A relationship-in-trouble romance between opposites who still attract in one of New York City’s gay communities.
This is the fourth book in Hassell's (First and First, 2016, etc.) Five Boroughs series, set among an interconnected group of gay men in New York. It picks up the established relationship between Raymond Rodriguez, a tough, blue-collar man from Queens, and David Butler, a privileged white suburban Connecticut kid. Raymond and David were polar opposites when they first met in Sunset Park (2015), Raymond smoking pot all day and living the slacker lifestyle, while David, a high school teacher, had clear career goals and motivation. In this installment, Raymond has matured, balancing two jobs and school, while David is going up for tenure. But while their sexual attraction is as strong as ever, their underlying differences remain a challenge for the couple: David is out and proud, while bisexual Raymond, new to gay relationships, prefers to keep their romance more private, especially at his workplace. As in Sunset Park, Hassell nicely explores how gayness as a personal and political identity means different things to different people. David tends to overanalyze their relationship, developing worries that stimulate his insecurities and create the very problems he wants to avoid. Readers who found David’s clinginess and insecurity difficult to take in Sunset Park will not find him much changed. Many will recognize the work stresses, jealousy over old loves, thoughtlessness, fear of abandonment, and poor communication that threaten this couple. Effectively written from alternating first-person points of view, Hassell deepens already well-rounded characters by putting them in a sophomore slump caused not by any external event but just by trying to blend two different lives. This is technically a stand-alone novel, but readers will benefit from a sense of this couple’s history as explored in the earlier book.
A realistic return to a rocky romance that explores the challenges and joys of maintaining a long-term relationship.