Recommended Read, Review Revisited

Review Revisited: Holly’s Take on Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall (2020)

So, Erin has been yelling at us about Boyfriend Material and how it’s her favoritest most funniest book ever for a while now, so I figured I should read it. 

Erin and I do not have exactly the same sense of humor, because I was not laughing so hard that my husband had to check on me to make sure I was ok. (Maybe also she laughs harder at things than I do.) And there were some scenes where I could tell that we were going for humor, but it was too over-the-top for me to get a giggle out of it. (Erin and I had similarly divergent reactions to Something Fabulous.) 

BUT. The bit where Luc is telling his coworkers the “interrupting cow” knock-knock joke is fucking hilarious. Alex Twaddle 4-EVA!

I will also say that I read this as part of a larger Alexis Hall binge, which really highlighted to me that his books are not for everyone. They are thoughtful and absolutely brilliantly written, but I find them incredibly stressful to read. The protagonists tend to be messy and unlikable; therefore, being in their heads is not always a pleasant experience.

Read on for all the deets (and lots of squeeing) from Erin.

Heat Factor: Oliver has some stern daddy energy, and I am here 👏 for 👏 it! 👏👏👏

Character Chemistry: These two beautiful wrecks gave me butterflies

Plot: “My life is a bit of a mess, and a fake relationship will possibly help me fix it. Or complicate it. Or make it so much better.” 

Overall: I stayed up until 4 a.m. to finish this book and didn’t even realize it. And I wish I could both devour it again and slowly savor it.

From the moment I saw the cover of Boyfriend Material, I wanted it. I don’t think I’d even read the Arden St. Ives trilogy at that point, but of course after I had, I wanted to acquire Alexis Hall’s entire backlist, so my desire to have this book went through the roof.

But dreams really do come true, and I got an ARC (thank you, Sourcebooks Casablanca!), and I was in no way disappointed at all, not even the teensiest bit.

Part of the appeal of this book is the story itself. Please see:

  • Fake relationship (the best kind of forced proximity)
  • Opposites attract (hot mess + perfectly together pairing)
  • One bed (sleepovers make it look real dontchaknow)
  • Slow burn (make it mean something!)
  • Found family (friends who’ve got your back no matter what)
  • Name that nobody else uses (when the LI uses the full name and everybody else uses the nickname…sigh)

And part of the appeal is Hall’s writing. The voice is Luc’s, and it’s a sort of resigned-to-the-ridiculous hilarious that brings the book to life. It’s marvelously clever and witty. A little irreverent. Truly delightful. And this comedy creates a lovely balance with what is, at the end of the day, an extremely heavy love story. 

Because a massive part of the draw for me, personally, is Hall’s writing style, I think it’s important to give you a taste. The cast of supporting characters, as well as the personality differences between Luc and Oliver, make for some really entertaining consideration of the foibles and humanity of humans. Then, too, Oliver’s opacity due to the story being told from Luc’s POV makes Oliver’s little embarrassments and emotional vulnerabilities (really everything that makes him 3-dimensional) all the sweeter, since we get to see and consider them just as Luc does. 

Anyway, here’s a scene from Luc and Oliver’s first dinner date that captures a bit of their personalities and dynamic and also gives you a glimpse of that voice that delights me so:

“Ah. Lucien, then.” He said it perfectly, too, with the half-swallowed softness of the final syllable, smiling at me—the first full smile I’d seen from him, and shocking in its sweetness. “Vraiment? Tu parles Francais?”

There’s really no excuse for what happened next. I think maybe I just wanted him to keep smiling at me. Because for some reason I said, “Oui oui. Un peu.”

And then, to my horror, he rattled off God knew what. 

Leaving me to scrape the bottom of the barrel of my GCSE French, for which I’d received a D. “Um…um…Je voudrais aller au cinema avec mes amis? Ou es la salle de bain?”

Utterly perplexed, he pointed. So I was obliged to go to the bathroom. And when I slunk back, he immediately confronted me with “You don’t speak French at all, do you?”

“No.” I hung my head. “I mean, my mother used both when I was growing up, but I still turned out stubbornly monolingual.”

“Then why didn’t you just say that?”

“I…don’t know. I guess I assumed you didn’t speak French either?”

“Why on earth would I imply I could speak French, when I couldn’t?”

I stuffed a teetering forkful of pie into my mouth. “You’re right. That would be a deranged thing to do.”

For real, though, I stood at my kitchen counter and laughed. I rocked in the hammock outdoors and laughed. At one point (still pretty early in the book), I was laughing on the couch, and my husband said, with peak grumpiness, “No book is that funny.” So I described to him the first scene in which Luc tries to tell his co-worker a joke (there are several, and they are all amazing), and I ended up cry-laughing while my husband was also laughing because I had obviously become unhinged. 

Like a true romance junkie, I spend hours and hours (and books and books) looking for a love story that thrills me. Slow burns are very good for this, because we get to see an emotional relationship developing and physical desire beginning to compete with emotional desire, and when that first kiss finally happens at just the perfect moment…

Oliver and Luc have both been interested in each other since they met (this is suspected but not initially confirmed where Oliver is concerned), but due to both of them being absolute messes in different ways, their experiences of those interactions were such that neither thought the other was interested, and it made them grumpy. When Luc is low-key desperate to save his job, they’re thrown together again when their mutual friend declares that Oliver would be absolutely spectacularly perfect for fixing Luc’s image problem (plus she thinks they’d just be perfect together, period). Luc spectacularly bombs their first real date (see above), they agree to a fake relationship, and things get moving. 

Luc is a mess thanks to his background and the spectacularly unhealthy ways he decided to deal with what was, I grant you, an absolutely dreadful, heartbreaking situation. By contrast, Oliver, who is extremely controlled, appears to be everything that Luc is not. And to an extent that’s true, but Oliver has his own demons to battle, even if they are less apparent than Luc’s. The care with which Hall doles out breadcrumbs to Oliver’s personal struggle makes that whole situation just as compelling as Luc’s much more obvious and dramatic struggle. As you might imagine, this could (just maybe!) get in the way of a HEA for these two.

I often struggle with messy protagonists because I have a tendency to be extremely frustrated with them, but the way Hall writes Luc’s completely lucid awareness of his own terrible and self-sabotaging behavior creates this empathy bubble that I can sink right into. It’s easy to understand Luc’s defensive compulsions because it’s also easy to understand that he doesn’t necessarily want to run Oliver off, but being vulnerable is truly terrifying to him. I also might not agree with their decisions (and as the story progresses, there are some doozies on both sides), but it’s easy to understand why they’re making the decisions they’re making. 

To conclude: This book was absolutely amazing, like, to the point that I received an advance copy of the ebook and then also preordered the trade paperback – when I never have multiple copies of books, and my book budget is actually quite small – because I want to hold it in my hands and keep it forever. 

Oh, also, this one is fade-to-black / closed door sex, so if you’re familiar with Hall from Arden St. Ives or For Real, expect something a little bit…less explicit. 

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

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