Title: For Real
Author: Alexis Hall
Publication Date: June 1, 2015
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Rating: ★★★★★/ 5 Stars
Genre: Contemporary, Erotica, BDSM, M/M Romance
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.
Very, very lightly, I touch his eyelashes. The corner of his lips. He doesn’t stir. And I’m a little bit worried this is what stalkers do.
For Real was recommended to me by Marianne on twitter because I asked for an age-gap book where the older person was the bottom. I couldn’t help but dive into For Real because it seemed really interesting considering that the older man, Laurie, is in his late thirties while the younger one, Toby, is only 19!
I expected to be somewhat bothered by this because I worried about the age dynamics that’d definitely be off due to how imbalanced they were but For Real surprised me.
I started reading it with a friend, who is ace, which was my mistake because she didn’t enjoy the amount of sex this had and didn’t finish it. We created a bingo of typical M/M tropes that might happen in this book. I thought the jealous ex would definitely rear his head, but this didn’t happen. We thought the friends would disapprove of the relationship, but that didn’t happen. See how this book surprised me?
What I didn’t expect the most is to fall in love with Alexis Hall’s writing. He write dense paragraph, detailing so many things in a way that kept my attention for hours. Although it took me a while to get through this book, not one second did I spend reading this book did I feel bored. It took me on so many rollercoasters of feelings.
As you can read from the blurb, this book revolves around a BDSM relationship between two men, varied in age and social status. Laurie is a consultant at a hospital, a sub, and a man still recovering from the sadness one can only get from being broken up with by someone you thought you’d spend the rest of your life with after you’ve spent nearly a decade of your life already with that person. Toby is a cook at a café, a dom, and the softest boy who has intense insecurities not only about his growing body but also about how his mom’s success cast a shadow so deep and dark he never felt bright enough to cover. The two will delight you with their conversations, their humor, their chemistry and the way they develop to trust one another with everything they’ve got.
The plot moves on quite nicely, pace-wise, as it goes from their first meeting at a BDSM club, where a tired-as-heck Laurie is entrapped by Toby’s looks, gets his mind blown away with how sincere Toby is when talking about his nature as a Dom and basically gets on his knees for the dude. Toby on the other hand suddenly finds that this older man, despite his rough-around-the-edges attitude and definitely-not-handsome looks is fascinating.
The two’s opinions of one another that first time are so amazing to read. I found myself constantly giggling or sighing with how beautiful Hall could plant these little phrases. Laurie calling Toby his prince, while Toby sweated over how Laurie would like his eggs, these two were fools for one another. The domesticity side, a side of their relationship that made me the happiest, really, was incredible. Despite their very intimate connection, the two kept finding things to discover in one another.
You’ll travel through London via the Tube, to a hospice, a café, Oxford, a private sex party, might spend some time in Toby’s bed but you’ll find your way back to Laurie’s house, where the two always find one another.
I was enchanted with the slow character development, the yielding of secrets, the way every side character felt real. Despite the focus on Laurie and Toby, there was an array of minor characters like Toby’s grandpa, his mom, and his co-workers at the café, Laurie’s friends Grace and Sam, Laurie’s ex, Laurie’s Oxford friends (JASPER!), they were all so poignant and wonderful even through very minor roles.
I am happy to say that any future work of Hall’s will be highly anticipated. I can’t wait to get my hands on more of his work.
Triggers warnings for this one is a bit tricky because while the book is very much into consent and healthy BDSM practices, there are bits where the characters deal with a lot of anxiety related to BDSM acts that are done in a public manner which they do not like. The consent in this case isn’t jeopardized at all, but just in case anyone plans to read this and might be triggered by this point. Also, one character deals with the death of someone close to him so if that’s something that won’t be okay for anyone… watch out, beautifuls.
I definitely recommend this book for fans of BDSM m/m romance written by a queer man. It’s about time we gave queer creators proper attention!