by Santino Hassell
Series: The Barons #2
Published by InterMix on January 16, 2018
Sub-Genre/Theme: Contemporary, LGBTQ+, Sports
Format: ARC, Print
Source: The Publisher
Buy: Amazon, B&N
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I received an advance copy of this book from The Publisher.
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…
Down by Contact is the first book that I’ve read by Santino Hassell, but it definitely won’t be my last. Hassell’s highly readable writing style and realistic characters made this is a great read that I flew through.
Down by Contact is an m/m, enemies-to-lovers story. New York Barons quarterback Simeon Boudreaux is a fan favorite who recently came out as gay. His former teammate and current rival, New Jersey Predators linebacker Adrián Bravo, continually finds ways to heckle Simeon, both online and in the news. Although he has no evidence of it, Adrián is convinced that Simeon compromised the Predators’ playbook when Simeon left for the Barons.
Things come to a head on the field when Adrián and Simeon end up in a fight, resulting in both of them being suspended for six games. On top of this, they must perform service working with kids at a local community center. At first, it’s clear that the two can’t stand each other, but they both soon realize that they have to work together in order to get through their mutual suspension. As they get to know each other beyond social media trash talk, they realize how much they actually like each other…and how attracted they are to each other, beyond friendship.
For Simeon, he’s in his comfort zone since he’s out and proud. But for Adrián, his sexual attraction to Simeon is a scary revelation. He’s only ever been with women and never considered the idea that he could be bi. As he explores his newfound relationship with Simeon, Adrián must reconcile his own identity with the persona that the media has built surrounding him. Adrián’s attraction to Simeon started out as a private game, but what happens when their community service is over and they each go back to their regular lives?
I pretty much loved everything about Down by Contact. Simeon is the sweet mama’s boy who’s also a fierce warrior on the field. Adrián is the cocky smartass who’s broadsided when he has to come to terms with his sexuality and intense feelings for Simeon. Their dialogue and banter flow naturally, which is one of the main reasons why I flew through this book. Add to this a diverse cast of supporting characters—in addition to the main characters, who are both people of color—and I was a happy camper.
There are obstacles that Adrián and Simeon must face, namely how to handle their newfound relationship, especially being on rival teams with the media spotlight on them. There’s also the family aspect surrounding Adrián’s father and his judgmental attitude. But the story concludes in a satisfying way that feels realistic and hopeful.
Down by Contact is book #2 in The Barons series, but can easily be read as a standalone. I’ve always heard great things about Santino Hassell’s books, and now I know why. I look forward to reading more from him in the future.
Rating: 5 stars