For Real By Alexis Hall Book Review

For Real By Alexis Hall

For Real by Alexis Hall is one hell of a sexy, heartfelt, romance book. It’s full of controversial themes like age gap romance and BDSM, but it’s also an expertly crafted, researched and written story about two people finding love.

The BDSM element is a big part of the story. It’s how they find each other, and how the relationship starts, it also features heavily in the sexual encounters. I have no clue about the BDSM scene, but from an outsider’s perspective, Hall wrote a nuanced, subversive look into the roles of a Dominant and Submissive, while being sensitive to the special relationships and motivations.

For Real Plot

Everything in For Real has been very carefully crafted by Hall. BDSM has elements of torture and cruelty, dominance and humiliation, which means that the sexual and romantic relationship needs to be very carefully balanced between love and pain. It could so easily have been just a gratuitous sex fest with elements of torture, but Hall is a strong enough writer to turn flogging into an act of love.

Laurie is 37 and Toby is 19. Toby is smaller and lost in his life, his sexual journey just beginning. Laurie is stagnant and tired of the BDSM scene. This is Hall’s first masterstroke making Laurie the Sub and Toby the Dom. It means the age gap doesn’t turn into something controlling and creepy because of their sexual preferences. Toby’s youthful enthusiasm and wide-eyed joy at experimenting somehow make his need to hurt Laurie endearing and romantic.

The characters are both subversive of what you would expect from a Dom and a Sub. Toby is the one who falls first, he’s enthusiastic, he’s tender while inflicting pain, he’s little and struggles with confidence. Laurie is the older more confident one. He is conflicted with submitting and humiliation but loves it at the same time. Their characters are created so well. I did see a review saying they didn’t fit the roles of Dom and Sub enough, but I think Hall wanted that because he wanted to fit outside the stereotypes.

I started the Spires series with Waiting For The Flood, which has no sex, and then I jumped into this book, which has some kind of sex in almost every chapter. It’s exquisitely creative, no-holds-barred sex. The pain and torture side of the sexual encounters is handled expertly. It’s there but it’s always an expression of love and desire for the other person. Toby thinks of hurting Laurie because he loves him, which Hall somehow makes romantic instead of messed up.

It’s really sweet when Laurie and Toby start exploring a relationship outside of BDSM. I loved their trip to Oxford where Laurie discovers there’s more to Toby. It was amazing to see Toby transform into something more. Also, their dinners and Toby’s love for food were great. For some reason, the last few books I’ve read were all about the main character loving uncomplicated greasy food and hating fancy meals. Which I get can be a character trait, but what’s so wrong with fancy dinners and why do they always have to be a sign of snobbery in the character? Anyway, rant over, thanks Hall.

For Real Book Review

5/5

For Real is a subtle and sensitive take on the BDSM queer world. It’s got loads of great sex scenes, but what it also has is a sweetly growing relationship between two lost people.

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