For Real, Alexis Hall
For Real, Alexis Hall
Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews Genre: Romance, GLBT My only other Alexis Hall book has been Waiting for the Flood, which I loved. I didn’t realise it was part of a loosely connected series ( connected only by characters that crop up in other books ) and it wasn’t until writing this review that I realised Edwin in here at Oxford was the Edwin from WFTF….I’m glad I know he has a happy ending as I felt really sorry for him when we met him here. Anyway – once again a terrific read. It seems Alexis is one of those authors I love, who can make a character feel so real, who can use words to let me “see” a person who I feel I know, who I can understand, empathise with, and want to be happy. That’s really important to me. After reading this book I read another romance where frankly I didn’t like any of the characters, and it spoils the story for me. I have to feel they are real, alive and then I’m happy and sad along with them. That sadness is essential too for me, I don’t want a read that’s just happy, happy, happy but need some darkness, some sadness to balance it. So, here we have Laurie, who’s still not over his last relationship even though they split six years back. He hates seeing his ex with his current partner, the breakup was traumatic for him and he just can’t bear seeing that he’s moved on. Laurie’s kind of jaded, lost, and it feels like he’s just marking time passing, not enjoying life at all. There’s no joy in him and I felt so sad that he was this way. He seems to have few friends, Grace and Sam are great, but there don’t really seem to be any other really close ones, and he has a cold, closed off relationship with his parents. He feels so alone, so lonely. Then comes Toby and he’s such a gem. I love the way Toby is portrayed, when he’s talking at a million miles a minute I can just feel his youth, his enthusiasm and the joy he takes in life when it goes his way. He’s got a kind of hidden backstory which we don’t find out til close to the end, but he lives with his very bohemian, artist mother ( who’s younger than Laurie!!), adores his grandfather who’s close to dying, and cooks in a cafe despite his clear intelligence and capability. Despite his youth he’s in many ways far older than his years, and he’s clearly very close to his granddad. He’s taken many of the things granddad has taught him into his everyday life, the songs, the dances and the kind of old time gentility he displays. I loved him, there’s clearly much more to him than we see, though I could have done with seeing less of his acne!! What I loved is the way everything in this story is turned around and yet works sublimely. Usually Laurie, the older, wealthy, experienced man would be classed as the Dom, and Toby, young, inexperienced, innocent almost, would be a sub but it’s reversed – and it works really well. I loved the turnabout, it shows that the D/s instinct is just that – something from within, not something taught, though skills can and need to be learned for safety of course, but something inherent in a persons nature. Laurie is a confident, cultured doctor, and yet when it comes to his private life he wants to submit, to let someone else have responsibility, tell him what to do and when. It frees him, relaxes him and works. Toby – from the first meeting it’s clear he knows little but despite being young, slightly built, a menial job, he’s got a very dominant nature and the way he takes command of Laurie is incredible. There’s a great story here of two souls who are at variance with what the world expects of them, and yet find each other and happiness in their relationship – but its got trials. Laurie worries about Toby’s age, about whether he’s taking advantage and Toby knows he’s got a lot to learn but needs Laurie to give him more, to commit, to go all in and its a battle….When things go wrong – well, they really pulled out the drama and I was filled with the emotion of it.
I loved the Oxford dinner party, it showed a fabulous side to Toby, and had some incredible imagery that gave me some great mental visuals of the scenes. I love Toby’s enthusiasm, his refusal to be pushed down, his ability to see the fun in anything and his confidence in himself when he lets it through. The other scene that really sticks with me is the fated party where he refuse to bow down to convention, to do what’s expected by others, but finds the strength to do what Laurie needs, without being embarrassed about other peoples perceptions. It shows a real maturity about him, and he gets respect from many of the people there because of it. I have him a mental hurrah and high five for acting as he did. So…I’ve rambled a bit – I feel like Toby here, with my enthusiasm bleeding out into an onslaught of words. Clearly that’s not just the prerogative of the young!
Stars: Five, a fabulous read that will stay with me and join the keepers file. ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers