For Real, by Alexis Hall (A “Spires” Story)
Publisher: Riptide Publishing (June 1, 2015)
Page Count: 437
Summary: For Laurence Dalziel, the BDSM scene is all played out. Six years on from his last relationship, he’s pushing forty and tired of going through the motions of submission. Then he meets Toby Finch. Nineteen years old. Fearless, fierce, and vulnerable. Everything Laurie can’t remember being.
* I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair & honest review. *
There are books that you plow through in a single day and promptly forget about, and then there are books that you slowly pour over, savoring every scene like a fine wine and treasuring every brilliantly-written word. For Real was definitely one of the latter.
This novel was several things to me: it was a romance novel, of course, but it was also a coming of age story, and it was funny, and sad, and sometimes awkward. It was about finding passion, both in a relationship and in life, and it was about compatibility and looking beneath the surface of a person. It was, in a word, beautiful.
Alexis Hall really did an outstanding job with this novel. There were a lot of difficult issues here: the age difference, the BDSM aspect of the relationship, Laurie’s jaded attitude and Toby’s inexperience, as well as the professional frustrations for both men and the social stigma of a thirty-seven year old dating a nineteen year old. It’s a lot to juggle in a single novel, and with any other author it may have been overwhelming, or certain pieces may have been rushed through or discarded altogether. But Hall handled each issue gracefully, and the final result was two exquisite, flawed, but extremely relatable characters.
I especially loved how awkward Toby was, and how patient and loving Laurie was in return. There’s something so genuine about a character like Toby, with his acne and embarrassment about dropping out of college. He was extremely young in many ways, but so experienced in others, and at no point did I feel like there was anything wrong with that. So many gay romance novels feature two gorgeous men, buff and tan and perfect, so it was refreshing to read about lanky, coltish Toby.
The entire novel was written very well, and the pacing was fantastic. Four hundred-plus pages may seem like a lot, but the novel flowed so easily that I barely noticed. I love when authors take the time to focus on each issue that affects the characters, rather than rushing through to get to the sex. Laurie’s lingering issues from his previous relationship, Toby’s inexperience and emotional immaturity, these things shaped the emotional relationship between the characters.
This is one that I will definitely be reading again, along with everything else that Hall has written. Definitely a 5/5 rating.
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