Published by: Riptide Publishing
Format: .mobi ARC
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Reviewed by: Erin
What to Expect: A beautifully written, nuanced story of a relationship falling apart.
The Raymond Rodriguez from a few years ago wouldn’t recognize the guy he is today. He’s left his slacker ways far behind him and is now juggling two jobs and school. But the balancing act doesn’t allow much time for the man he loves.
David is doing his best to be supportive, but problems at work and his own insecurity leave him frustrated—in more ways than the obvious—whenever he goes to bed before Raymond gets home. The heat and affection between them is still there, but they barely have the time or energy to enjoy it. And it doesn’t help that Raymond is still hiding David from his colleagues.
The stress mounts so high that a vacation in paradise is filled with turmoil instead of harmony, and culminates on their return to the five boroughs with broken promises and heartache. They have to figure out how to stop allowing their differences to overshadow their love. It’s the only way they’ll make it to forever.
I am going to start this review with a disclaimer: I read Interborough on deadline for this review, during a weekend where I was feeling sad and heartsore from other real life events. Given the choice, I would have read something lighter and fluffier than this. Also, established relationship stories aren’t something I gravitate toward, even for characters I love. Given those factors, Interborough left me a little cold, but it has nothing to do with the quality of the writing or storytelling — it just wasn’t the right book for me right now.
Interborough follows the story of David and Raymond, with glimpses of the other characters we’ve met in the Five Boroughs series. Ray and David are a year into their relationship. David is stressing over tenure, Ray is working two jobs, at his soul-sucking office job and as a longshoreman at the docks, which he loves. He’s also going to night school, doing his homework in the wee hours of the night. Needless to say, his relationship with David is suffering. They barely see each other anymore, and when they do, it’s to fuck or fight.
Santino Hassell does a great job showing the slow, disastrous unraveling of a relationship, and how you can love someone so much and have it not be enough. Ray has something to prove to the world, and he’s going to kill himself trying to show that he can handle life and be an adult. David feels Ray slipping away and he’s afraid that he doesn’t have enough in common with Ray to keep him close. They both get a lot of interest and attraction from others, which fuels both their jealousies, and on top of that, sloppy-drunk party boy David is back, drinking pitchers of margaritas and grinding on the dance floor.
There is not one element in their relationship that isn’t nuanced. Hassell does a great job in his writing of getting as close to a real relationship as the conventions of romance novel writing will let you. There are moments where David and Ray are both awful, but that doesn’t make them awful people. I’ve been married 16 years, have a great relationship with my husband, who I love, and goddamn, the ugliest we’ve ever been is with each other. Love can give you ammunition sometimes, and David and Ray don’t hesitate to use it with each other. The intersection of their privileges and oppressions are also portrayed with nuance: Ray doesn’t win the oppression Olympics because he’s bi and Puerto Rican; he has straight-passing privilege that David doesn’t have.
All of this push and pull and anger and frustration are so realistically detailed, that I had to ask myself: Do I want to spend the length of a novel reading about a couple I like falling apart? Ultimately, not so much. It certainly wasn’t what I was in the space for when I read it. There is an HEA, and it’s definitely a romance by all traditional definitions, but the pain went on too long and too intimately for me to be able to enjoy the excellent writing. I think a lot of people are going to justifiably love this book, and I’m glad I got to see the continued happy endings of various characters, but this isn’t one I’m going to reread.
What People Might Not Like: There is a lot of pain and a lot of fighting through most of the book.
What I loved: Nobody writes real, three-dimensional human beings like Santino Hassell. This was beautifully written.
Erin is a full time contributor to Binge on Books. She is a voracious reader and reviewer who has been been reading romances since she stole them from under her neighbor’s mom’s bed while she was at work. You can read all her reviews here.
Connect with Erin on Twitter: @booksandjoe