Wednesday Review: First and First – Santino Hassell

FirstandFirstLGA Five Boroughs Story

Caleb Stone was raised on the Upper East Side, where wealth and lineage reign and “alternative lifestyles” are hidden. It took him years to come out to his family, but he’s still stuck in the stranglehold of their expectations. Caleb knows he has to build his confidence and shake things up, but he doesn’t know how… until Oliver Buckley enters the picture.

Oli is everything Caleb isn’t–risk-taking, provocative, and fiercely independent. Disowned by his family, Oli has made his own way in the world and is beholden to no one. After a chance encounter on New Year’s Eve, Caleb is smitten.

As Caleb sheds the insecurities that have held him back for years, he makes bold steps toward changing his career and escaping years of sexual repression. But for Caleb to take full control of his life, he has to be brave enough to confront his feelings and trust Oli with his heart.

This story can be read as a standalone and ends with a HEA
~~
I came into this having never read anything by Hassell, and I left it wanting to read everything by him. There were a few things about Caleb and Oli’s story that would normally have had me saying, “It’s great, but not really my thing.” All of them purely personal preference on my part (I tend to avoid first person novels for example). But instead Hassell had me saying, “Please, can this book never end?” And it was down to how real he made the characters.
Caleb and Oli compliment each other, in that they’re complete opposites and balance each other out. And holy hell does Oli fight it. At times I wanted to shake him and tell him to get a grip – especially as he’s being seen through Caleb’s eyes, so some of his actions come off harsher and more random. But Oli is a good example of a person who thinks he has what he wants, but is faking it just as much as the person pretending he has what he wants to fool everyone else, while he doesn’t fool himself at all. It’s convoluted, and it takes the guys a while to figure it out.
From beginning to end this is Caleb’s story, though. And there’s nothing smooth about it. He tries so hard at everything, and he’s so conflicted. I LOVED him. One of the biggest problems he has to work through in this novel is extremely important and helped seal the deal for me. It’s not something I’ve seen in other novels, and it’s a point I think should be made more. Nothing about this is easy or quick, and it involves characters who are flawed and know it.
And if none of that does it for you, the sex scenes definitely will. Hot damn.
5 Stars
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