstanding secondary characters; an exciting plot; a relationship that starts out on the surface as a sexual attraction and develops into so much more; a bad boy with a soft heart; a nerdy-looking guy, who can organize chaos with one hand behind his back; a big, brawny, muscular alpha-type man, who will sacrifice his career for his best friend; men who are deep in the closet with no plans to emerge; and a sweet romantic ending. Along the way, I found even more to love than what I’ve listed, and I feel compelled to go back and reread the darn thing—right now. I can’t wait for book two in this series, and I can’t begin to rate this one highly enough. Definitely 5+ hearts.


Random House Intermix

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