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Raymond Rodriguez’s days of shoving responsibility to the wayside are over. His older brother wants to live with his boyfriend so Raymond has to get his act together and find a place of his own. But when out-and-proud David Butler offers to be his roommate, Raymond agrees for reasons other than needing a place to crash.
David is Raymond’s opposite in almost every way—he’s Connecticut prim and proper while Raymond is a sarcastic longshoreman from Queens—but their friendship is solid. Their closeness surprises everyone as does their not-so-playful flirtation since Raymond has always kept his bicurious side a secret.
Once they’re under the same roof, flirting turns physical, and soon their easy camaraderie is in danger of being lost to frustrating sexual tension and the stark cultural differences that set them apart. Now Raymond not only has to commit to his new independence—he has to commit to his feelings for David or risk losing him for good.
In all honesty, I’m not sure how to review this book and do it justice. Ever since putting it down the first time, because yes, I’ve read it twice already, I’ve never really stopped thinking about the story, or the characters. Raymond is my ideal kind of guy. Yeah, he’s a bit of a slacker, but he’s trying. He’s also got an adventurous side to him. He’s sexy, curious, self-medicates, is private, a little rough around the edges… But he’s also such loyal a friend and brother. He’s magnetic. I was drawn to him in Sutphin Boulevard, and he never let me go.
David, on the other hand, did not pull me in from book one. Instead, he was this guy who really pissed me off. It took me time to figure him out. For me, David was a guy I wanted to love. I wanted so many things from him, and for him. Instead of him being a magnet, he was repelling me. But little by little, he chipped away at me and I got it. I got him.
A huge draw for me in the book is the friendship Ray and David start with. They each had a common goal in the beginning, and when we start Sunset Park, their friendship has just grown stronger. The closeness they have is tangible. You see it in little looks, touches, things they say, the way they defend and stand up for each other, and the way they move around each other. They have a romance that starts well before this book does, and definitely before they realize what is happening. You see it and feel it on the page, without being told. This friendship started with a strong base. Both of them are so comfortable with each other that when the decision comes to share an apartment, the transition should be easy. And it is, to a point. David is steadfast on offering any and all help to Ray when it comes to getting his life together, and adulting. And Ray is right there for David, being a great friend, listening to him. I think David needed a good friend in his life. Someone that had no been around before. Someone different.
Their problems rise when they start getting intimate. It’s not the intimacy that is the problem, it’s the communication. Neither of them excels in talking about their feelings, and when they do try, arguments start, things are said, and tempers flare. Insecurities they each have played a huge part in their inability to communicate effectively. David is so sure that Ray is only curious and not invested in a relationship with him. He has unresolved issues with his ex, and this burning desire to make everyone happy. Ray, on the other hand, is damn sure of what he wants. He’s just got to convince David, and he really needs to learn to hold that temper.
The frustration Ray and David both have for the situation they find themselves in was also in me. I shouted and cursed so many times. I was shaking my fists over and over until they finally figure it all out. Sometimes it was really hard to deal with, just making the reading experience all the more real. These are men with real feelings, real emotions, and very real circumstances. In life, people get frustrated and say things they don’t mean. They sometimes reduce to childish behavior, talking themselves into the worst bouts of doubt. This realism is another thing I love about this book. I’m not looking for a cookie cutter story with an easy way out. Ray and David had to fight to get what they wanted, and fight they did. It was hard and awful fight that lasted a while, and they hurt each other repeatedly, but along the way there was also sweetness, and beauty. And in the end, they find a happiness that may carry them through time… a happiness that when it’s on, it is seriously exciting and stimulating. They’re full of life and passion that makes me burn to experience the same things.
Something Santino does exceedingly well is put a reader right in the room with his characters. So I’m really looking forward to the next couple books in the series. Looking for tales of other characters who really need their story told. More stories with NYC in the background, pulling me in, making me smell the smells, hear the subway. Telling a new story that’s tangible in a way that I don’t always get out a book.
This is definitely one of my favorite books of the year. I love Sunset Park. Love it, and highly recommend it.