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.
Citywide, by Santino Hassell
Series: Five Boroughs, Book 6
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: November 13, 2017
A record-breaking heatwave engulfs the Five Boroughs, and emotions run as hot as the temperatures.
In Rerouted, Chris Mendez is trying to live a drama-free life. That doesn’t include another threesome with Jace and Aiden Fairbairn. But then a citywide blackout leaves them trapped together, and Chris is forced to re-examine everything he thought he knew about relationships and his own heart.
In Gridlocked, former Marine Tonya Maldonado is keeping real estate heiress Meredith Stone on permanent ignore. Mere isn’t Tonya’s type. Not even close. Who cares if she kisses like a dream and has the filthiest mouth this side of the East River? But then a security detail at a summer party ends with her saving Mere’s life and discovering they have more chemistry than she’d ever imagined.
In Derailed, Stephanie Quinones escapes the heat and her complicated love life by going on a company retreat. Trouble is, it’s a couples’ retreat, and she lied about having a boyfriend. Unfortunately, the only person willing to play pretend is her on-again/off-again fling, Angel León. They’re currently “off again,” but after a week in the woods, Stephanie realizes she wouldn’t mind them being permanently on.
Friends to Lovers
Warning for stalking, physical assault, off-page doxxing, possible hate crime.
I absolutely love when a book I’ve been dying to read turns out to be as a good as I’d hoped. Such was the case with Citywide, which delivered on so many levels and exceeded most of my expectations. This trio of novellas was the perfect way to finally turn the spotlight on the rest of the Queens crew in the Five Boroughs universe and give them the happy endings they so deserve.
First off, the gender and sexual diversity in this book was off the hook, although I did have some issues in Gridlocked. Besides the variety of identities and pairings (groupings?), I absolutely adored that the collection kicked off with Chris and David’s very candid chat on sexuality, and oh yeah, just how casually queer everyone was throughout (except Angel of course, god bless his hetero heart). Also, while I usually try not to focus on the sex in my reviews, I would be seriously remiss if I didn’t mention that the sex in all three novellas was off the charts hot. Like, five-alarm fire hot. Or in Santino-speak, like 10 dicks hot (although if we’re being technical, it never got hotter than three dicks at any given time… but I digress).
Not gonna lie, I had initially been worried that the shorter format might make the stories feel rushed or unresolved, but my fears were completely unfounded. Citywide left me wanting more in only the best ways. I thought the ongoing heatwave set a great tone and the underlying thread connecting each novella was a nice touch. All three ended on very promising HFNs and I enjoyed the clues leading to the remaining two 5B books (cue waterworks). I was surprised at how verklempt I got during the Sunday dinner scene (seriously that scene was everything) and while I thought the various cameos sprinkled throughout the novellas felt natural and were straight-up awesome, the mention of Charles came pretty out of left field. I included some warning tags in the previous section but I should clarify that none of it was graphic.
All in all, Citywide was a wonderful detour through the 5B universe and I think it’s safe to say the author did his babies proud. Read on for my take on each novella…
It’d been exactly two and a half months since I’d last had both their hands on me, and right now I was more than willing to trade a moment of that heaven for a future broken heart. Sometimes you just needed to feel alive even if it killed you later.
First off, if you haven’t read Third Rail prior to this, you’re doing it wrong. There’s a lot going on in Rerouted, and Third Rail lays out a lot of emotional groundwork to help the reader see beyond the smoking hot sex (not that I’m complaining or anything!). The author does a commendable job trying to get Chris, Jace and Aiden to a happy compromise in order to attempt a serious relationship but I have to admit I wouldn’t have minded multiple POVs in order to get inside each of their heads. The guys had a lot to work through and it got to be pretty tough going with a lot of back and forth (no pun intended ha!), but for the most part, I felt everyone ended up on the same page. I melted at Aiden’s quiet desperation and Jace’s unexpected vulnerability at opening themselves up to a permanent third. But most of all, I loved Chris’ tap-dancing ass – his insecurities, his determination, his charm, the whole package (pun totally intended).
That voice. That throaty voice all wrecked with lust and saying my name. . . It took a lot not to just shove my face between her thighs and stay awhile.
Gridlocked took me completely by surprise. The writing was quintessential Santino… but to the nth power, if all the highlights on my Kindle is any indication. The author seemed very much in his element portraying a no-nonsense genderqueer marine from Queens taking a chance on a Manhattan socialite, and I thought the character and story development reflected that. As expected, Tonya was a complete badass – the author’s style was pitch perfect in delivering her caustic narrative. And Mere… Mere was an unexpected delight. She was no shrinking violet and had no problems being direct, but the way she confessed her feelings to Tonya on more than one occasion had me rooting for them so hard. However, the way Mere dove right in without checking if Tonya was experiencing any body or gender dysphoria gave me pause. I thought this was especially troubling because Mere knew to ask which pronouns Tonya preferred (they/her) but didn’t stop to check if any body parts were off limits. That aside, bonus points for Victor, who I found equal parts intriguing and infuriating, which of course means I cannot wait for him to meet Clive down the road.
There was a push and pull of what I wanted versus what I thought I should want, and in the middle of it all was the part of my heart that had always been reserved just for him.
Derailed kinda snuck up on me. The fact that Steph and Angel’s story ended up being my favorite says a lot considering I wasn’t very familiar with either of them, especially Angel. I think what got me hooked was the fact that, in their own twisted way, they were kinda high school sweethearts. Their story reminded me very much of Mikey and Nunzio’s what with life and well, themselves, getting in the way of their happiness. The fake relationship device was a nice way to add a layer of playfulness (and even more heat!) to the story before shit got real and a decade’s worth of longing and blurred lines threatened to end their friendship forever. Despite the dual POV, I can’t say I got to know Angel very well (apart from his yearning for Stephanie) but I liked his character from the very start. It took a while for me to warm up to Steph but her story, once it came out, really spoke to me and I was a fan, commitment issues and all. Out of all three novellas, their happy ending felt the most permanent based on their history together, which is why I gave it all the stars.
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.
He’s been a finalist in both the Bisexual Book Awards and the EPIC Awards, and was nominated for a prestigious RITA award in 2017. His work has been featured in BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Washington Post, RT Magazine, and Cosmopolitan Magazine.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.