Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell

Title: Illegal Contact
Author: Santino Hassell
Series: The Barons #1
Publisher: InterMix
Release Date: August 15, 2017

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…

Somewhere in the past couple of weeks, right around the time I’d watched Noah’s face light up as he threw himself into philanthropic planning schemes and he’d warned me about Joe being a nosy scumbag, I’d lost my mind. Evidence? Me wanting to smack my closest friend for putting the moves on him.

At first I’d thought I was being overprotective. Not even a week ago, I’d had this whole talk with Noah about him feeling safe, and I’d taken it seriously. As a foster kid, I’d never felt safe. Especially in the homes of people who’d temporarily taken me in. I’d been constantly reminded of my precarious position in their houses, and how they could put in a thirty-day notice with my social worker at any point. And they’d used that leverage against me.

I wasn’t about to step into the shoes of bastards who’d worked hard to ensure I would end up distrusting and despising people for the rest of my life.

He was my employee. I was his boss. He obviously didn’t trust me but had agreed to shack up in my house for two reasons only—money to help his father and to catch up on his debt. He didn’t really want to be here, but he had to be. The least I could do was respect his wishes. The same for my friends, but Simeon was laying it on thick.

As he’d run his hands all over Noah, I’d justified each jolt of discomfort by saying Simeon was shitting all over my promise. But Noah agreeing to fan day and whatever else? That had turned discomfort into outright jealousy. Especially since he hadn’t even known my damn name after meeting me at the interview, but he knew all sorts of random facts about Simeon. Simeon, who was in full-throttle, charming superstar QB mode. I was over it.

Regardless, my jealousy was a complete anomaly. Had never happened before. But it was happening right the fuck now, and I was furious with myself. Who cared if Noah was cute and a smartass who wasn’t

afraid to tell me to go fuck myself? And so what if that turned me on? Who cared if he was proving to be helpful and loyal enough to warn me about Joe? He was still my employee. I wasn’t supposed to care that he was more interested in my best friend.

Fuck. Whose idea had it been for me to be someone’s boss? I had zero clue what I was doing. Why had I ever listened to Joe?

I returned to the game room and paced the mostly empty space. I’d just seen that anger-management person a few days ago, and every tip and suggestion had flown out of my mind. All I could think about was how pissed I was at myself, and how I needed to go down to the gym and beat the shit out of a punching bag to work it out of my system. The last time I’d been this mad at myself had been when I’d trusted a journalist who’d invented a fake backstory for himself to get me to respond to his prying questions. Then he’d blasted my childhood across the front page of the newspaper.

Gavin Brawley Blames His Out of Control Temper on Hardscrabble Past.

Every word out of context. Bits and pieces of my identity twisted to fit the story he’d wanted. After that, I’d vowed to never talk to a reporter again. I hadn’t expected my emotional thermometer to blast through to enraged over Simeon coming on to Noah. And now I had nothing to use as an outlet. I could work out from morning to night, but after a while it was monotonous. Energy being expended but not going anywhere, and I felt like it circled the air and absorbed right back into my shoulders every goddamn night.

“You’re being real extra right now.”

Marcus’ calm voice did nothing to settle me down. “Shut up.”

“Nah.” Marcus yawned and plopped onto one of the sofas. “Fuck, dude, I’m ready for nap time. Your

cagey, jealous shit is ruining the vibe.”

“Who says I’m jealous?”

“Your white ass gets so flushed when you’re mad that it would be impossible to miss. I thought you

were going to jump Simeon when he made that comment about giving ole boy a ride.”

“Yeah, well, what can I say?” I stopped pacing. “I didn’t invite you assholes over here to give my

employee a hard time.”

“Your employee.” Marcus threw his muscular legs up onto the couch and stretched out. “Don’t even

front like you don’t want to smash him.” “I don’t.”

“Bullshit. You were staring them down the whole time we were downstairs. I mean, hey, no judgment. He just looks like a typical white-boy hipster to me, but whatever floats your boat, man. You may want to lay it down for Simeon if you’re serious, though. He most definitely wants to tap that ass.”

I ground my teeth together and tried to remember the last time I’d felt possessive over anyone, but I came up short. Then again, I didn’t normally hang out with the people I had sex with for more than ten minutes after we both came.

“I don’t want Simeon fucking him, and it has nothing to do with me being jealous.”

“Oh yeah? What’s it got to do with?”

“Him not pissing off the only person I can stand to have in my house for six months,” I snarled.

“Simeon can stick his dick in someone else until Noah is finished here.” “And then you’d be cool with it?”

“Yeah, then I’d be cool with it.”

Marcus snickered. He knew I was full of shit.

“Let me ask you a question, Gav.”

“Is that a question or a warning about the fact that I can’t stop you from asking even if I wanted to?” 

