Author: Alexis Hall
Though he’s young, Toby Finch knows exactly who he is, even if he doesn’t know where he’s going. His desires have never been so much imagination as they are instinct, and he can see no reason why he should wait another twenty years to pursue them. His biggest problem is that he’s a nineteen-year-old Dom with a very specific idea of the kind of sub he needs. But, who would ever take a “kid” like him seriously?
For Laurence Dalziel, the BDSM scene hasn’t held any meaning in years. Seeing the same faces, playing the same games leaves him lonely and unfulfilled. What he wants no longer exists, and it just isn’t something he can make himself do anymore. Or, so he thinks, until the most unlikely Dom he’s ever seen (literally) brings him to his knees.
As has been the case with everything else I’ve read by this author, I absolutely loved For Real. While it is a BDSM story, and most certainly kinky, it isn’t what I’d call “smutty.” There’s so much emotion and introspection involved throughout the narrative that it’s easy to accept these scenes as the stage for the characters’ self-discovery, rather than the summation of everything that they are. But, other moments with Toby and Laurie carry the same sort of openness and intimacy as well, and they are consistently themselves, regardless of the specific situations they find themselves in.
Toby and Laurie are a fascinating pair, not for the most obvious differences between them (age, upbringing, and wealth), but for the things they keep to themselves. Laurie has been openly successful on the accepted path he was supposed to follow. Toby was unsuccessful in living up to others’ expectations, but has made a different life for himself, regardless. What they each love about what they do, however, is far more personal and complex than they think anyone else will ever understand. As is the nature of their sexuality. Theirs is an intriguing tangle, to say the least.
A majority of For Real is an unwaveringly forthright exploration of two very specific incarnations of kink. Both Laurie and Toby’s needs are extremely precise and subtle in different ways. Laurie is well aware of the particular melding of things that will give him what he desires, but has given up on ever finding them again. Toby’s efforts, on the other hand, are more similar to the painstaking working of the dial on a safe: he knows what he wants, but not how to get it. Still, he’s absolutely right to try to crack his own code, and I celebrated along with him every time he broke through another of Laurie’s self-defeating excuses.
One thing of note that has been consistent with most of the stories I’ve read by Mr. Hall has been that, regardless of which genre a particular story falls within, I always learn something. Or, many things, really. Sometimes, it’s geographical or historical in nature; or some previously undiscovered (or regrettably forgotten) literary nugget. And very often, I learn something new about myself. There are invariably bits of things—colors, flora, random passages—that shape the characters’ perception of their piece of the world that somehow alter or expand my own in the process. I’m not sure how that always seems to be the case, but I like that it is.
Once again, Mr. Hall has written a thought-provoking, richly detailed, sometimes heartbreaking tale that kept me completely engaged throughout not one reading, but two. Discovery, rebirth, fear, lust, surrender, hope, and love are just a few of the themes that weave their way through For Real. Toby and Laurie are about as far from two-dimensional as I could have hoped for, and the first person narration from both of their perspectives was very easy to get caught up in. I don’t think there’s anything easily explained, or dismissed, about this narrative, even though I thought it was a wonderful and rewarding journey. The best thing to do is to settle in and let the story tell itself.
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.
Release Date: June 1, 2015
Series: Spires Universe, Standalone
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance, LGBTQ, BDSM
Format(s): paperback (437 pages), e-book
Book Source: NetGalley
For Real (Spires Universe)