books

Alexis Hall

Books

Romance

Spires: Glitterland (2018), Waiting for the Flood (2018), For Real (2018)

Boyfriend Material (2020)

Winner Bakes All: Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake (2021)

Fantasy

Kate Kane, Paranormal Investigator: Iron & Velvet (2013/2019)

The Affair of the Mysterious Letter (2019)


Spires


Glitterland (2018)

GlitterlandI kept reading the synopsis of this story and thinking, “I don’t know if this is my kind of story.” But I utterly adored Boyfriend Material as well as Waiting for the Flood, so I decided to try it.

It opens with a the aftermath of a one-night-stand and the main character, Ash, having a panic attack.

And a blow up with one of his best friends–and ex-boyfriend.

“God,” I said, petulant as a child, “if I’m such a horrendous waste of your time, why do you bother?”

Once upon a time he might have said: Because I love you.

Once upon a time he might have said: Because I care about you.

“Because I feel guilty all the fucking time,” he snapped. “And because the last time I didn’t bother, you tried to kill yourself.”

The words echoed through my head. I tugged at my cuffs, pulling them down until they hung over the heels of my hand. One of the unadvertised advantages of bespoke tailoring. All my shirts were cut this way.

So Ash is a mess. He’s trying–sort of–but he’s a mess.

I’d fuck up and let them down, they’d feel sad, I’d feel sad, they’d feel sad for making me feel sad, and so on, and so on, and so on. As if I didn’t bear enough frustration and regret on my own account, without also feeling guilty for hurting the people who loved me.

That hit close to home.

One of the things I especially loved is that nothing was as clear cut and easy as it seemed. Ash’s memory is a mess from his treatments, and he’s terrified of going back over the edge.

I wouldn’t have called myself a superstitious man, but when it came to the intricacies of my biochemistry, the complexities of my illness, I was as helpless as a frightened child who prayed to a god called science.

That’s something else I have lived. And it sucks.

But it’s not all angst. There are lovely funny bits.

“Greg and Laura are getting divorced so they both decided not to come in case they met without a lawyer present. Although since Max knows about eighty lawyers, I don’t know what they were worried about.”

Which is good because they helped offset the bits that made me cry.

The other thing I adored is the language. I think I want to hear the audio version, because I am not up on my British accents, and although he did an excellent job writing how much of an accent Darian has, I still kinda wanna hear it.

Again, lovely. A bit more angsty than I was prepared for (because it’s 2020, so it’s all fluff all the time) but the funny bits worked well to offset the hard parts.

Rating: 8.5/10

Waiting for the Flood (2018)

Waiting for the FloodThe last book I finished wasn’t at all for me.

This book was perfect for me.

The waters are rising, and Edwin Tully worries more about his elderly neighbor than his own home–the home he bought with his ex. The home he thought was going to be their forever.

You don’t really fall in love with a house. You fall in love with the life you could have in it.

Each chapter opens with a description of one room of the house, and what the room meant to Edwin when he and Marius bought the house.

First, his neighbor is wonderful.

She sighed. “All right, all right, I take your point. But if I end up having to eat my own arm like a coyote, I’m suing.”

But now I carefully focused on Mrs. P. My friend. I thought of tea and biscuits and Sunday afternoons— not a stranger whose ease and kindness was its own threat— and pulled out my words. Slowly, knowing that with Mrs, P. they would be safe.

“Last time I checked,” I said, “you have enough Hobnobs in there to last a nuclear winter.”

“A woman cannot live by Hobnobs alone.”

“No, you need—” custard creams “— Jammie Dodgers too.”

She nodded. “And protein.”

The story itself is just lovely.

This is the story of my life: standing on the edges of things and worrying, when I’m supposed to just walk through them.

We see Edwin through his actions and his thoughts–and the words he can’t get out.

“Oh yes. I’m a—” I wanted to say badass, but I didn’t trust myself with a b and a d so close to each other, “— maverick. Mixing it up. Is totally what I do.”

This is a novella, so in some ways the story is spare, getting to the ending in just over 100 words. But it’s also perfect, focusing on the things you need, letting you fill in the gaps of Edwin and his life.

It’s just lovely and sweet and there is no boinking.

