Sutphin Boulevard (Five Boroughs, #1) by Santino Hassell

 

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Sometimes I catch myself wanting to ask my co-worker a theoretical question about Nunzio and Michael and then I remember that not everybody has read this book. I’m still asking myself why.

I stumbled upon Sutphin Boulevard, my very first M/M Romance read (EVER) shortly after my Kindle Voyage impulse buy, and this book quickly justified my entire purchase. This book was everything that I hoped it would be, and more, but before I get into it, can we just take a second to appreciate that cover? I mean yessssss, c’mon Santino, keep these subtly sexy book covers coming please!

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And because the cover is clearly not enough, here’s some more of the “baddass (and gorgeous)” Juan Forgia (Santino’s words). Santino confessed in his cover release blog post that Forgia was “very close to how [he] imagine Michael Rodriguez.”

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And could he be more right?

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Over the two days I spent reading Sutphin Boulevard, I would say I formed a very strong connection to Michael. I was completely floored by how many times I had to pause after reading a paragraph to really digest it all. More often than not, I found myself wondering how it was that Michael (via Santino) was able to put things into words in a way that resonated with me.

I’d put myself into this situation—surrounded by people, looking like hell, and so obviously unhappy that I was practically waving a pity me banner, but still not willing to talk to anyone.

 

Santino confessed that Michael was an introvert, but was simultaneously “not shy about asserting himself.” Conflicting characteristics like this exist in real people, but far too often authors stress a particular character trait and end up making their MC’s appear to be flat. People are complicated, and Santino gets that.

If someone had told me adulthood was equal parts being broke, depressed, and taking care of my family financially, I would have opted out and tried to find a one-way ticket to Neverland.

Michael’s not-so-tragic flaw was that he cared, sometimes too much. He cared deeply for his students and friends, and perhaps too much for his family (clearly evident when he jumped ship on Nunzio a week before their trip). Despite not wanting to take care of his family (and having the option not to do so), Michael brushed it off and did the best he could to keep everyone above water while also dealing with his addiction. Have I mentioned how selfless this man is?

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You’re taking my position as lame hermit in this relationship.

Even with his life falling apart, Michael somehow still managed to find time for Nunzio AND cheer him up when he was down. The admiration I have for Michael as a character is unreal.

And UGH ‘ZIO!!! Always looking out for Michael.

“Hello there, David.” Nunzio grabbed the front of the shirt and tugged David closer. “So, check it. Michael just broke up with his boyfriend. You should suck his dick to make him feel better.

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Can we just give him a pat on the back for this grade A friendship? Nunzio was a no-bullshit, loyal, and extremely sassy character, and I loved him for it. I couldn’t get enough of his sarcastic banter and the way he not-so-subtly pursued Michael definitely had me vying for more. I almost wanted to read a book entirely about Nunzio and his history (shitty parents and all), and I had myself wondering at times if I would have enjoyed this book even more from Nunzio’s perspective?!?

Aaaannnnddd, as if that weren’t enough, Michael and Nunzio fit together like two pieces of the same puzzle. Their relationship wasn’t founded on the rush and excitement of a new love, but in the deep and intimately personal ways that they knew each other. Growing up with someone your whole life, you know them in a way that they don’t even know themselves, but you also miss a lot, brushing off feelings you’d otherwise immediately recognize by dismissing them as familiarity.

I wish I didn’t love your stupid ass so much.

There’s knowing someone, and knowing someone. Michael and Nunzio knew each other, and the only way for their relationship to move beyond a deeply loyal friendship was physically, allowing them both to ignore logic and just feel.

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“How drunk do you need to be right now?”

“What do you mean?”

“It means whatever you want it to mean, Mikey.” Nunzio dropped onto the couch, extending his legs in front of him and folding his arms behind his head. “How drunk do you need to be for your best friend to rail you?”

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But ungh, this one got dirty fast. Nunzio’s got a mouth on him, oh boy.

You like it raw, Mikey?”

“With you I do.”

I knew he was a sarcastic little shit right from the get-go, but the way he talked to Michael…

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I wanted more, but I was also really desperate for them to stop beating around the bush and just admit to themselves that they were in love with each other already.

Like I could get by pretty well fucking only you and be really okay with that.

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This one was a slow build in the sense that the characters were so close to each other that they were almost detached from the way that their relationship was evolving…

But fucking you is like shooting up, and I don’t think one more time is going to be enough.

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…until they really didn’t have any choice but to acknowledge the changes.

Damn, Mikey. You got me feeling some type of way.

Nunzio was so sweet, in a kind of explicit kind of way. (He had a special brand of charm.) But Michael completely shut everyone out, and it took a lot of dedication on ‘Zio’s part to pull him back down to earth and keep him from walking away.

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I wanted to taste him without thinking, feel him without seeing, and enjoy the sensation of my body turning inside out with a fierce desire to never let this end.

Their stubbornness and fierce desire to keep both hands on the wheel made it impossible for their relationship to go anywhere, but can we all say Thank You David?

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There was no question that, even as shameful as my situation was, I needed him here with me so badly that my insides felt hollow. And the ache in my chest was anything but platonic.

It took a while to get there, but when they finally did, it was totally worth the wait! Seeing them both realize their feelings for each other (and not ignore life in favor of a sudden love affair) was so enjoyable to read about (and extremely refreshing).

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By the time I closed this one, it was nearly 5 am and I hadn’t slept one bit. The erotica was hot, the characters were complex, the emotions were raw, and I was exhausted. Santino’s writing is some of the best I’ve read in years, and I’m greatly looking forward to reading the rest of the Five Borough’s series.

If you’re reading this because you’re still on the fence about whether or not you should read this one, just take this entire review as one big, enthusiastic YES and pick up a copy.

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