Review: For Real by Alexis Hall

25500803 Synopsis: 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.

Don’t judge a book by its cover. For real. Heh (see what I did there?). I just don’t love this cover which is disappointing because I love everything else about this book.

The first aspect I liked about this book was the subverting of conventions in different ways. That’s always something I appreciate in any book and the conventions are turned upside down almost right away when Laurie and Toby meet. Toby is this skinny 19 year old who comes into a BDSM club, obviously out of place and unsure of himself, and Laurie finds himself drawn to him for reasons he can’t figure out. Laurie is almost 20 years older than Toby and initially resists even the phsyical attraction to Toby. I’ve read books that turn the physical conventions on their heads – with a scrawny guy being the more dominant one in a relationship but this book explored this aspect fully. It’s told in a dual POV, which I’ve mentioned doesn’t always work for me, and in this case not only does it work it also helps explore these physical aspects in much greater detail. We get to be in both of their heads and explore what Toby is thinking through each of their interactions. Even more interesting to me was to hear what Laurie was thinking, both during and after. Alexis Hall did a wonderful job of capturing his complex emotions while submitting to someone so much younger and smaller than him.

I know I’ve only been with him twice. That I hardly know the guy. But I also don’t know how you fall in love, except by wanting to. So maybe that’ll do. For now, anyway.

What I found really well done was the two completely different voices. They each have their own, unique ones and the reader would never mistake one for the other. While they’re both trying to work through the complexities that come with the relationship Toby brings his vulnerability of age and not knowing what he wants to do with his life. It’s interesting to see the power dynamics shift in the relationship constantly back and forth as Toby deals with those issues. Laurie has an almost ennui feeling towards the scene and is grieving a previous relationship. There were no overt bids for power in this relationship – which I liked – but the balance between Laurie and Toby shifted all the time and that felt very realistic to me.

Okay, you know what I think is ina-fucking-propriate? People who don’t love each other. People who hurt each other. People who stay together out of fear or habit or apathy. We’re in love, how is that wrong?

The writing is beautifully done and I really loved both characters. Not only was their relationship realistic but just the general aspects of life that happens during the course of the book and the “life lessons” from those moved me as well.

As you can tell, I loved this book. If you like m/m I would highly recommend this book!

5 Stars

~Melinda

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