Title: For Real (A Spires Story)
Author: Alexis Hall
Narrators: John Hartley and Paul Burton
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Run Time: 13 hours
Category: Contemporary, BDSM
At a Glance: This audio is absolutely worthy of this award-winning (it’s so fun to say that) book.
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: Laurence Dalziel is worn down and washed up, and for him, the BDSM scene is all played out. Six years on from his last relationship, he’s pushing 40 and tired of going through the motions of submission. Then he meets Toby Finch. Nineteen years old. Fearless, fierce, and vulnerable. Everything Laurie can’t remember being.
Toby doesn’t know who he wants to be or what he wants to do. But he knows, with all the certainty of youth, that he wants Laurie. He wants him on his knees. He wants to make him hurt, he wants to make him beg, he wants to make him fall in love. The problem is, while Laurie will surrender his body, he won’t surrender his heart. Because Toby is too young, too intense, too easy to hurt. And what they have – no matter how right it feels – can’t last. It can’t mean anything. It can’t be real.
Review: There’s a reason that For Real by Alexis Hall made it onto my ‘Best Reads of 2015’ list, and just won the coveted RITA award for Erotic Romance. Let me say that again…this book just won the RITA for best erotic romance, you guys!! And, was the first M/M book to ever win this award from the RWA. Such an amazing win for Alexis Hall, for Riptide Publishing, and honestly, for the entire LGBTQ+ genre. The reason for the distinction is pretty simple really: This is a gorgeous, gorgeous book. The writing is sublime; the characters are both fascinating and relatable; Hall is so good at pulling the reader into the story—even the second time through I didn’t want it to end. I read and reviewed For Real for its release in June of last year, and truly, truly loved it. Listening to the audio completely added to that love.
Laurie and Toby are still one of the most perfect ‘unlikely pairings’ I’ve ever read—or, in this case, listened to. The casual observer might describe Laurie as a successful, polished gentleman, and might conversely say that Toby is a mess. But, the truth is they are both messes. They both have needs that they’ve no idea how to meet, or are unwillingly to admit what it might take to meet them. Laurie is certainly in denial over how much he needs Toby, this boy he met at a club and immediately knew he wanted to kneel for.
The relationship feels both meant-to-be and doomed at the same time, sort of depending on whose head you’re in. On the one hand, here are two men who fit each other like missing pieces; but, on the other hand, for Laurie, the age difference and experience gap feel insurmountable the majority of the time. Also, as I mentioned in my original review, the class/economic disparities between them come into play frequently, and I felt like they were even more apparent to me while listening to the audio.
I cover more about the storyline in my earlier review, which you can check out here if you like, but right now I want to talk about how much the audio enhanced my enjoyment of the book. The author and Riptide decided to go with dual voices on this one, and the narrators who were ultimately chosen do an incredible job at capturing both Laurie and Toby. This was my first audiobook with multiple narrators, and I definitely think it was the way to go with this project. John Hartley gives voice to Laurie, and Paul Berton plays Toby. Both are wonderful, but I have to give extra praise to Berton for so brilliantly voicing Toby—the amazing, smart, sassy, determined nineteen-year-old whom I love so much.
I had a pretty distinct picture of both Toby and Laurie in my mind from reading the book, and the audio did nothing to take away from that mental image. You know how sometimes that can happen? Well, thankfully it didn’t happen here; if anything, the voices helped cement my own images for me. Also, the audio production itself was very well done. The pacing was perfect, and aside from a couple of spots in later chapters, where it seemed like Berton was also doing Laurie’s voice, or vice versa, for a short stretch, I was quite impressed. Even while dealing with the two narrators, and the alternating POVs in this book, the end result was very smooth for the most part.
So, go forth and listen! This audio is absolutely worthy of this award-winning (it’s so fun to say that) book. I highly, highly recommend, and will no doubt be listening multiple times myself.
You can buy For Real here: