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Romance and other things

Very good

Illegal Contact - Santino Hassell

The rules of the game don’t apply off the field in this first Barons novel.  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…

Review:

Dear Santino Hassell,

I enjoyed your works in the past and was curious enough to see how you will write “sports romance”. The blurb also promised some variety of “from enemies to lovers” trope and I figured that your writing is usually so strong and you will do my favorite trope justice. And I ended up being very satisfied with the Romance in this book.

The blurb gives you all the necessary information to understand the set up. Gavin is suspended from the team and is under the house arrest for six months and his manager convinces him that Gavin needs personal secretary. Gavin may be convinced but he is not happy about it and decides to sit in on the interviews.

The story is narrated in turn by Noah and Gavin and this is how Noah sees Gavin for the first time.

"That abruptly changed when my gaze fell on the long, brawny figure sprawled on the couch. I wasn’t exactly petite, but the man slouching across the room had to be a few inches taller than my own six feet. Broad shoulders stretched out the material of a gray T-shirt before leading to a muscular chest and trim waist. The man’s dark-wash jeans barely seemed to contain powerful legs and thighs. And his face was startlingly attractive. Golden hair and golden eyes—a combination so lethal that I stared, dumbfounded, even though the sun rays of that gaze weren’t directed at me. The guy didn’t even register my existence. He was staring at his phone and lazing like a big blond cat. He was also vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t immediately remember why."

Gavin’s manager was not being a particularly nice interviewer and Noah has no idea who is his potential employer. See he was not interested in football and because of that of course he did not know famous players.

"I saw all my bad decisions from the past couple of years, and all the times I’d been cowed by men more powerful or educated than me. The give-no-fucks chip activated, and I swiveled my head to pin the athlete. “Who are you?” Blond eyebrows rose, but his expression didn’t change. “Are you kidding?” His voice was deep and slightly husky. It belonged in a bedroom, not a job interview. “No, I’m not kidding.” I turned back to Joe. “I assume he’s someone important?” At this point, Joe looked impatient enough to boot me from the office. “Mr. Monroe, do you live under a rock?” From the corner of my eye, I saw the blond hunch forward with his forearms propped on his knees. He was watching me as though I was a rare breed of human he couldn’t identify. Maybe he didn’t mean to make me feel small, but between him and Joe, I did. I was vulnerable under the scrutiny. Like an insect. Something small and puny that was inspected beneath a microscope by larger-than-life individuals who would deem me unworthy. It wasn’t the first time I’d felt that way, but this was the first time I didn’t have to put up with it. There were other jobs.”

You can guess that eventually Gavin decided to hire Noah because he liked that Noah didn’t cow in his presence and because otherwise we would not have had this specific story.

I *really* liked that both Noah and Gavin had reasons to behave the way they did. Of course Gavin would be irritated with Noah for being so ignorant about football when football is the thing he loved the most. Football saved him from the miserable childhood, gave him friends, some close as brothers would be and of course gave him wealth. And it made sense to me that Noah who needed money so badly for several reasons would at first be irritated with the famous athlete who had so much of it and seemed to have trouble managing his money in addition to his temper.

As an aside I also really liked that Gavin was shown as a flawed but nevertheless likeable human being. Yes, he truly let his temper got the best of him enough to get in trouble with the law. But once again there were reasons for his behavior and I understood it very well.

And slowly but surely they begin to understand each other better and maybe make allowances and of course develop attraction for each other. I think overall it took a few months for them to fully understand what they meant to one another.

I even liked the “mandatory break – up” or “mandatory separation” – you can call it whatever you like, but you know that moment which happens in 99 percent of romance books where heroes have to spend some time apart and then come back together stronger than ever. I mean, “liked” is probably the wrong word. I wanted to say that it once again made sense to me – worries about what would happen if Gavin’s secret (his sexuality) would come out made complete sense.

The resolution was an obvious one, but I really didn’t think it could go any other way in order for the guys to have a future together.

The only thing that was missing for me was more football. I said it before, I try very hard to not go in the book with formed expectations, but sometimes blurb of the story or even cover makes it impossible to avoid forming some. When the book is being billed as sports book, I want to see games, practices, etc. We do see one and there is a lot about the football, but I still wanted to *see* more.

Grade: B+

  1. I really liked most secondary characters and very much looking forward to Simeon’s story.