“Sometimes I like my world a little rose-colored.”
This isn’t my first Alexis Hall. A couple years ago I read For Real, and I liked it. I gave it three stars, but I haven’t forgotten about it and that’s pretty huge. When it comes to the contemporary romance genre, most of the time I forget about the book within a couple months so when they stick with me it means something.
What I like about Alexis Hall’s writing style is that he adds a level of realism to the characters. I understand why it would be a turn off for some readers, but this reader likes that he includes descriptions of a rough toenail, or acne, they’re basically the human flaws we all have. I love reading the imperfect, because it actually makes it feel perfect.
In Pansies we get a story of reconnection and redemption. Alfie bullied Fen in high school, likely out of a subconscious self-hatred (in my opinion), and now as a man he’s faced with those adolescent choices when he seeks Fen’s forgiveness. Not only does he realize just how awful he was, he’as also attracted to Fen. This could have been ‘romance novel’ typical, but thankfully I liked the way their history was handled. It was perfect that Alfie wasn’t entirely self-aware from the beginning, because I feel like bullies rarely are. When confronted with what he did, his first reaction was to tell Fen how Fen should have acted differently. Not been so in everyone’s face. Again, a tactic most bullies use. Blame the victim for being easy to bully. He also threw out the ‘we were kids, it was kid jokes’. He had to break down those truths for himself, and we as the reader got to watch him grow. I also liked that Fen’s reaction wasn’t to let Alfie off the hook too fast. He made Alfie work for it. Alfie had to prove it.
The only downside came at the end. Some stuff went down, and I was really hoping that Fen would fight for Alfie with the same passion that Alfie had been fighting for Fen. I love when there is that level of balance between the main characters.
Lastly, I thought the differences between Alfie’s family and Fen’s really worked well with how Alexis Hall built the psychology of the characters. Of course Alfie struggles with his sexual identity, his family is shit at acceptance. Fen struggled with the community, but he always had the support of his family so it made sense that he was more comfortable with himself. I also appreciated that these familial connections weren’t anything to be fixed. It was just how things were, and no amount of long conversations was going to change the minds of the kids or Alfie’s parents. Again, as sad is it is, that’s usually reality.
Anyway, that’s two books and I enjoyed them both. I think I’ll definitely be checking out some of Mr. Hall’s backlog now.
“Fen actually bit his lip, another strange, uncertain sound, not quite moan, not quite whimper, echoing through the bathroom.
Somehow Alfie managed not to kiss him. He wanted to taste that noise.”
Thank you to Riptide Publishing for a copy of Pansies in exchange for an honest review.