I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
First and First by Santino Hassell
Series: Five Buroughs #3
Published by Dreamspinner Press Genres: Contemporary, Erotic, Gay
Reviewed by Cheryl
Nearing forty, Caleb Stone has never been comfortable with his sexuality. Coming out later in life met with his father’s disapproval and curtailed any youthful adventures for the uptight scion of a wealthy New York family. Rather than risk the potential of awkward failure, he hides his desires behind a prickly, controlled facade. All that changes at a New Year’s Eve party where Caleb, still smarting from his ex’s new relationship, finds himself alone in a crowd of couples.
Enter Oliver “Oli” Buckley. Disowned by his own wealthy family at eighteen for his sexual adventures, Oli had to make his own way in life and is unapologetically independent. Shameless and daring, he is Caleb’s opposite, and a kiss at midnight leads to an explosive tryst neither can forget — even if Caleb’s memory is a bit hazy. Libertine Oli is happy to facilitate Caleb’s hedonistic escapades, but he’s nobody’s Prince Charming and doesn’t believe in monogamy.
As they delve further into a sexual relationship, the two become friends, business partners, and Caleb finally comes into his own. Caleb knows what he wants, but will his newfound courage push him to discover Oli’s true desires?
First and First is a fantastic addition to the Five Boroughs series. The second installment, Sunset Park, may still be my favorite, but First and First is a close second. After meeting Caleb in Sunset Park, I was a little apprehensive of him as a leading man, but he and Oli are delightful. Prickly but deep, Caleb is just waiting for someone wild and blunt as Oli. Told exclusively through Caleb’s point of view, I enjoyed watching him develop his confidence and act upon it. I also appreciate the bits of Oli’s personality that peeked through even when Caleb wasn’t fully catching onto what Oli was showing him. I don’t always prefer a limited perspective, but here it was presented in such a subtle and intriguing way that I didn’t mind not reading Oli’s POV. I wouldn’t say no to a short story from his POV, though.
Intensely erotic, First and First blazes off the pages. Caleb and Oli’s relationship evolves through multiple scorching sex scenes. While kinky and debauched, those scenes work together to push the story forward with a purpose. Caleb is so buttoned down that he needs wild experiences in order to come to terms with his true desires. Oli, the hedonist, needs to find the person who will accept and fight for him. I also enjoyed the modern feel of their relationship and the story’s backdrop. It wasn’t simply a standard, normative tale. Caleb and Oli were finding love in a world where people hookup but aren’t necessarily exclusive or renting U-Hauls after a few weeks. It’s refreshing to read a contemporary romance populated with characters that act as people of today. The secondary characters help make the Five Boroughs world more vivid and alive. I lived for the storyline featuring Raymond and David. I can’t get enough of them, even though I know they already have their own book. There were also quite a few other characters I would love to have Santino explore further. Charles deserves his happy ending at some point! Honestly though, I just want to read more of this world and the series, no matter who the characters are.
First and First could be easily read as a standalone, but I would suggest reading the previous books first. Readers will get a much fuller, richer story if they explore the earlier installments. Since I loved the previous book even more, let me assure you, you will thank me after reading it. Santino Hassell knows how to provide a thoroughly modern, utterly wicked, completely delightful read. I can’t Joyfully Recommend First and First enough!