Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall – A Sam Review

I’ve read a couple of queer romances recently, but one of them -Red White and Royal Blue- has been reviewed by everyone and their dog and their dog’s pets, and I’ve nothing to say that hasn’t already been said. I’ve seen slightly less hype over Boyfriend Material though, so I’m going to talk about it for a bit.

So Luc, the son of an ageing playboy rockstar, is in something of a rut. He’s not a happy chappy, he’s lost his ability to trust and form relationships with others, his apartment is a shit hole, and he’s drifting away from his friends. To cap it off he’s fallen into an incredibly contrived set of circumstances that mean he has to get a respectable boyfriend or he loses his job.

Therein lies my first problem with the book, it feels very contrived. Not that I’m trying to say that I don’t think people lose their jobs because of their sexuality, because they absolutely do and it’s heinous. Just that the set up asked my suspension of disbelief to do something it wasn’t quite willing to do, which is odd when you think about it, because I read books about magic and exploding space ships. I can’t explain it, it’s just how I feel about it.

Top tier literary journalism, right there.

He asks his friends to set him up with ‘literally any man’, and they set him up with Oliver. Luc needs a respectable boyfriend for a work do, to assure people he’s the ‘right kind of homosexual’, and Oliver needs one for a family function just so he doesn’t show up alone. The two of them get on like oil and water, but need each other, and BANG, we have our fake dating story.

How do I feel about it? I like it, I enjoyed it, but it’s not going to go down in my pantheon of favourites. The characterisation is quite weak in regards to the supporting cast, with a couple of them being outright caricatures and walking jokes. The main characters have been drawn with much more love and attention, though, as you’d expect. I really got behind them and was rooting for them to fix what needed fixing.

And ho boy do they need fixing, which leads me on to a bit of a gripe, but not a big thing, and that’s that the cover isn’t entirely representative of what’s inside the book. Looking at the cover you expect a light, fluffy romance, something funny and unchallenging. While this book is partly those things, it’s also a study on how you can drag past traumas with you and how they can loom over your relationships. The cover doesn’t do the book justice in that regard. There’s far more depth than the cover hints at. If I was into giving out grades to books this wouldn’t make it lose any marks, just something worth ruminating on. Covers are important, yo.

Finally, and most importantly with regard to how I read and what I like to see, it’s extremely sharply written. The author knows how to turn a phrase. Luc is an engaging narrator. I’d read almost anything if it’s written in an entertaining way. I’ll forgive a bad book a lot of things if there’s the occasional sentence that makes me go: ‘shit, I wish I’d come up with that.’

Luckily Boyfriend Material isn’t a bad book, and doesn’t have much it needs forgiving for. I enjoyed it, you probably will, too. Just remember, it’s not quite the popcorn read it pretends to be.

Stay safe. Wear a mask. If you’re American don’t forget to exercise your democratic right to fire Trump into the sun.

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