Rating: 8/10

Re-Read: March 2021
Rating: 9.5/10

For Real (2018)

For RealThis was really really not my thing.

Yet I couldn’t stop reading.

Laurence Dalziel has grown weary of the local BDSM scene. It gives him some of what he needs–but so much else of what he wants is nowhere to be found. So it is as much a shock to him as to everyone else when he takes a young man home–a small, slight young man half his age, yet somehow completely the dominant Laurie needs.

So what kept me reading? First, I really liked Toby and wanted to discover more about him.

(MYy granddad’s a pretty biased man. He thinks I’m this astonishing, talented, wonderful person, in spite of all available evidence to the contrary. But that’s sort of what love is, I guess. A perpetual state of semideranged partiality.

But also because I really don’t get the dom/sub thing, and it was kinda of fascinating to read about. Especially how it could in some ways be separated from sex, but also how for at least the two characters in the book, it was inseparable from intimacy.

So: not for me, but I am glad I read it.

Rating: 7/10


Boyfriend Material (2020)

Boyfriend MaterialThis story was an utter delight.

I started it mid afternoon, and pretty much didn’t set it down until I’d finished it–past my bedtime.

Luc O’Donnell is a mess. Because both of his parents were semi-famous musicians, he’s always been in the eye of the press, and when his relationship went up in flames, the ensuing disaster all but ruined his life.

The rational version of Luc, the one from the parallel universe where my dad wasn’t a famous shithead and my ex-boyfriend hadn’t sold all my secrets to Piers Morgan, tried to tell me I was overreacting. Unfortunately, I wasn’t listening.

But now he has a job at a charity working to save the Dung Beetle (CRAPP).

Dr. Fairclough would argue that homeless people are human beings and, thus, plentiful and ecologically somewhere between insignificant and a net detriment. Unlike dung beetles, which are irreplaceable. Which is why she looks at the data and I talk to the press.

His mother and his friends have remained steadfast and everything is mostly ok–until a literal stumble ends with him in the tabloids and in need of rehabilitating his image.

“I thought you said I wasn’t going to get fired.”

“As long as the Beetle Drive is successful, you may go to whatever bars you please and wear whatever mammalian appendages you like.”

“Yay.”

“But right now”— she cast me a cold glance—“ your public image as some kind of barebacking, coke-snorting, buttockless-trouser-wearing pervert has scared away three of our biggest donors, and I need not remind you, our donor list is straying perilously close to single digits.”

Maybe not the best time to tell her about the emails I’d received this morning. “So what am I supposed to do?”

“Rehabilitate yourself fast. You need to go back to being the sort of harmless sodomite that Waitrose shoppers can feel good about introducing to their left-wing friends and smug about introducing to their right-wing friends.”

It doesn’t go well.

This books is marvelous. Utterly marvelous. It is snarky and angsty and funny and had me laughing and sniffling in turns.

It’s over-the-top, and his friends are ridiculous, but is also slowly peels away the layers Luc has been building around himself till you see that he is an absolute mess, but trying to hide if from his friends for the past five years.

The scene when his friends come over to help him clean his apartment is the point you realize he really is just as much of a mess as he had been joking he was, and the damage done by his ex and by the press was heart-breakingly deep.

This book is told only from Luc’s POV, and that is perfect for this story. To Luc, Oliver is pretty much perfect, and with Luc’s damage, it’s easy to miss just how human Oliver is as well, until suddenly Oliver’s damage is right there in your face.

It’s just lovely AND there is no on-the-page boinking! All but perfect!

Publisher : Sourcebooks Casablanca
Rating: 9.5/10

Re-Read: November 2020
Rating: 9.5/10


Winner Bakes All

Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake (2021)

Rosaline Palmer Takes the CakeRosaline Palmer gave up medical school to become a single mother.

“The last bold thing I did was decide I was keeping the baby, and while I’m glad I did, as decisions go it’s not exactly been without consequences.”

She loves her daughter, and manages, mostly, but wants something more.

The problem is she isn’t sure she wants what her parents want for her.

“I don’t want to be famous. I just want… enough money to pay for some things and enough people to think I’m good at baking that I might be able to get a slightly better job.”

