Friday, August 17, 2018

Chelsea's Review: For Real

Remember, since this is a Royal Pick, come back on August 30th for a chance to win an ecopy of your own!

For Real by Alexis Hall
Publisher: Aleixs Hall (March 26, 2018) *re-release*
Series: Spires Universe, 3
Genre: Contemporary Romance (Erotic, BDSM) -- M/M

Dual 1st POV

Laurence Dalziel is worn down and washed up, and for him, 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.

Toby doesn’t know who he wants to be or what he wants to do. But he knows, with all the certainty of youth, that he wants Laurie. He wants him on his knees. He wants to make him hurt, he wants to make him beg, he wants to make him fall in love.

The problem is, while Laurie will surrender his body, he won’t surrender his heart. Because Toby is too young, too intense, too easy to hurt. And what they have—no matter how right it feels—can’t last. It can’t mean anything.

It can’t be real.

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Chelsea's Review:

Some books have the kind of impact on you that, even before you read them, you somehow manage to maintain concrete memories of your interactions with the book. You know the ones I mean - the books that are bound to be soul books before you’ve read word one. That’s how I feel about For Real by Alexis Hall, a book I originally heard described by Sarah MacLean and had one-click bought before she finished her first sentence.

For Real opens with Laurence Dalziel, silver fox and tired attendee of the kink scene, who is still grieving deeply from the dissolution of his long-term relationship and isn’t looking for Toby Finch to make an appearance in his life. But Toby, without knowing it, is looking for Laurence. Just nineteen, Toby knows one thing - he’s a dominant in search of a submissive, and no one takes him seriously. When Laurence approaches him at the club, and Toby explains his situation in a bit of an outburst, Laurence drops to his knees in the middle of the club.

Drops. To. His. Knees.

Reader, I swooned just hearing Sarah describe it, and I was off to the races. Because from that point on the story that unfolds is one of quiet grief, desperate growth, and a growth of characters that I think can serve as a masterclass in miscommunications done right. In case you can’t tell, I love this book a literal ton.

I just love his noises. I think it’s because he’s a quiet man, really. Not like in the obvious way of not speaking much, or speaking softly, but in the way he is. All these still places in his soul that he disturbs for me.

Before I continue with my adulations, I want to draw attention to a factor that has proved a sticking point for several of the people I’ve recommended this book to already: there is a significant age gap between Laurence and Toby. An upwards of several decades age gap. If that kind of thing is something that you simply can’t abide by, then this book will not be for you. However, if you’re willing to take a risk (even on something you may normally pass on) there is such careful, tender reflection on the gap, on the differences in their phases of life and how that stands to influence their relationship, that I think you might find yourself surprised. Along similar lines, there are BDSM and kink aspects to this book that are handled so beautifully, and explored so thoroughly, that I am astounded at Alexis’ abilities.

So many scenes of this book stand out in my mind. The first time that Laurence kicks Toby out, only to find him returned, a literally sopping wet puppy of a human, angry and feisty and alive. The scene when Laurence shows up at the greasy spoon Toby works at, tossing on an apron and helping him out of a true moment of crisis. Each and every conversation surrounding grief, relationships, death, and the necessity of continued life. The words that come to mind when describing this book — searing, quiet, careful, delicious — don’t even begin to scratch the surface on everything that lies within this gorgeously crafted narrative.

There’s just all this feeling pouring out of me, but it’s wild and fierce and rapturous, like I’ve been waiting for it my whole life and everything makes sense now. And it’s not that I’m complete, or some shit like that, because I always was, but there’s a bunch of pieces of me that fit together in a way they didn’t before.

Toby and Laurence, as characters, feel distinctly real, reflecting both the lightest and darkest parts of each other in equal measure. The length of chapters and amount of time we’re allowed to spend in each man’s head serves the slower build of the narrative well, and I think does a lot of the work in unraveling some of the darker edges of both the age divide as well as the BDSM aspects of the sex in this book.

And oh good Lord, the sex in this book. At time it’s too hot to handle (I physically had to look away from the book to blush, which I don’t frequently do, as a Public Romance Reader) and at other times it’s heartbreaking, hilarious, and emotionally impactful at each and every turn. I will never, NEVER be able to look at a lemon meringue pie the same way, and a good part of me isn’t even mad about it.

This is one of those rare reviews that’s already closing in on a thousand words and I still feel like I haven’t managed to say anything about this book. Perhaps because the entire experience of reading this book was such an immersive, captivating one that unravelling the threads of why is proving a Sisyphean task. Maybe there isn’t anything else I can say.

But I’ll try. This is a five-star, ten-star, million-stars-and-fireworks book, and you should go read it. Right now.


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Source: Bought

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Thanks for the review, Chelsea! I really enjoyed this one as well -- Hall has such a way with words.

Also, why am I drawing a blank on the lemon meringue pie?! *shrugs* Guess that means I'll have to do a little reread. For science.


Until Next Time,

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