We’re trying something a little different this week, where we read different books that all have the same title. Our first contender in Who Wore It Best: Smut Edition? Husband Material.
To properly kick off Husband Material week, I figured I should read the book that inspired us to do this in the first place: the version written by Alexis Hall that Erin squeed over.
Her review is below, but here are three additional things that you should know about this book:
- It does not stand alone
You *definitely* have to read Boyfriend Material first. There are approximately a million characters who are vaguely introduced, but the expectation is that the reader already knows what Luc’s job is and who his coworkers are, who his besties are, and the general outline of his history. Luc’s friends Bridge and Priya get the most page time of the secondary characters and feel the most fully fleshed out, but if I hadn’t read Boyfriend Material, I would have been very confused with every interaction Luc has with his fellow CRAPPers.
- I would maybe call this book smut-adjacent
Not because of the non-heteronormative HEA, but because I thought it read kind of day-in-the-life women’s fic-y. The focus of most of the book is not Luc and Oliver’s relationship, because their relationship is great, but on the stuff going on around them that’s making them process their various messes.
On the other hand, the conflict and resolution at the very end of the book may have changed my mind about this statement.
- The last paragraph is perfect
Just trust me on this one.
Read on for Erin’s review.
London Calling, Book #2
Heat Factor: Lots of kissing and even some canoodling, but it quickly fades to black
Character Chemistry: There is honestly nothing better than the ways that Luc and Oliver show they love each other, both with little, everyday things and when they both let all their messes hang out
Plot: To wed or not to wed? That is the question. But it’s not really a question because the real grownups all get wed… Right? RIGHT?!
Overall: There is so much humor and love in this book, and I had such a blast reading it, but I also had to check myself in the later sections as the writing on the wall became more and more clear
I was a little afraid that a sequel couldn’t measure up to the tarmac joke level of amazing, but I needn’t have worried. The no eye deer joke put to rest any lingering doubts I might have had.
“I thought something was wrong with you,” said my husband. “Are you…laughing?”
Then he stared at me as I rolled on the couch, wheezing, tears streaming down my face.
Two hours later he entered the room again.
“Have you just been laughing this whole time?” he asked as I struggled for breath yet again.
And, no, I hadn’t been. There’s plenty of serious content in this book. But there’s also a lot of humor and hilarity, so I had been laughing frequently, if not the whole time.
We’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Alexis Hall can write. He’s an amazing writer. Husband Material is a beautiful creation. The voice! The words! Playful and serious all at once. I can never resist offering a little taste of Hall’s writing, so here’s a bit of charming absurdity:
“You can walk me down the aisle or something. But I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking your money, and you’re not buying me cocaine.”
She folded her arms stubbornly. “Luc, if anyone is going to buy you cocaine, it should be your mother. I know the best kinds, I know the best people. Of course, a lot of them are dead because…well. Cocaine dealers, they often have very unhealthy lifestyles. Long hours, bad diet. And it’s a very stressful business.”
“We have some savings.” That was Oliver, poking nervously at the extra-special vegan-special curry. “At least, I have some savings. Lucien made the mistake of going into the charitable sector.”
“Well, that is even worse,” cried Mum. “That means Oliver is paying for the whole thing like you are one of those brides that you order through the mail.”
I thought about offering you an Alex and Rhys bit, but just read the book, okay? You won’t be disappointed.
I didn’t recall until after I’d finished reading, but Hall had tweeted something about writing a book about four weddings and a funeral (unexpected death of a parent, heads up), and it’s true. The book is divided into five sections, the first three centered on weddings of people in Luc’s life, which informs what follows in the last two sections. This structure helped to frame the narrative nicely, and while they’re a structural element of the book for sure, the strong throughline of Luc and Oliver’s relationship at times allowed me to forget that I was in a section until I got to the next one.
I expected this book to involve a mess because both Luc and Oliver are pretty messy people, but it was messy in a way I didn’t expect. I expected Luc to be a whole mess, and he was very much himself (if you haven’t read Boyfriend Material, you absolutely should. It’s still one of my all time faves), but Oliver was the one who really got to let it all hang out in this book. Which was endearing. One of many things this story did successfully was to evoke the sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop when a couple is in a committed relationship, but it’s still relatively new, and they still don’t quite trust that forever actually means forever. Conflicts happen, and navigating them can be stressful. And feeling like you just can’t talk about something is the most stressful of all.
There are benefits and drawbacks to a sequel. The most obvious benefit is getting to be back in the world of beloved characters. But the story will be different. The protagonists do not have the same problems they had at the beginning of the prior book. Their relationship might also be playing out differently than the reader envisioned. The happiness and optimism of the previous ending is being rebooted, after all. I appreciated that in Husband Material, Hall was able to largely maintain the same voice for Luc, even though he and Oliver were in a different place in their lives. I also appreciated that the conflicts Luc and Oliver were facing were natural for the stage of their relationship and not dramatically manufactured miscommunications that probably really shouldn’t be occurring in a healthy two-year-old relationship. And most of all, I’m happy Luc and Oliver got to have the HEA that was best suited to themselves.
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.
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