Untitled - Santino Hassell Review originally posted at Sinfully.

There is no question that Santino Hassell has another hit series on his hands with The Barons. Once again a Barons player, the out and proud Simeon Boudreaux, who we met in [b:Illegal Contact|34346381|Illegal Contact (The Barons, #1)|Santino Hassell|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1493270535s/34346381.jpg|54486205], finds himself with time on his hands after being suspended and injured as well. Too bad he’s being forced to spend it with the man who used to be a teammate, but now is nothing but a homophobic trouble maker, and who started the whole fracas, Adrián Bravo. These two have a history, but each of them have a different take on it. Adrián hates Simeon and Simeon isn’t sure why. A lot of times that hate comes out as homophobic comments and macho posturing as the two, and their teammates, trade barbs on social media.

Although this one lacked the emotional punch for me that I got out from Illegal Contact, I thoroughly enjoyed Simeon and Adrián’s relationship whether it was antagonistic or hot and heavy. I loved Simeon in the first book and he’s just as wonderful as we get to know him a bit more here. He has a great support system in his friends and his mother, a heart of gold and a love of life, and he’s not afraid to put Adrián in his place.

I wasn’t so sure how I felt about the game of “gay chicken” they were playing at the start, but Simeon had his reasons and Adrián was a willing player. Things are bumpy still, but the two forge sort of truce and start to get along more than not as they work off their time at a community center. After they eventually drop the façade that it was all a game, when it came down to it, Adrián proved himself as more interested in Simeon than in fighting or labeling his feelings as anything but what they were. Underneath all the BS, it turns out that Adrián is a smart and delightful counterpart to Simeon.

Adrián is really surprised by the realization that his hurt feelings over Simeon’s leaving the Predators and all the bitterness that followed were more than just professional or platonic anger. While his bisexuality comes as a revelation (Simeon's the only man he's been attracted to) he’s not all that put off. He knows what he feels for Simeon is real and he is ready to be all in, though I wish we had a little bit more of his thoughts and reasoning on leading up to it. Adrián goes from really unlikable to being an incredible, supportive and sympathetic character. Brought up to be a manly man and a winner by his ballplayer father, he knows that any coming out is not going to be easy personally or professionally, but I loved that he didn’t use that as an excuse.

The story was surprisingly light after the first chapters where the two men were at each other's throats. When they’re together, they are a fun and playful couple complete with good banter and sizzling chemistry, who can be just as tender as they can rough. They don’t shy away from serious conversation either, communicating pretty well with a few small hiccups.

I don’t need to sing the praises of Santino’s writing more than I have in the past. I love his simple, straight-forward style even when some of the slang sends me to Google. There were some good secondary characters, including the kids from the community center, the men’s parents and Simeon’s Barons family from the first book. This story will work as a standalone, but I don’t suggest missing out on Illegal Contact. Also, if sports aren’t your thing, most of the action takes place off the field. I’m glad to see that there appears to be at least one more story to come and I’ll be ready and waiting for it.