Series: Five Boroughs #5
Published by Riptide on 05/01/2017
Ashton Townsend is the most famous celebutante of Manhattan’s glitterati. The black sheep of his wealthy family, he’s known for his club appearances, Instagram account, and sex tape. Most people can’t imagine him wanting for anything, but Ashton yearns for friendship, respect, and the love of his best friend—amateur boxer Valdrin Leka.
Val’s relationship with Ashton is complicated. As the son of Ashton’s beloved nanny, Val has always bounced between resenting Ashton and regarding him as his best friend. And then there’s the sexual attraction between them that Val tries so hard to ignore.
When Ashton flees his glitzy lifestyle, he finds refuge with Val in the Bronx. Between Val’s training for an upcoming fight and dodging paparazzi, they succumb to their need for each other. But before they can figure out what it all means—and what they want to do about it—the world drags them out of their haven, revealing a secret Val has kept for years. Now, Ashton has to decide whether to once again envelop himself in his party-boy persona, or to trust in the only man who’s ever seen the real him.
I can’t stop thinking about this book, or rather my reaction to this book. Within the past year I’ve discovered Santino Hassell and have enjoyed his work. Mostly. His stories may not always work for me but I have grown to look forward to his distinct writing style and dynamic character portrayals. And for the first half of Concourse I was really into it. I loved the childhood crush element and appreciated the Bronx setting. Then the angst grew. And grew and grew…and grew, and my interest took a nose dive.
I loved the start of this book. I savored the newness of the setting and found the juxtaposition of Val and Ash’s characters a bit a la David and Raymond. I quickly became infatuated with Valdrin, and it was easy for me to understand his motives and struggles. His character felt very genuine and relevant. However, Ashton was terribly vapid and insecure. He simply is not the kind of character I’m normally drawn to and there was nothing here to sway my usual reaction to a character like him.
Now, because of how well these character sketches were done, I can’t reconcile their conflict. Valdrin’s betrayal to Ash carried no authenticity because of how well Santino had written him prior to the exposure of that betrayal. Santino already proved to me that Val loves Ash, that he cares for him and has harbored these feelings for a long time. So when Val hurts him, Ash’s reaction and Val’s pleas for forgiveness didn’t bring on any emotional (sympathy) or physical (crying) reactions from me. Also, all of the character growth, for both protagonists, occurs during the tumultuous and drawn out conflict resolution. Why?
The sex scenes also felt very anti-climactic. Not because they weren’t stimulating or that there was a lack of chemistry but rather their placement within the story was entirely off the mark. There was such momentum and a very nice build up that somehow got interrupted leaving their first (penetrative) sex scene disappointingly innocuous. It’d have been hotter and more emotional had it, and other scenes, been reworked in the timeline.
Characters sketches aside, and a few quotable moments, I didn’t find much distinction in the writing that without the cover, I may not have been able to identify it as a SH novel. It felt very pedestrian compared to the other books in the Five Boroughs series. Speaking of 5B, seeing Zio again was a nice treat and I loved the foreshadowing of the possibility of future ships within the series.
I think that had the storyline been reworked Concourse would have been an easy one for me to suggest. However, here I am again with a take or leave it recommendation.