“Truly. Yours is a hubris of Homeric proportions.”

There are some fascinating things in this story, from Rosie being a single mother, to her being bisexual but ending up dating a guy, which, I honestly understand why Alexis did this, since bisexuality often ends up demonized in the straight and gay communities, but that thread felt heavy-handed at times.

Another thing I found fascinating is that several of the unspoken rules of romance were broken, but of course I can’t talk about them without giving away important parts of the story. So–I really like that thing Alexis did. ;)

And I was really pleased with Amelie in the story. She isn’t a plot moppet and also comes across as an actual kid.

Amelie beamed up at her not, if Rosaline was honest, looking hugely like she’d missed her times very much at all. “I had a lovely weekend with Auntie Lauren and we played games and watched television and made sandwiches and”— she cast Lauren a conspiratorial glance—“ I always went to bed on time and ate very healthily.”

And as expected, lots of amusing dialog.

And besides, the quiet ones always go like a train.”

“I’m not totally convinced I want a train in my vagina.”

“I said like a train. Meaning powerful and enduring.”

“You don’t use public transport much, do you?” asked Rosaline, laughing. “You say train to me, and I think overcrowded, endlessly delayed, and subject to constant technical failures.”

I’ll be honest–there was a lot of buzz about this story, and I went in afraid it wouldn’t live up to the hype–or to some of my other favorite Alexis books–but it was good, and I enjoyed it very much.

Publisher: Forever
Rating: 8/10


Fantasy


Kate Kane, Paranormal Investigator


Iron & Velvet (2013/2019)

Iron & VelvetKate Kane is a paranormal private investigator, called when something goes wrong i the supernatural world.

She’s called out to Velvet–an expensive nightclub–to investigate the exsanguiation of a werewolf in the back alley.

It doesn’t look like he had been killed by a vampire, but it is something the vampires definitely want looked into.

Alexis hall definitely has a voice. And that voice is snark.

“Well, you’re just what I was expecting, Ms. Saint-Germain.” I folded my arms and pointedly neglected her title.

“Call me Julian, sweeting. Let’s be intimate.”

“Let’s not. And don’t call me sweeting.”

So Kate smokes and drinks and has lots of ex-girlfriends–very much a female version of your standard noir detective.

She also has powers she doesn’t want to use.

Of all my unwanted gifts, this was the one I tried hardest not to use. It made me lose myself, which wouldn’t be a problem on its own, but it turned me into something I liked even less.

Which puts her a bit in John Bloody Taylor territory.

Although I could have done without the boinking, I get that it’s a thing with noir so it wasn’t a deal breaker.

Also:

As a general rule, I’m suspicious of unassuming men in their late fifties because they’re usually terrifying supernatural monsters.

Probable truth.

Publisher : Carina Press
Rating: 8/10


The Affair of the Mysterious Letter (2019)

The Affair of the Mysterious LetterCaptain John Wyndham has returned to the city of Khelathra-Ven after five years of war. He needs rooms, but anything nice is beyond what he can afford–until he sees a posting.

Co-tenant required. Rent reasonable to the point of arousing suspicion. Tolerance for blasphemies against nature an advantage. No laundry service.

And that’s how he met Ms. Shaharazad Haas.

He had left his home of the Kingdom of Ey, because of societal restrictions, however, he’s not quite comfortable with just how relaxed everyone else is, and is often taken aback by the actions and language of Haas.

Ms. Haas moved her mouth close my ear. “I cannot believe I engaged in connubial activities with this gentleman. But I suppose I was very young.”

As a matter of record, I should add that the words “engaged,” “connubial,” “activities,” and “gentleman” were not, in actuality, used by Ms. Haas at this juncture, but I have taken some licence in representing her use of language in order to protect the sensibilities of my readers.

In other words, John Wyndham is delightful, trying to keep his ethics and morals why also accepting a roommate who is–pretty much–the exact opposite.

It’s goofy and silly and although it edges around elements of horror, the main character is so calm and straitlaced it never makes it there.

“I have no doubt you think me very foolish. But I shall always offer aid to those who may need it, and on this principle, I shall not compromise.”

It’s a cute romp, and I enjoyed it.

Publisher: Ace
Rating: 7.5/10