I’ve wanted to try this author for some time, so when this popped up as available for review I jumped on it and pretty much started reading as soon as it hit my inbox. To be honest, I’m not sure I was quite ready for Sutphin Boulevard. From reading the blurb I knew the main protagonists were long-time best friends who taught at the same Brooklyn high school and were about to take their relationship to the next level after a debauched night of drink and dance. And yeah, that’s pretty much exactly how this book begins. But then it all of a sudden just became more. Of course, there is the friends to lovers aspect, but this book is also about addiction, family, putting yourself back together again after getting to the lowest point possible and most of all seeing what’s been right in front of your face all along.
Michael Rodriguez and Nunzio Medici have been best friends for going on twenty years, they grew up in the same neighborhood and have always been the most important thing in each others lives. After a break up with his boyfriend, Michael decides a night out with his best friend is just what he needs. When they take someone back to Nunzio’s apartment for some dirty sex they don’t realize that everything between them is about to change. Feelings come to the surface, jealousies are suddenly right there between them and a real fear that a deep and abiding friendship will suddenly fall apart if they move to something more. Everything in Michael’s life begins to erode. From family to friendship to work… and the way he begins to deal with it all is by drowning himself in drink.
This isn’t an easy romance. It’s dark, and at times raw, but so real and true to life. I ached for Michael, whose anger and resentment toward his family grips him so tightly he can’t seem to see that he’s following in the exact same footsteps as his alcoholic, absentee father. It’s hard to be in his head as he spirals out of control and hits rock bottom. He makes bad choices, he drinks into oblivion, he shuts out the one person who has always had his back because he’s afraid. This story is told entirely in his POV and I’m not sure it would have worked any other way. You almost have to be in his headspace to even begin to understand his feelings of confusion and guilt. You might be wondering by now if you will even like Michael, but rest assured, you will. He is deeply flawed, but I found myself rooting for him. Even at his lowest point, even when he disappoints and fucks up over and over you can’t help but want him to get better.
Then there’s Nunzio. Dazzling, sexy, generous, loyal Nunzio. He stays true to Michael throughout it all. It says something about this author’s gift as a storyteller that I connected just as strongly to a character without being able to see things through his eyes. I knew when he was hurting, I understood his frustration at not being able to help Michael when he needed it, and I could feel his love for his best friend every time they shared a look or an embrace. I wanted to reach into the pages and give him a hug, let him know everything would be okay. He’s remained the rock by Michael’s side no matter how angry or hurt he was or how many times Michael shut him out.
I don’t want you to think it’s all dark. The chemistry between these two fairly sizzles the pages. This book is sexy. The love scenes are dirty in all the best ways. It’s quite clear Michael and Nunzio love each other, it just takes awhile for them to figure out that that love has slowly evolved into something deeper. Let’s be honest, it takes Michael looking at all his flaws and mistakes to see that Nunzio is his person. That there was never anyone else.
I’m told that book two, Sunset Park, is Raymond (Michael’s brother) and David’s story. I’ve also heard that it’s even better than Sutphin Boulevard from a few people who’ve read it. I’m not sure how that could possibly be true. I do know I can’t wait to dive back into this author’s work and plan on looking into his backlist.
Trust me. Go buy this book. Final Grade- A
At my best and worst, Nunzio had always seen me. What I wanted, what I needed, and the fact that we belonged together. He’d known all along, and I was just catching up.