“Probably the last one.” Marcus propped his feet up on the arm of the couch, making himself nice

and comfy. “If you’re having jealous temper tantrums over this kid after a month, how the fuck are you gonna act in another two or three? He’s gonna be here all the time, dude. Showering in your bathroom, sleeping in your guest room, jacking it in bed a few thousand square feet away . . .”

“For fuck’s sake, Marcus.”

“Am I right or am I right, though?”

He was right. But I refused to admit it.

“I already told you I’m not jealous. Do we get along? Yeah. We do. And you know that’s a miracle

when it comes to me. Half the Barons can’t stand my ass because I won’t laugh at their stupid jokes, but at least they respect me. Most people think I’m a piece of shit.”

“And your boy?” Marcus pressed, looking truly intrigued. “What’s he like?”

“He’s . . .” How was he? What was it about him that had even clicked with me enough to make me want to guarantee he not walk out of the oversized front door and not come back? To become desperate and throw in that huge bonus so he wouldn’t have to keep commuting? “He’s a smartass, but he’s a good person. And he gets me.”

Marcus raised an eyebrow. “How’s he get you? He doesn’t even like football.”

The disgusted tone drew a smile out of me. I plopped down in one of the armchairs and tilted my head back. “He didn’t grow up like me, but . . . he gets it. And he’s not phony. He’s straight up with his opinions and isn’t afraid to tell me them.”

“So he’s not scared to say . . . ‘Gavin, you’re being a dickhead.’”

“Basically. He talks almost as much trash as I do, which is probably why we managed to get along. Also, he keeps trying to make me look good to Mel. Gave me credit for all this shit that he came up with. I don’t get it, since I was a total douchebag to him, but I appreciate it. He’s a good dude.”

“Huh.” Marcus slowly nodded, analyzing me with his big dark eyes. “Aiight, I’ll talk to Simeon.” 

“About what?”

“Him keeping his greedy hands off your boy.” Marcus winked. “But if you’re keeping on with this

whole I’m-trying-to-hold-on-to-my-employee bullshit, I’d recommend getting laid. From where I’m sitting, you just look like a jealous, horny bastard.”


Marcus rolled off the sofa and sprang to his feet. He arched his back with a jaw-cracking yawn. “You mind if I catch some sleep, dude? I’ve been having nightmares every night for the past few days.”

“What kind of nightmares?”

“Eh. Stress shit. Getting injured before the season even starts. Moe getting hurt messed me up, man.” “You spoke to him?”

“Yeah.” Marcus sobered. “His agent isn’t feeling too good about his contract since this is his last

year, and he’s had four fucking surgeries during the life of it. Remember what I said earlier? About them saying he was injury-prone? I wasn’t making it up. His career may be over, man. Or maybe they’ll trade him to some douchebag team like the Predators.”

The Predators were infamous dickholes. It seemed to be a requirement for signing with them. Even their cheerleaders were mean as fuck. The Slytherin of the NFL. The only time I could play a game without everyone mentioning my shitty reputation was if we were playing the Predators. They, as a whole, had a shittier reputation than me.

“You won’t get hurt.”

Marcus arched a brow. “You a prophet now?”

“Yeah. And I prophesize your ass winning the Super Bowl this year.”

“Without you and Moe? Nope.”

I scoffed. “Yeah, right.”

“For real, man. I love Phil, but he’s no Brawley. He’s small and lean enough to run circles around D-

men after a reception, but he has none of your force or bulk. They’re changing everything to account for you and Moe not being there. Fucking sucks.”

It did suck. Even more so because I was now facing the reality that my team was short not one but two starters. If I’d controlled myself better, I’d be there to support them. All of this stress and anxiety about how the season would roll out wouldn’t be on their shoulders, although in my opinion Moe was more of an asset to the team. He was one of the best wide receivers in the league. Even so, I wanted to be there to step up. But I was stuck. Because of my need to escalate shit five times past where it could have ended.

“All right, bud. I’m gonna go talk to Simeon, and you figure out how to get laid.”

I nodded, watching him go, and actually listened to the tip. Between Simeon and Noah, the shit about Moe, and now the news that my replacement wasn’t rising to the occasion of starting for the Barons? I needed an outlet. It was either time to get in a monstrous fistfight or take out the brimming frustration on someone’s ass.
I went for the latter. 

Great beginning to a new M/M series!

In the past, the few books I have read in this genre have been great. Maybe because I love the authors' other books or I was already invested in the characters getting together. Regardless of the reason, Illegal Contact must be included in my list of M/M favorites. Why? Well, the characters are memorable. The writing is wicked and the romance is hot!

Gavin Brawley is the tight-end for the Barons, a New York football team. He was suspended and is under house arrest for six months after he was caught on tape fighting. Gavin has a reputation for losing his cool easily but he doesn't seem to care about any of that except playing football. Completely different from his two friends, Simeon and Marcus, who are the golden kids of the team. Joe, Gavin's manager, knows Gavin needs a personal assistant at home to help him out. Gavin isn't crazy about the idea but in the end, he knows is unavoidable. 

