ARC Review: Down by Contact by Santino Hassell

Posted November 16, 2017 by Madalyn || 2 Comments

ARC Review: Down by Contact by Santino HassellDown by Contact (The Barons, #2) by Santino Hassell
Published by InterMix on January 16th 2018
Format: e-ARC
Source: Netgalley

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…

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Guys, I think I may have found a new go-to romance series. Who would have thought that a series of sports romances about football players could have sucked my demiromantic, non-athletic self in like this??? They totally have, though. Down by Contact is the second in a series of companion novels (the first being Illegal Contact, which I also loved) that follow queer professional football players as they find love in often unexpected places.

I was super excited for this book, because it follows a character I adored in the first book. Simeon Boudreaux is too precious for this world, but, like, he’s also a badass. At the start of the book, he has just come out as gay in solidarity with his teammate and best friend, Gavin Brawley (who the first book in this series follows), who came out as bisexual after beginning a relationship with a man he loves and not wanting to hide. Down by Contact follow Simeon after he’s suspended from the NFL for a few months due to a fight that occurs on the field between him and his mortal enemy/rival football player, Adrian Bravo, and is forced to work with said mortal enemy at a football camp for kids to get back in the press’s good graces.

You can probably guess what happens next. This is the ultimate hate-to-love romance… and I truly mean hate. I found Adrian pretty much intolerable at the beginning of the book, but I slowly warmed up to him (just as Simeon did). The sexual and romantic tension between the two of them was ridiculous, and I loved reading their banter.

One thing I really appreciated about this book was the excellent commentary on heteronormativity and how it interacts with toxic masculinity in extremely damaging ways. Adrian is in deep, deep denial about his sexuality at the beginning of the story, and a huge part of that is due to his job in an industry rife with homomisia and misogyny. I also LOVED the fact that Adrian claimed the label “bisexual” on the page, while making clear that he’s only been attracted to women prior to meeting Simeon. Because, you guessed it, even if you’re 90% attracted to the gender society expects you to feel attracted towards and only 10% attracted to other genders, you’re still bi!!! This is much-needed representation, in my opinion. We desperately need more bisexual male main characters who experience their bisexuality in totally different ways (because, like, that’s how real bi people are; we’re not a monolith), and that’s something this series as a whole does really well. Like, Gavin’s experiences as a bisexual man in the first book are pretty different than Adrian’s in this book, despite the commonalities that all bi people have (namely, stigmas. ugh.). I did have one gripe with the portrayal of sexuality in this book, though: it partly buys into the idea that men who are extremely homomisic must all be deeply closeted gay men who resent their queerness. In my opinion, while this might be true for a couple people, this is total BS overall. People are homomisic because… they’re homomisic. Full stop; no further explanation needed (especially one that further demonizes queer people). Aside from that, the discussion on sexuality and the way it interacts with masculinity in this book was wonderful.

These characters are diverse in other ways besides their sexualities, too: Simeon is black and Creole, while Adrian is Puerto Rican. Though I’m not the authority on racial representation, I didn’t notice any glaring problems with it in this book, and in fact, I thought it was quite well-done.

Overall, I can’t recommend this series highly enough. Especially in a genre that’s unfairly dominated by straight women, it’s so important to support #ownvoices m/m romances by queer male authors. If you’re looking for a great romance (even if you don’t normally go for sports romances– trust me, I don’t either!), definitely pick up this series.

Have you read Down by Contact (or its predecessor, Illegal Contact)? If not, do you plan to check them out?

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2 responses to “ARC Review: Down by Contact by Santino Hassell

  1. Morgan @ The Bookish Beagle

    I really loved Illegal Contact so I’m dying to read this book! I’m so glad you loved it as much as the first! I’m very into hate to love as a romance trope so it’ll be interesting to see if/how my feelings on Adrian evolve. And it’s really good to hear there’s varied bisexual rep on the page, that’s so important. Excellent review, you’re making me wish I had my preordered ebook already!

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