Title: Pansies (A Spires Story: Vol. Four)
Author: Alexis Hall
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Length: 405 Pages
Category: Contemporary Romance
At a Glance: So yeah, swooning and sighing and giggling galore. Another wonderful, wonderful story from Alexis Hall.
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: Alfie Bell is . . . fine. He’s got a six-figure salary, a penthouse in Canary Wharf, the car he swore he’d buy when he was eighteen, and a bunch of fancy London friends.
It’s rough, though, going back to South Shields now that they all know he’s a fully paid-up pansy. It’s the last place he’s expecting to pull. But Fen’s gorgeous, with his pink-tipped hair and hipster glasses, full of the sort of courage Alfie’s never had. It should be a one-night thing, but Alfie hasn’t met anyone like Fen before.
Except he has. At school, when Alfie was everything he was supposed to be, and Fen was the stubborn little gay boy who wouldn’t keep his head down. And now it’s a proper mess: Fen might have slept with Alfie, but he’ll probably never forgive him, and Fen’s got all this other stuff going on anyway, with his mam and her flower shop and the life he left down south.
Alfie just wants to make it right. But how can he, when all they’ve got in common is the nowhere town they both ran away from.
Review: “…Sometimes I think that’s all love is. Understanding, smoothing away your strangeness. Making you part of the world, not separate from it.” – Alexis Hall
Once again I’m amazed by the ease with which Alexis Hall combines humor, romance, sex, and social commentary, in the most honest and moving manner, using unforgettable characters, smart, snappy dialogue, and the loveliest prose. And, I mean the loveliest prose. Hall’s latest book, Pansies, the newest addition to the Spires Universe, begins with one of the most stunningly gorgeous prologues I’ve ever read. A handful of pages—a simply told love story between Nora, a flower shop girl, and Aidan, the worldly businessman who visits her every week—that left me in absolute awe. A couple of examples:
“And he spun the world for her in her little shop: glittering American cities with skyscrapers wreathed in cloud, stars spread as thickly as freckles across a desert night, the heather-purple highlands of Scotland and the glass blue lakes hidden in the Welsh mountains.”
“When they were together they talked as infinitely and endlessly as they touched each other, and she never asked, or thought to ask, for promises. She had no need of them. She was South Shields born and bred. A sand dancer. The sea was everything she knew. She would no more have thought to keep him as she would have thought to hold the waves. She simply loved him, as she loved the flowers that lived their lives in a brilliant moment and the whispering tides that came and went with the turning of the moon.”
So beautiful, right? Hall definitely knows how to craft a story. Beginning with the prologue, he weaves together the tale of Alfie and Fen, who they were as boys, the men they’ve become, and how they got to be where they are. Namely, both back in South Shields trying to figure out their lives.
I fell completely in love with our antihero, Alfie Bell. When we first meet him, he’s in the middle of a sort of hilarious, albeit awkward and unintended, public ‘coming out’ at his childhood best mate’s wedding, after which he goes for a drink and meets a sexy bloke at the bar. He is immediately drawn to the guy, Fen, but unbeknownst to Alfie, Fen has an agenda during their hookup…because while Alfie doesn’t recognize Fen, unfortunately, Fen does recognize Alfie—as the boy who bullied and tormented him for years, growing up. Despite the tumultuous start, however, Alfie is determined to make things right with Fen.
Alfie’s “courtship” of Fen is so fantastic and endearing. I mean, It’s hard to resist a man who basically makes a mess of his apologies, wrecks your bathroom, and takes you out for a curry at his favorite dive, right? I really did love everything about Alfie—his honesty and vulnerability, his fearlessness, and most of all, the way he saw and loved Fen.
“There’d always been something different about him—not just the gay thing, but something…else, restless and delicate, and almost magical, like a wet-winged butterfly, newly emerged and struggling to fly.”
Fen was also fabulous. I loved his strength and his loyalty. And, I loved how he was always unapologetically himself, no matter what, and how Alfie notices and admires that about him. I also loved his bravery in giving Alfie a chance, and I LOVED how Hall used the letters from Fen to his mom to show us how deep his feelings for Alfie ran, and how much it really cost him to open himself up to Alfie now. Fen’s personal backstory, and his relationship with his parents, was wonderfully moving, though at times I felt like we needed to know more about Fen’s life between when he first knew Alfie, and coming back to take care of his mother’s shop.
There are so many memorable scenes in this book. And for different reasons. There were a couple of beautiful scenes between Alfie and both his mom and his dad, who were struggling with accepting that Alfie is gay, that nearly had me in tears. Ok…Gah! One more quote. It’s too amazing, I have to…
“She wouldn’t understand, and he couldn’t explain. How bad it felt to be a shock. To be an idea people had to get used to. To be a moment of hesitation. A flinch when someone touched you. A wariness in their eyes. How much that fucking hurt.
And then, toward the end there’s a scene where Alfie and his best friends from London (who are both his exes), along with one of their dates, take off together to South Shields so that Alfie can go after Fen, which was so amazing, and felt very Four Weddings and a Funeral in the best way. So good.
So yeah, swooning and sighing and giggling galore. Another wonderful, wonderful story from Alexis Hall. My only criticism would be the epilogue. I honestly didn’t think it was needed. There was what felt like such a natural and perfect ending at the end of the final regular chapter which tied everything so beautifully together with the prologue. I wish it would have wrapped right there. Other than that, though, so much win. Oh! And, I can’t wait for the audio. The accents, man! The accents!
You can buy Pansies here:
About the Author
Alexis Hall was born in the early 1980s and still thinks the 21st century is the future. To this day, he feels cheated that he lived through a fin de siècle but inexplicably failed to drink a single glass of absinthe, dance with a single courtesan, or stay in a single garret.
He did the Oxbridge thing sometime in the 2000s and failed to learn anything of substance. He has had many jobs, including ice cream maker, fortune teller, lab technician, and professional gambler. He was fired from most of them.
He can neither cook nor sing, but he can handle a 17th century smallsword, punts from the proper end, and knows how to hotwire a car.
He lives in southeast England, with no cats and no children, and fully intends to keep it that way.
To celebrate the release of Pansies, one lucky winner will receive their choice of 3 ebooks from Alexis Hall’s backlist. Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on October 15, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!