Aug 3, 2017

ARC Review: ILLEGAL CONTACT (The Barons, #1) by 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…

Illegal Contact is a sports-related romance and I liked it. That's a sentence I don't write often, probably because I hardly ever read them. However, Illegal Contact is Santino Hassell's sports romance, and that I had to read.

The first book about the Barons introduced Gavin Brawley, the team's tight end who was in trouble with the law. Gavin wasn't a charismatic athlete beloved by the fans. No, his fan mail was mostly hate mail. He was known as an asshole. He had a bad relationship with the media, and an infamous Brawley glare, and when the Barons would win thanks to him, people would begrudgingly give him credit for it. When a video of his confrontation with some guy, a confrontation that included punches, went viral, he got suspended for a whole season and six months of house arrest. Not being allowed to leave his house for so long meant he had to hire a personal assistant. That brought Noah Monroe into the picture.

Noah was jobless and drowning in debt. He was living with his dad who had also lost his job and had no savings. Being a PA for a football player under house arrest wasn't a position he wished to fill, but after his last employment ended badly for him, he couldn't be picky. He was, however, prickly. Even during his interview he argued with Gavin. It was their first of many rather amusing arguments. When it came to football, Noah was ambivalent. It's something we have in common, Noah and I. That would change for him over time, at least about the Barons. And even I can't deny wanting Gavin and his best friends Simeon and Marcus to lead the Barons to victory.

Gavin and Noah had six months to spend in the same house. The first part of it, they spend arguing, and at times avoiding each other. They were also getting to know each other, and that was the time they were trying really hard to hide the growing attraction between them. Noah was undeniably attracted to Gavin from the get-go, but the more he learned about him, he grew to like him. I grew to like him, too. Under the gruff exterior, Gavin was a football player who loved the game, and felt it had saved his life. His fan mail wasn't only hate mail; he received letters from kids in the foster system who loved football and dreamed of going pro like Gavin did, and with Noah's assistance, Gavin found a way to help those kids. Gavin was also a loyal friend. My favorite part of the book was with Gavin, Noah and his besties Simeon and Marcus joking and teasing like best friends do. It was his loyalty to Simeon that had him going after that guy from the video which resulted in him missing the entire season, and spending months in his barely furnished house. Thanks to Noah, the public got to meet another side of Gavin. He went from having an infamous Brawley glare to a smile that charmed the fans so much that #DatBrawleySmile started trending.

The romance between Noah and Gavin progressed slowly. They really got together in the last third of the book, but in this case I didn't mind that at all. I enjoyed the buildup too much to mind. They spent the second third of Gavin's sentence in a blissful bubble, and the bubble burst when they had to face the harsh reality of what their relationship would be like after his house arrest was over, because Gavin's bisexuality was hidden from the public eye, and if it came out, it could ruin his career. Having to hide all the time and living in fear a paparazzo would still manage to take a picture of the two of them which would probably mean the end to Gavin's playing football wasn't an option for Noah, so he did what he felt was the right thing to do: he left. Everything was going so well with them, I kind of expected it would be smooth sailing to the very end. Once they realized the implications of being together long-term, it was like my own bubble burst.

Luckily for Gavin and Noah, and me, Illegal Contact is a romance which means their separation wasn't of a permanent nature. The story ended with them back in their sexy little bubble, but what happened to them after they joined the rest of the world is what I am wondering now. I hope the next book Down by Contact will not only be a treat with Simeon as a main character, but that it'll also satisfy my curiosity about Noah and Gavin and see if DatBrawleySmile is still charming the Barons fans.

***ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***

Until next time, happy reading!


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