ARC Review: Pansies by Alexis Hall


pansies_600x900Alfie Bell is . . . fine. He’s got a six-figure salary, a penthouse in Canary Wharf, the car he swore he’d buy when he was eighteen, and a bunch of fancy London friends.

It’s rough, though, going back to South Shields now that they all know he’s a fully paid-up pansy. It’s the last place he’s expecting to pull. But Fen’s gorgeous, with his pink-tipped hair and hipster glasses, full of the sort of courage Alfie’s never had. It should be a one-night thing, but Alfie hasn’t met anyone like Fen before.

Except he has. At school, when Alfie was everything he was supposed to be, and Fen was the stubborn little gay boy who wouldn’t keep his head down. And now it’s a proper mess: Fen might have slept with Alfie, but he’ll probably never forgive him, and Fen’s got all this other stuff going on anyway, with his mam and her flower shop and the life he left down south.

Alfie just wants to make it right. But how can he, when all they’ve got in common is the nowhere town they both ran away from.

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*I got an ARC of this book from the Publisher through NetGalley*

Alexis Hall has done it again. I’ve read this twice already – and I’ll read it again once my paperback gets here – and I still have no idea how to write a semi-coherent review.

I found Pansies to be a bit quiet, closer to Waiting for the Flood than to the rest of the Spires universe, but it still touched me deeply and made me feel a myriad of emotions, though I expected no less from this author.

This has become my favourite contemporary by Alexis Hall; and really, I can’t believe I’m saying this after having read Looking for Group. But Fen and Alfie are just one of the best couples I’ve read by him and their story will stay with me for a long time.

This is a story about grief, with Fen mourning his mother and Alfie mourning the perfect life he thought he would have, that turned out not to be that perfect after all. But most importantly, it’s a story about love and new beginnings: the love Fen shared with his mother that he’s keeping alive through Pansies, the love Alfie has for the small town he grew up in, and the love they find on each other.

I’ll be honest: I was a bit scared when I realised the story dealt with past bullying – I’ve been bullied before and those scars are resilient – but I think the author treated it with a lot of respect and a beautiful resolution. I loved seeing Aflie’s thought processes, his apology to Fen, Fen’s hurt and forgiveness; it made me cry, and smile, and made my heart beat faster.

I think the key for this book was the balance it achieved. There were sad moments, moments that made me cry, there were funny moments too, that made me laugh out loud (trust me, you’ll want to read the DIY scene), and there were the moments that made me smile and made my heart beat faster. And those moments were the ones that made me fall in love with Alfie and Fen, and with their story.

If you’ve liked Alexis’ works before, give this one a chance. If you’ve never read any of his works, start on this one, you won’t regret it.

Genre: Contemporary Orientation: Gay Pairing: M/M Publisher: Riptide Publishing Review Tag: Friends to Lovers Tag: Part of a series

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