Hi there! Today I’m so excited to share my review for a newly released contemporary M/M romance from Alexis Hall. I have read his shorter novel WAITING FOR THE FLOOD, and really enjoyed his storytelling, so I jumped at the chance to pick up FOR REAL. This is a frank, sexy light-BDSM romance that develops between a 37 y/o submissive doctor and a 19 y/o Dom. It’s a fascinating “odd couple” story.
About the book:
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.
This book is long, but didn’t read that way at all. Often times I feel like I want more detail in a story, want to know more about a character if a situation, but not this time. This time I had everything I needed, and all the stuff I didn’t need but learned that I really wanted once I had it. Thanks for that, mate! (PS, Anglophiles rejoice, they’re Londoners!)
Laurie is a 37 y/o pre-hospital consultant. I honestly had no idea what this was until I’d completed half the book. Turns out it’s a specialized doctor who goes out on scene to assist with stabilizing injured people before they can be brought to the hospital–a medical first-responder who is an actual doctor. He specializes in trauma cases and lives a high stress life as a result. He’s terribly alone since his lover of 12 years, Richard, left him 6 years prior. He does go out for random hook-ups but Laurie is an unapologetic sub who needs a man who will take him in a firm hand–and he won’t fall in love again, so it’s hard for him to develop the trust he needs for more than a random BDSM scene.
Out with friends at a BDSM club he sees a startlingly young man, and approaches him to tell him off for crashing the party, only to have this inexplicably fierce, short, pimply 19 y/o man turn the tables entirely. Laurie is blown apart by this Neo-Dom, and takes him home, only to break down. His Dom is frustrated with having a fantastic moment ruined by Laurie’s callous behavior, and lets him know this–but the two men find solace with each other. It is only the next day that names are exchanged. Toby, the young Dom, is less fierce than Laurie had expected, and the sex is galactic, yet it’s all a one-off as far as Laurie is concerned.
Thing is, Laurie can’t get Toby out of his brain, and is pleased that Toby turns up on his doorstep a week later for another go-round. Afraid that he’s developing actual feelings, however, Laurie behaves like an ass again–hoping to drive Toby away. Which he does, for a while. But, Toby’s persistent, and he’s fully aware that his Dom desires aren’t likely to be filled by anyone his own age. Plus, getting a posh man to drop to his knees is really the height of flattery, for Toby.
The story spans several months over which time both Toby and Laurie fall arse over teakettle for one another, even if Laurie would rather cut out his own tongue than admit it aloud. The emotions here are raw and so brutally honest. Toby is ruthless emotionally, to himself and Laurie–forcing both of them to see the strengths and frailties of their arrangement. I felt like my own heart was being cuffed up and spread open. Toby needs someone to want him, to care about him, and the only people in his life who seem to do so are his dying Grandad and Laurie. His mom cares, but not in a maternal way; it’s too pedestrian for her artistic sensibilities. Laurie’s afraid to pledge his heart to a man so young with so much life in front of him. He doesn’t want to waste Toby’s time–when he thinks Toby will just find a more suitable mate and throw him over. And he feels a bit awkward (read: he’s obsessed) about the age gap.
It’s a delicious character study, and a fantastic read with plenty of kinky sexytimes, but also chock full of tenderness and vulnerability. This is book where the tears shed aren’t only mine, but Toby’s and Laurie’s, too. So much coming to terms with life and its many choices. Of learning to trust, and to give trust. I just adored Toby’s POV. He’s unfailingly honest and open–something that disarms and charms and frightens Laurie. I was so glad their HEA came! It was also so fun to be in Toby’s head as he had his first real and positive experiences as a Dom. I think his youth and exuberance helped soften his sadist side; an older, experienced character would have come off as pompous or cruel–where Toby is more playful in his internal dialogue. Also, I loved how both Toby and Laurie were able to enjoy themselves in a judgment-free sexual zone. The sexytimes are plentiful, but never got boring. I never felt myself skimming.
About the Author:
Alexis Hall was born in the early 1980s and still thinks the 21st century is the future. To this day, he feels cheated that he lived through a fin de siècle but inexplicably failed to drink a single glass of absinthe, dance with a single courtesan, or stay in a single garret. He did the Oxbridge thing sometime in the 2000s and failed to learn anything of substance. He has had many jobs, including ice cream maker, fortune teller, lab technician, and professional gambler. He was fired from most of them.
He can neither cook nor sing, but he can handle a 17th century smallsword, punts from the proper end, and knows how to hotwire a car.
He lives in southeast England, with no cats and no children, and fully intends to keep it that way.
Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!