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 is my second time reading this book and I still have no idea how to review it. I guess I should start by saying that love is not a strong enough word for what I feel for Alexis Hall’s writing. Imagine a place divided by a line (a football field if that helps you), now imagine Alexis walking down that line. On his right the field is full of good literature, of words that will make you feel and will stay with you for ages. Now, on his left the field is full of pompous words, of things that just work too hard at being brilliant and end up just feeling wordy. Are you following me? Even better; let’s follow Alexis down that line. He’s at the top of the good things, the brilliant things, but somehow he manages to never cross the line that would take him to the pompous field. How he does this is beyond me, and I hate him a bit and love him a lot because of it.
For Real is no exception to all that. The story is beautiful, and I’ll get to that later, but in my opinion the writing is what makes this one a gorgeous and unforgettable book, one that still takes my breath away and makes me cry and smile the second time I read it. Seriously, this is one of those books that will make you fall in love with reading all over again. I started reading my paperback and decided that I would somehow mark the sentences that I loved most, the ones that made me smile or a little bit teary eyed. I was so naive! I had to stop after chapter one because I had more stickers (which I was using as markers) than pages. If that doesn’t tell you how much I love Alexis’ writing, nothing will.
As for the story? I realise I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but I absolutely love it. Laurie and Toby are both a bit lost, and finding each other helps them find their own way again. And it’s just so well done: Laurie’s reticence to call a 19 year old boyfriend, Toby’s eagerness and openness; and the ins and outs of their relationship. I found myself crying for them and laughing with them, as if I am there with them and not reading about their lives. They are three-dimensional characters and it’s just so easy to relate to them, to feel invested in their story, you can’t help but live it along with them. I really like how the BDSM is immersed in the story, too; as something that’s theirs, something they both want and need, but that doesn’t define them. It’s about more than the pain and the pleasure, it’s about the intimacy and the trust, and they keep giving and taking, and learning from each other.
So reader, if you’ve managed to look past that beautiful cover and read my review, now it’s time for you to go and read this beautiful and magnificent book. I’m always jealous of anyone’s first time reading this, so would you go and bask in the words for me?