Author: Santino Hassell
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Rating: 4 stars
Type: Novel in a Series
Received from Publisher
Blurb: 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.
Review: A gay, supposedly air-headed pretty boy socialite from a rich family and an apparently straight, struggling boxer who has the talent and motivation but not the ambition to make it as a pro, seem an unlikely best friends. But Val has been looking out for Ashton since they were kids. Nobody knows the true Ashton quite like Val does. He knows Ashton is far from the scatterbrained, selfish, attention-seeking rich boy he is often seen as. And Ash loves Val for that. In fact, he’s loved Val ever since they were teenagers. Val sees Ash more than anyone, yet when it comes to seeing how much Ash loves him, he is completely oblivious.
His mother’s job as a nanny to the Townsend children may have meant Valdrin Leka grew up surrounded by wealth and privilege, but it wasn’t a world he was ever a part of. He takes his duty of looking out for Ashton as seriously as he does making sure his younger sister gets through college. Hana and Ash are the two most important people in Val’s life and, when it comes down to it, there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for them. For Hana, that includes going pro boxer. Even though he loves the sport of boxing, it’s never been about winning for him, and he has little interest in what comes with being a professional boxer apart from the money he’d earn. Enough to pay for Hana to continue college and make sure she doesn’t have to deal with the financial struggles that he, and their mother before him, has. So, Val focuses his attention on the gym and boxing and the upcoming fight that may finally see him get into the pro circuit. When it comes to Ashton, it means that when Ashton calls in the early hours, desperate for help to get out of whatever situation he’s got himself into this time, Val will still drag himself out of bed with only three hours sleep and go to him. Both had grown up with parents who were often absent in their lives, although for different reason. It forged an unbreakable bond of true understanding and affection between them. Ash, in his own way, looks out for Val just as much as Val does for him.
The conflict comes primarily from Val’s inability to recognise and accept his feelings for Ash. Sex and romantic relationships have never been a priority for him. He’s experienced attractions to other people, but they are few and far between, and develop with familiarity of the person. Casual interactions hold zero appeal. This has made it difficult for Val to realise the reason he feels such an intense reaction to Ash. Val is also wary of being pulled in Ashton’s world, worried about how it would interfere with his boxing goals, and the attention that would be forced on him. On top of those concerns, Val has been keeping a secret from Ash that could change how Ash feels about him forever if he were to find out. However, the strong attraction and feelings he has towards Ash are impossible to resist, and he is inexorably drawn to Ash over and over again. The advance-retreat conflict felt like it was dragged out just a bit too long to me. It started to feel repetitive and I almost got to the point of being so frustrated with Val that I was beginning to lose any respect I had for him. I’m glad it didn’t drag out for any longer than it did, as I would have been sad to lose respect for him, to begin to dislike him, because he wouldn’t be truthful to Ashton about how he feels, even once he’d acknowledged it to himself. I absolutely adored Ash, and I didn’t find it easy to forgive Val for hurting him. When Val wasn’t getting in the way of himself, I really loved these two together. They have such a deep, sweet connection.
I loved both MCs. Like Val observed, Ash was sweet, kind, funny and wanted to help others so much he often put aside his own needs to do so. Val was caring, loyal, sincere and determined to do anything to make those he loved happy. The only thing I found lacking in this story is I didn’t feel like they had enough time together, especially at the end after all the will-they-won’t-they for most of the story. I loved them together so much that I just wanted more of them. There was good character development with both MCs, especially Ashton’s journey to finding what was really important to him and embracing all the different depths to himself. With solid writing and endearing characters, Concourse really was an engaging read. There is a realism to the characters and their world that is easy to relate to and hard to resist being drawn into. Even if I did get a bit frustrated with the on-again, off-again thing at times, I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the next instalment in this series.