ARC Reviews

ARC Review: Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell


34346381Publisher: InterMix (Berkley Romance, Penguin Random House)
Release Date: August 15, 2017
Received From: NetGalley

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…


GENDER: cisgender
SEXUALITY: bisexual, homosexual


TROPES: enemies to lovers, friends to lovers, employer x employee, athlete x nerd, lust at first sight, found family
TAGS: contemporary, sports romance, queer romance, adult, romance, sexual content, coming out
WARNINGS: biphobia, homophobia, mention of pedophilia, ableism, violence


He melted against me, and I immediately curled around him with our limbs locked together and my face buried in the crook of his neck. With warm air blowing on us from the vent above my bed and his fingers idly sliding through my hair, it was the most peace I’d had in weeks.

In preparation of writing this review, I was going through the notes I made within the eARC on my kindle app and my livetweet updates on Twitter. To be honest, most of them are just highlights in at least 75% of the book and a combination of “JLDJWLFJ” and “WHY ARE THEY SO CUTE??????????????”, so please bear with me as I try to write a coherent review. I can’t guarantee I won’t melt into a puddle of fangirling.

Those of you who know me are probably very aware of the fact that I love everything Santino Hassell puts out, no matter the (sub)genre, and this book is no exception. In fact, I can say with confidence that ILLEGAL CONTACT is my favorite Hassell book. The only expectation I brought with when starting this book was that it would be epic, and it was even more than I could have anticipated.

Gavin Brawley at first seems like the asshole football player with anger issues that the media portrays him as, and while he is to an extent, there is a hidden mushy side that only seems to come out with Noah Monroe, the love interest, and his closest friends, Simeon and Marcus. This man is the Ultimate closet romantic. (I’m sorry, I don’t make the rules, this is Facts.) He has such a huge crush on Noah that it’s painfully cute. More than just wanting to dick him down, Gavin wants to hold hands and cuddle and make out for hours on end. So soft. So pure. So precious. And his smile? Literally do not even get me started. #DatBrawleySmile gives me life, okay? Gavin is quite possibly the cutest character I’ve read about, and I could go on and on about all the ways I love him, but probably no one wants to read a 50 page dissertation.

Noah is my precious lil nerd who’s unafraid to speak his mind, and I got an excited shiver every time he stood up to Gavin. Especially when he couldn’t tell how that just made Gav like him more. He broke my heart and then put it back together with every instance in which he defended and protected Gavin.

Together, the two of them were cute enough to make my brain go haywire until I could barely form complete sentences to talk about how much I adored them.

The supporting cast was also pretty damn incredible. There’s Simeon who doesn’t seem to know how not to flirt, and I am dying to get my hands on book two since it’s about him. Marcus who is loyal as hell to his boys but also doesn’t let them get away with shit. (I also loved his tendency to reference romantic comedies.) Jasmine who is unflinchingly honest and a badass who could step on me. And Mel, Gavin and Simeon’s agent, who is seemingly unphased by nearly anything. (There’s Joe too but he can suck an entire ass.)

I loved the culture Hassell built up with the Barons–one of unfailing loyalty to one another–and the ways in which Gavin was still clearly connected with them, even while on house arrest. (The scrimmage scene is just. So much.) They’re such a good form of support for Gavin, who’s never had a family but found one in his team.

Also, I really liked that the Separation wasn’t due to any kind of betrayal or misunderstanding between Gavin and Noah. It was a mutual, albeit painful, decision to separate, brought on Joe being an utter dickbag. And thankfully it was resolved quickly because it was physically painful to have them separated from each other.

This book is absolutely gorgeous, and I could not stop smiling and clutching my phone to my chest because it was so cute. 11000/10 would recommend to everyone.




4942228Santino 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 queer 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 follow him on:

Twitter: @santinohassell
Facebook: theonlysonnyhassell | santinohassellbooks
Instagram: santinohassell
And at his official website:


Penguin Random House
Barnes & Noble



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