Buddy Review: Down by Contact by Santino Hassell

Today Michelle and Jay are continuing their Buddy Review of the Baron’s series by Santino Hassell with Down by Contact. You can see both our reviews below.

down by contactBuy Links:  Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

Jay’s Review

Rating: 4.25 stars

Simeon Boudreaux is a golden boy of the NFL, beloved even after coming out as gay. As the charming and talented quarterback of the New York Barons, fans and fellow players alike love Simeon. That is everyone but his former teammates the New Jersey Predators, and linebacker Adrián Bravo in particular. Ever since Simeon left their team for the Barons, things have been tense and at times hostile between the men. And when the animosity boils over and leads to a fight between them during the game, both players end up with a six-game suspension.

In order to appease the NFL and help their reputations, the guys do some community service working at a local youth center teaching football. Simeon and Adrián can barely tolerate one another long enough to be civil. But the guys need to pull it together in order to be there for the kids, as well as play nicely for the press that is keeping an eye on them. At first the guys can’t manage to get along at all. Simeon thinks the brash Adrián is an obnoxious, homophobic jerk. And everything about Simeon makes Adrián nuts. The guys can’t help but taunt one another, even going so far as starting a game of sexual chicken.

It isn’t long, however, before both men are realizing there is much more to the other than they once thought. Simeon sees that behind the facade, Adrián is really a good guy. And that perhaps his attitude is a front for his unrecognized bisexuality. And Adrián begins to realize that his appreciation for Simeon’s looks may be more than just platonic. Now Adrián must figure out what these feelings really mean, and more importantly, if he is ready to come out and face the press, his teammates, and the public with his true self.

I loved the first book in this series, Illegal Contact, and so I was really excited to pick up this second book. We meet Simeon in that story and I found him that perfect mix of charming and sweet, with just a bit of wildness mixed in. So I was really looking forward to seeing him get his own story here, especially as we see him come out at the end of that first book.

I continued to like Simeon here. It is almost impossible not to. He is so clearly a good guy, kind and helpful and charming. He loves his friends and his family and just comes across as a good person. Plus, he has that little bit of bad boy in him, taking risks and pushing the envelope a bit when it comes to the men he picks up or the rash decisions he makes, which helps to balance out the gorgeous and perfect. So I really liked Simeon a lot. But interestingly, despite the fact that he is the carry over character from the first book (and the best friend of the MC in that story), this book is actually not really that much about his journey. Simeon pretty much ends this book just where he starts it, so I kind of wanted more growth or action on his part. I found him to be mostly a foil for Adrián and his story.

For his part, Adrián is a lot harder to like, at least at first. He is arrogant and brash and comes across as homophobic. He resents Simeon and how well liked he is, and has a generally bad attitude. Over the course of the book, we really see Adrián come into his own. Watching Simeon brings into focus his own bad attitude. He is able to do some self reflection and make changes in the way the thinks and acts. With Simeon’s help, Adrián is also able to figure out that his draw to the gorgeous quarterback is actually an attraction. And when he comes to terms with those feelings, he is all in and surprisingly sweet and sensitive. I do think Adrián ends up going a little fast from no sense of his own sexuality to totally all in with his bisexuality and his attraction to Simeon. I also think the bullying homophobe who turns out to actually be LGBT storyline is getting to be a touch tired, especially as there is also a side character here who is also homophobic and is believed to be LGBT as well. You also have to just go with the idea that this straight identifying and publicly homophobic guy is cool with this increasingly intense sexual chicken where they see if they can scare each other off by performing various sex acts together. And that it never occurs to Adrián that his enjoyment of these sexual activities may just mean something about his sexuality.

What I think I missed here compared the first book is the sense of these guys as elite athletes that I think Illegal Contact did so well. Gavin was out of football for a year and we could still see the intensity with which he kept to his diet and exercise and I loved the look into the disciplined and frankly difficult life of a famous professional athlete. While there is a mention toward the end of this story that Simeon has been working out a lot, we never see it, and the guys spend a lot of time carb loading and eating pizza for two men who have missed all of their training camp and are supposed to go back into the game at a top level in just a couple of months. I kept wondering how they were staying in shape and prepared to return to the game so soon. We do get a tiny bit of game play and a little sense of the life of an athlete, but that aspect of it is definitely downplayed in this story compared the first.

I think where this story most shines for me is in the enemies to lovers element and the way these guys turn that tension into romance. Once they figure out their feelings, they are sweet and sexy and romantic. I loved that while it takes Adrián a while to get himself sorted, once he does he is all in and the story has a nice mushy and romantic way about the ending.

So I really think Hassell has put together a great series and I enjoyed this book a lot. I wanted to see a bit more from Simeon’s story, but overall I think this is another great installment.

Michelle’s Review

Rating: 4 stars

Simeon and Adrián are rivals. They used to be on the same team and were friendly, but not anymore. After Simeon went to another football team, Adrián couldn’t stop the destructive and dangerous smack talk. Adrián was always a little fixated on Simeon, but he was raised in an environment where it never occurred to him he could be attracted to another man and Simeon pushes every single button he has, including the one that leads Adrián to attack Simeon on the field.

Adrián is kind of a mess on the personal side. He does his job on the field, but he’s full of rage, especially when Simeon is in his line of fire. Since he couldn’t put a name to his feelings, he attacked Simeon every which way he could, which is how they find themselves suspended and working together. Although they are forced to work together and there is a strong enemies vibe going here, it’s tempered by their internal narrative that they find each other attractive, which leads to a game of who can make the other the most uncomfortable sexually and it escalates quickly.

Simeon was introduced in the first book in this series, Illegal Contact, and while he had a bit of a presence there, you could start here if you wanted to. Simeon was not quite the same character for me that we met in the first book. While everyone has several sides to them, we saw Simeon with his closest friends in a relaxed environment and he gave a certain impression. The Simeon here is resigned to being treated terribly by men.

A good portion of the book is Simeon taking whatever part of Adrián he can get and Adrián treating Simeon badly. It works in the sense of Adrián coming to terms with his attraction to Simeon, but Adrián treats him badly throughout most of the book. Adrián comes around through a grand gesture and extenuating circumstances, which is perhaps a too common storyline and I wasn’t sure it was enough to make me believe these two had a real future.

There was one aspect of the book that really kept me from becoming immersed into it and that was the dialect. I have read all of Hassell’s books and his strong dialogue is one of the biggest draws for me and this aspect threw me for more than one reason. Simeon is from New Orleans (Cajun country as it’s stated) and Adrián is from Florida, yet they both sounded like all of Hassell’s other New York characters. Sure, if you move to a place you will pick up some of the dialect, but there was no trace of where they were from, yet that was part of their story and this aspect pulled me out of the book consistently.

I had mixed feelings on this book. I have enjoyed Hassell’s style and characters throughout the many books I have read by him. I liked the football world here, but this book was more about their time off the field and this book didn’t quite captivate me as much as the author’s other work. If you do enjoy Hassell’s writing, it’s certainly hard to stay away from a new release, so give this one a try for yourself.

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