Despite these books being book two and book four of a series (Five Boroughs), I’m reviewing them together because they are about the same coupling, a couple that surprised me by becoming my favourite couple of the series.
I loved the first book, [the review of which is here] and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that book two, Sunset Park, featured Michael’s layabout brother, Raymond, and Michael and Nunzio’s teacher colleague (and instigator of them being together in a lot of ways), David.
I loved their pairing. They were so different; Raymond very (and often too) easy-going, and David, prim, proper and a little prissy. But when they connected it was a beautiful thing. And I loved how Hassell dealt with Raymond’s first experience with a man (David). There’s a trope in male/male romance called Gay For You – the straight boy who is literally gay for one guy, and it’s all hunky dory. Not only is it stupid, and offensive, but it totally erases bisexuals, like Raymond, who is happy, healthy and down-to-earth. Thankfully that trope is criticised more of late (substituted more so now with the Out For You trope instead). So they become friends, move in together, and fall in love. Oh, and David had once slept with Raymond’s brother, something neither David nor Michael like to discuss, so there’s that spanner in the works.
I’d been listening to these books on audio and Rusty Topsfield had narrated Sutphin Boulevard, so I was a bit worried when I saw Michael Ferrauioulo had taken over for books 2-3, but I needn’t have worried, he was fantastic. All the voices were really well done, and Raymond’s voice was particularly sexy.
Interborough opens after Sunset Park and the Raymond from Sunset Park has completely changed. He’s working two jobs and studying at night to become a longshoreman, and get out of the dreaded office job he hates. The change that Raymond makes from Sutphin Boulevard to Interborough is staggering, but totally believable, and one of the strongest parts of the whole series. He grows up, and you’re right there with him. Interborough has the difficult task of being a romance novel about an existing couple. They are tried by Raymond working so much, David being stressed out, and the problems of family and houses and being an adult. I really enjoyed this book just as much (the Instagram bit made me leap with joy!) and I can’t wait for more of them in future. This wasn’t out on audio when I wrote this review but it is now (and yes, I’ve started relistening to it!)
Bravo Mr Hassell, bravo. I heartily recommend not only both of these, but the whole series! (And yes, I’ll be reviewing First and First and Concourse soon too!)
[A side note- if any readers know why the series moved from Dreamspinner Press to Riptide Publishing with book 4, I’d be curious to hear it. I’ve a sneaking suspicion it’s because book 4 was about an established couple, and was therefore a harder sell, but I could be wrong]