Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
This is my first experience reading a book that is almost entirely the result of fan interaction with an author, and it brought to life many of the secondary characters introduced in the rest of the Five Boroughs universe. I feel privileged to have read the short stories that inspired these longer stories on the author’s Patreon (and if you want to support a favorite author, check and see if they have a Patreon. The inside peeks into the creative process and the perks – like free stories in Santino Hassell’s case – make it so worth it, and it I have to say I like the feeling that my patronage helps a favorite author break away from the day job and write more!) As Mr. Hassell says in the acknowledgements, readers asked for more stories about the Queens crew, and this book is the result.
The book is divided into three novellas, each telling about a different couple – or, in the case of the first section, Rerouted, a throuple – during one sweltering summer. The first section is about Chris, the happy-go-lucky, goofy friend of Raymond’s that is always supportive of his friends, but has previously managed to avoid all their drama. He’s never felt as sexy and confident as the rest of the group, and somehow has always been on the sidelines. In the Patreon stories, he had a few hook-ups with Aiden and Jace, the open/poly couple introduced in First and First. It started out as just sex, but soon all three of them start seeing that this time, it’s something much deeper than that. Thinking about becoming a permanent third with a couple who’ve been together for 10 years made him see for the first time things he didn’t know about himself and what he wanted – but accomplishing those desires was another story altogether. All while finding some disturbing and criminal things have been going on in the QFindr offices….
Gridlocked tells the story of Tonya, the fierce former marine genderqueer lesbian who has always been aloof, but ferocious about defending herself and her friends. She’s been inexplicably drawn to Meredith Stone, society celebrity and sister of the founders of QFindr, since they first met at the QFindr cruise. They have nothing in common but this intense chemistry, and Tonya is determined to stay away from Mere, because she’s nothing but trouble. But when the fallout from the homophobic doxing that was going on in the QFindr offices turns into physical threats against Mere, Tonya is the one to save her. And protecting her leads to a deeper interaction and mutual respect, and the two women find out they have a lot more in common than they realized.
The final novella, Derailed, is about Steph and Angel. Steph is the very sex-positive woman who was Raymond’s fuck buddy for years, the first of the Queens crew to break out of poverty and fiercely independent. She won’t let anyone, man or woman, tell her how to live her life, and has shunned relationships because she feels she would have to give that independence up. She has been satisfied with casual friendships and hookups. The one constant in her life – especially after Raymond and Chris found their own serious and monogamous relationships – has always been Angel. He’s been in love with her since high school, and she knows it and has always loved him in her own way. But her past experiences have led her to believe that she has to depend only on herself, and it takes a weekend of pretending to be engaged to find out just how amazing being with Angel could really be. Oh, and this section introduces Steph’s younger brother Vincent, who I think will be starring in one of the upcoming books.
I think because these stories were based on the Patreon short stories – some of which were, to be honest, pure smut because that’s what the patrons asked for – there is a much higher level of sex than in the other books in the Five Boroughs series. I’ve got mixed feelings about that. For a short, something 5K words or less, a little porn with characters that I know and love can be fun. These stories are much more involved, and the characters are all much more developed than they are in the Patreon shorts, which is good, but Mr. Hassell has clearly tried to stay true to the original ideas that prompted these stories, and to a large extent, that is sex. I love that he has created a group of friends and family who all have healthy attitudes towards sex in all of its incarnations – gay, straight, bi, queer, poly, cis, trans, and genderqueer (and I feel like I’ve learned a lot about all the various labels just from reading this series) – but I honestly got a little tired of reading about the constant amazing and mind-blowing sex. And I am truly hoping that the next book will tone it down a bit.
Cover art by L. C. Chase doesn’t have the amazing models featured on the covers of the other books, but the NYC skyline really is just right for the book.
Sales Links: Riptide Publishing |
ebook, 370 pages
Published November 13th 2017 by Riptide Publishing (first published November 11th 2017)
SeriesFive Boroughs #6