Review by DMac: Down by 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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Down by Contact, by Santino Hassell
Series: The Barons, Book 2
Publisher: InterMix (Berkley Romance)
Release Date: January 16, 2017

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars


Two rival football players begin a game with higher stakes than the Super Bowl in this steamy romance from the author of Illegal Contact.

Simeon Boudreaux, the New York Barons’ golden-armed quarterback, is blessed with irresistible New Orleans charm and a face to melt your mama’s heart. He’s universally adored by fans and the media. Coming out as gay in solidarity with his teammate hasn’t harmed his reputation in the least—except for some social media taunting from rival linebacker Adrián Bravo.

Though they were once teammates, Adrián views Simeon as a traitor and the number-one name on the New Jersey Predators’ shit list. When animosity between the two NFL players reaches a boiling point on the field, culminating in a dirty fist fight, they’re both benched for six games and sentenced to joint community service teaching sullen, Brooklyn teens how to play ball.

At first, they can barely stand to be in the same room, but running the camp forces them to shape up. With no choice but to work together, Simeon realizes Adrián is more than his alpha-jerk persona, and Adrián begins to question why he’s always had such strong feelings for the gorgeous QB…


Gay Characters
“Gay for You”
Sports (Football)
Enemies to Lovers

Content Warning for: Homophobia

This book had no real momentum and didn’t really gain my interest until about 60% into the book. What a disappointment! The first book had a so-so ending, but for the most part it was an interesting read that had me rooting for the relationship. This one fell flat for me, and I almost DNFed it about four times before I finally pushed through and finished it.

Their “relationship” was basically gay chicken until feelings suddenly showed up. If that’s your thing thing then that is totally fine, but I really did not enjoy it. Particularly because this book featured a lot of useless male posturing and bickering until suddenly they fell into bed together. If both men were gay before then it would still annoy me, but not as much that they suddenly had feelings; however, in this case I think a little bit more work needed to be done to make it believable for me. Particularly since Adrián was such a macho straight man who needed to bring up his straightness so much.

As much as I found their feelings unbelievable, it wasn’t until after they admitted them that the book actually started getting interesting. Unfortunately, this wasn’t until about 60% of the way through, but if it hadn’t picked up this would have turned into a DNF for sure. The bickering ended up kind of looping and became the center of the plot. I did not find this very interesting because I think this book could have done with more character development and less male posturing.

In the first book Gavin, Marcus, and Simeon were REALLY CLOSE, but in this book they were pretty much missing until they suddenly showed up to protest that Simeon was having sex with Adrian. Why did their dynamic change until they were needed to progress the plot? I think a lot of people who read the first book would be disappointed that the friendship that was so great in disappeared. I think having Simeon’s friends around would have changed the dynamic of the plot in a good way.

Not many people are going to care, but there is not much football in this at all. The first one had more, but even that one didn’t have much. They were coaching a group of youths, but beyond a strategy meeting not much else really involved the sports. I personally find it strange that two men who play in the NFL wouldn’t talk about something they were both passionate about. I don’t even play baseball but when I’m with my baseball people we won’t shut up about it, so I found this a bit strange that they didn’t talk about the actual sport more. They talked about some players but not the actual game.

It was also very strange that the paparazzi were only at the volunteer center they were at but fame wasn’t really part of their daily lives. In the first book Gavin was housebound so it made sense that he wasn’t recognized in public, or hounded by the paparazzi or on a Sports show or anything. In this book they are walking around in the city and not getting recognized unless it’s convenient to the plot. There’s also nothing to show the fallout of Simeon getting outed in the first book. No fan protests, no hardships talked about. It was just like he dyed his hair, and I think that it made it unrealistic given that this is a contemporary book where not a lot of athletes have come out.

All in all this book was a let down for me and I will not be reading the next book in the series.


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.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram

You can purchase Down by Contact from:

Publisher | Amazon | iTunes | Google Play

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.

One thought on “Review by DMac: Down by Contact, by Santino Hassell

  1. Hah. Gay chicken made me laugh out loud. That’s the perfect description.

    I was disappointed in this one too, although I think I gave it a slightly higher rating on GR. I just felt like it took place in some weird alt reality where NFL players can come out with few consequences and people who have never, ever taught or worked with kids can pull a curriculum out of thin air and become competent teachers in a week. (Former teacher here, that last one really annoyed me).

    It’s weird. Lots of contemporary romances that I enjoy exist in some sort of alt version of reality but one of Santino Hassell’s strengths is storytelling that feels really grounded in reality – even the OTT parts of 5B feel like they could happen. And this football series just doesn’t feel like it could happen. And I just can’t get past that.

    Liked by 1 person

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