Thursday, December 22, 2016

Pansies by Alexis Hall


Can the fully paid-up pansy make things right with the pink-tipped hipster?

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.

The Spires stories can be read in any order – jump in wherever you'd like.

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Book 4
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Riptide Publishing



Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Erica☆☆☆
3.5 Stars.

Alexis Hall is a new-to-me author. Stating this because others may be put off as I was: I have to admit, I was hesitant to read this novel due to the cover. I'm not one who allows that sort of thing to influence me, but with the physical proportions off, it looked as if a grown man was holding a disproportionate little kid in a romantic embrace, and I wasn't sure what I was in for should I continue to read.

With that being said, I'm glad I continued. With the love-hate premise of stumbling upon the guy you bullied as a teenager, having no idea who he is, and wanting to bed him, this is a delicious recipe for angst.

I need to point out, if you're someone who was bullied as a kid, you may find it hard to swallow how easily Fen forgave Alfie (ignored the issue). People are complex, and we all don't react the same way to events in our past and present, so I found their dynamic realistic. We also change as we mature. Alfie isn't the kid he used to be now that he has grown into a compassionate man, and Fen isn't the same person either.

Alfie comes home for the wedding of his old pal, only to out himself in the most embarrassing fashion, and he keeps doing this all over the place. Not that he's in the closet, but his small town isn't up in his business. Alfie has a difficult job, tons of money, and a contemporary apartment in London, but none of this offers him any real happiness. He wants something else, but he's just not sure what.

Alfie and Fen connect instantly, the tension palpable, but it's tinged with a thread of resentment Alfie doesn't understand. This connection anchors Alfie, finding it difficult to go back to his life. On the pages, the men share many sweet, hot, and heartfelt moments. But what I found to be my favorite was the unexpected humor. The dry, witty banter between the couple had me chuckling aloud many times. As the daughter of a contractor, one who knows how to spackle, I was dying during that scene.

Finding the romance sweet and lovely, with a bit of purple prose that added a flourish to the novel, you're probably wondering why I gave Pansies 3.5 stars instead of 5. Pacing. The slow pacing, mixed with redundancy is why. It took me the better part of a week to read and finish the 400-page novel, when normally I can read a book and a half of that length in a single day. It wasn't so much the length of the novel, but how it took much longer than ordinary to wade through it. A part of me felt it tedious, drifting into boredom, while another part of me felt the scenes were beautifully romantic. One voice was louder than the other.

Heed this warning: If you're a reader who needs conflict, action, and a quicker pace, perhaps download the sample. As this is 400 pages of conversations intermixed with between-the-sheets actions, and inner monologue.

Recommended to Alexis Hall fans and readers of MM romance. I am curious to see if I'd connect with more of this author's stories. Even though the execution of this premise wasn't to my tastes (I won't wish it was something it wasn't, nor will I rate it on what I wish it would have been), I did find the author's voice to be a beautiful one.


Angela☆☆☆☆
I’m starting my review with a word of warning for my fellow American readers – this is a book set in England, written by an English author, featuring English characters. So, if you have a problem with English phrasing and thick accents (especially when the characters get emotional), then be forewarned that Pansies could be problematic for you. Personally, I enjoy reading British authors and consider myself well versed enough in the more commonly used phrases and written accents to read modern English authors, but there were a couple of scenes where I struggled with the thickening accents, particularly Alfie’s. However, none of that affected my rating of the book because I thoroughly enjoyed Pansies.

Technically outside the new adult age range, Pansies has a new adult feel to it because of the level of angst and indecision Hall infuses into the story. Typically, I would consider 28-year-old Alfie old enough to know better, but because he’s only been aware of his homosexuality for a couple years, the angst works for him. Alfie is still trying to reconcile his heteronormative upbringing with his homosexuality, trying to overcome his knee jerk reactions and homophobic comments, and trying to understand his parents’ reaction to him coming out, all while he’s still learning to accept himself. Fen’s angst comes largely from a place of grief – the death of his mother, the loss of his boyfriend, and the loss of the life he had started to build when he chose to return home to take care of his mother and take over her flower shop. Added to all that is the fact that, in high school, Alfie used to torment and bully Fen for being gay, and the confusion that Fen felt for being attracted to Alfie, despite the abuse he suffered. That he once again suffers at Alfie’s careless words when they run into one another, have a one-night stand, and decide to spend more time together, is icing on the cake. But Alfie isn’t the only man in the relationship who has a hard time communicating or who lets his past affect their future.

Despite the fact that he constantly mucked things up, I enjoyed watching Alfie grow over the course of the novel. From his very first cock-up, Fen encouraged Alfie to consider how his actions affected others, encouraged him to make it right and to communicate with the people in his life. Over the course of the book, we got to see Alfie morph from a man who blamed those around him for a problem or misunderstanding, into a man who was able to admit he was wrong, identify where he went wrong, and fix it (when possible). I also enjoyed how their personal relationship changed as Alfie became the man he wanted to be, and I loved the chemistry between them. There were times they were sweet and gentle, and there were times when they couldn’t get enough of one another. This struck a nice balance in their interactions. And the letters! Oh, how I loved Fen’s letters to his mother. They were a touching way for Fen to grieve, to “talk” to his mom, and to give the reader insight into how Fen felt, thus moving the story along. More than one of them made me tear up, but not as much as when Fen “delivered” them. I enjoyed Pansies immensely. You’re probably wondering why not give it five stars? Simply because I’m not entirely sure that Pansies is a book I’ll reread, which is the difference between a 4-star rating and a 5-star rating for me. Either way, I loved spending time with Fen and Alphie, and I look forward to Hall’s next book.



Alexis Hall was born in the early 1980s and still thinks the twenty-first 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 seventeenth-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.

Connect with Alexis

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http://riptidepublishing.com/


Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Pansies (Spires Universe #4) by Alexis Hall to read and review.

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