SPORTS SUNDAY: DMac reviews Illegal Contact, by Santino Hassell

Please note this book was reviewed prior to the revelation of author’s identity and actions. Please read this statement from Riptide Publishing for more information. [Note: Berkely has terminated its relationship with Santino Hassell.]

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Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell
Series: The Barons, Book 1
Publisher: InterMix (Berkley/PRH)
Release Date: August 15, 2017

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


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…


M/M Pairing
Gay Characters
Bisexual Characters
Personal Assistant/Boss


This book was kind of hard for me to review. Firstly because there is a huge group of people who really love Hassell’s books, and that is intimidating because you don’t want a bunch of them angry at your review. Lastly,  I thought this was a quality book, but it just really didn’t do it for me personally. It had the character types and the kind of plot I like, but I really just didn’t get into it. 

Let’s start off with why I gave it four stars even though it didn’t really do it for me. It was well written, had great character development, and didn’t really fall into a predictable cliche-type plot. I am not knocking those kinds of plots, but it would lower my star rating because of some other issues I had with it, which I will get into after the things I liked. 

As the resident sports junkie, I should probably be complaining about the lack of actual sports activity in this book (excepting for a few well-written scenes). However, I hate the NFL and American Football in general so I’m thrilled I didn’t have to read about it in detail. Not going to play dumb like I don’t know the rules of the sport (though I do call it hand-egg). I know them and I don’t care because they have too many stops in play and commercials (I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS). I get really annoyed even thinking about it, so this book has blessed me with not reading about wide receivers and passing game. Thank you, Hassell! 

My absolute favorite thing about this book was the way Hassell handled character development. Gavin was great, but Noah is for sure my favorite in this book. Noah is a snarky nerd who isn’t a pushover. He didn’t take Gavin’s surly attitude. Instead, he pushed back and made Gavin change how he approached him. He starts out with Noah and Gavin behaving and being a certain way, but as they get to know each other, we get to know them.

This was really smart because then you don’t go in knowing how they are going to react or anything. Especially Gavin because he holds his cards super close. This also prevents another problem (that makes me lower stars) which is when authors tell the audience something instead of showing them through their writing.

We really get to know Noah and Gavin in this book, but he also spends time building up the secondary characters. Noah was, unsurprisingly my favorite. I really just love surly nerds and it makes me even happier when they are paired with jocks who are super soft. In this book I got a surly nerd paired with a surly jock but it was still great because we ended up seeing a softer side of Gavin. Simeon is the MC of the next book and so Hassell, smartly, gave him a lot of quality time in this book to get to know him.

Now onto why this wasn’t a five star “absolutely love it” for me. It took a while for the two MCs to start hooking up and the sex scenes were steamy; however, I feel like he could have done more to build up the tension between them. They argued a lot and had a lot of internal dialogue but not enough outside of that. This wasn’t SUPER bad, but it was something I noticed when I was reading. Sometimes the tension ramps up but then it kind of just fizzles out again. When they start getting physical it’s like they go from annoying each other to making out, and I wanted a little more active build up than that.

The ending wasn’t a clear HEA, but it isn’t a sad one either. It’s sort of a cliffhanger but not really one because there is a for-sure ending. If you don’t like non-definitive endings you may want to wait for the series to get going more before you start this book. Like I said in the previous paragraph, the next book is about Simeon and not Noah and Gavin, so I don’t know how Hassell is going to deal with the ending of this book without them being the focus.

The bottom line is that everyone has different tastes and what they like, so if you are a big fan of Hassell’s work I say go for it. Goodreads has a lot of great, happy reviews from people who love his work. If you are on the fence about it I say go for it!!


Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family but grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into a grumpy introvert and unlikely romance author with an affinity for baseball caps. His novels are heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, and his desire to write relationships fueled by intensity and passion.

Hassell can be found over at his website

As well as his twitter

You can purchase Illegal Contact from:
Google Play
Barnes & Noble

Or add it to Goodreads

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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

2 thoughts on “SPORTS SUNDAY: DMac reviews Illegal Contact, by Santino Hassell

  1. Pingback: Just Love Reviews Presents: Santino’s Traveling Book | Just Love: Queer Book Reviews

  2. Pingback: Just Love’s Favorite Books of 2017! | Just Love: Queer Book Reviews

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