Noah Monroe has a mountain of student loans. He's looking for a job to help pay the bills and to help his father, who's currently unemployed. Noah has no idea about football. He couldn't care less about it and it shows in his first interview with Gavin and Joe. He's surprised when he actually gets the position. Noah knows he's going to butt heads with Gavin but he won't back down without a fight. 

What neither was counting on was in those pesky sparks igniting.

Gavin and Noah were completely different people. Noah was the geeky cute guy, while Gavin was the strong athlete. It was interesting seeing how this two realized they did have a common ground after all. Gavin was able to show his softer side, while Noah learned that not every jock is dumb. 

The one negative I have is that Gavin hooked up with someone else while interested in Noah. Yes, call me naive but I like my MC's to be faithful. 

For any M/M lover, this one is a must read.

4/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by Intermix via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

OH MY LANTA. THIS BOOK WAS SO FREAKING GOOD! Illegal Contact had humor, heart, romance, passion, angst, grit, and SO MUCH MORE. I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS BOOK AND I NEED MORE.

Let's start off with the characters in this book. The two main characters are Noah and Gavin. Noah was a precious cupcake and I want to protect from this world. Noah was such a bright and sunny character that I couldn't help but adore him. He was the complete opposite of Gavin, who came off as a bit of a grumpy hardass. Gavin was a character that took a while to warm up to, but I eventually found myself loving Gavin and wanting him to find happiness. It was nice to see that Gavin actually had a heart underneath his hard exterior. 

There were a handful of wonderful side characters in this book as well. I thought the author did a great job at fleshing out the side characters and making them relevant to the story. I liked that the side characters were important and not dumped to the side once the romance was introduced. I cannot wait to see more of them in future books. I WANT THEM ALL TO FIND LOVE AND LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

I am a HUGE fan of "enemies" to lovers tropes, and the author executed that perfectly in this book. Gavin constantly gave Noah a hard time, but Noah would fight back tooth and nail. This created some wonderful tension and chemistry between Noah and Gavin. THE SEXUAL CHEMISTRY BETWEEN NOAH AND GAVIN WAS OFF THE CHARTS. I COULD NOT HANDLE IT. AND THE BANTER WAS FABOULOUS. The tension combined with the slow burn of their relationship gave me so many feels. I SHIPPED IT SO HARD. THEY ARE PERFECT TOGETHER. THEIR ROMANCE WAS WONDERFUL. I AM IN LOVE WITH THEIR LOVE. IT WAS PERFECTION. 

Overall, this was a fantastic M/M contemporary romance. Illegal Contact was a book I read in one sitting because I became obsessed with the story the author crafted. This is the type of book that becomes addictive very quickly, so I recommend having an entire day set aside to read this book because you will not want to stop!

4.5 / 5 Fangs

*This ebook was given to me in exchange for an honest review. * 

Holy Guacamole! When I say I love M/M reads, this is exactly the kind of read I'm talking about! I could not put this book down, so I didn't even try! Sorry life but you gotta wait till I'm done with my new obsession Gavin and Noah. 

Gavin plays football, that's his life, nothing else matters. So when he's suspended for the season and is on house arrest because he can't control his temper he needs someone to help him out, enter Noah. Noah is in need of a job badly, so he goes on an interview to be a personal assistant, Gavin's personal assistant. 

First off can I just say that I love the fact that Noah isn't a football fanatic. He's just normal guy trying to get his amounting debt under control just like the rest of us. I love that he put Gavin in his place when he was questioned about it too! Not everyone is a football fan and that's totally okay, Gavin! The back and forth with these two was the best tension EVER! Sometimes it was too much for me and I just wanted them to get together quickly and put me out of my misery. In the end I'm glad that the story progressed the way it did because I feel like they got to truly know each other along the way. Gavin discovered how trustworthy Noah is and Noah found out how passionate Gavin is, which helped turn their little arguments into the best banter.

"I shuddered. He felt it and smiled as I released a husky groan. And that was fine."

I absolutely loved the differences in these two men, from their physical characteristics to their personalities, I just feel like they compliment each other perfectly. At first I thought Gavin was being insufferable just because, but then I realized that he's never had anyone's unconditional love and attention, that's all he wants and it completely warmed my cold black heart. 

Illegal Contact has so much heart! It's so raw and full of utter devotion! It's exactly what I want in a love story and more, just more. This is my first Santino Hassell read and I've been hooked with Gavin and Noah, and the rest of the gang. I feel like I'm starving for more! I need more of this Barrons crew as soon as possible so I hope Hassell is writing. 

5/5 Fangs

*A complimentary copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.

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