LGBT, Romance

My Review: Boyfriend Material: by Alexis Hall

Publish Date: July 7th, 2020

Number of Pages: 432 Pages

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

Genre(s): Romance, LGBT

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

Mum patted him reassuringly. ‘Oh, Oliver … I am sure you are one of the best gays.’

I glanced back to find Oliver looking faintly flustered. ‘Mum, stop ranking homosexuals. It doesn’t work like that.'”

— Alexis Hall, “Boyfriend Material”

In the summer of 2019, news was spreading quickly about a queer romance between a fictional first son of the first female president (also fictional) and the prince of Wales. It was one of the biggest queer romance titles simply because it had such a mainstream marketing campaign and got so much attention when compared to almost any other story like it previously published. Growing up, I was questioning myself and my sexuality, and one of my favorite places to go was always the bookstore. It would’ve made the doubt, the questioning, the fear, and the initial self hatred so much easier if there’d been more LGBT titles being showcased like there is now, which is why I’m so happy that younger readers have so many more titles available so they don’t feel so alone with so many questions.

Cut to the summer of 2020 a year later, and there’s this book that is also a summer queer romance release with the minimalist style that seems to be taking over the romance-genre book cover design with two handsome looking men, who of course look like total opposites! That that, plus the title being “Boyfriend Material,” I was instantly hooked and knew I’d love it.

Maybe this means there’s going to be that one big M/M romance novel released every summer? If so, I’m way more than A-okay with that!

I will admit this was a slower read just because it’s more character driven, which is a norm when it comes to romance titles, and lately I’d been making it a point to read more Fantasy-genre titles over romance, so this was a strange change of pace. The humor is what really keeps you going until the romantic feelings start to develop between the two main characters. I know, that’s not necessarily a selling point, but for anyone who enjoys quirky and extremely particular characters and british-style humor will get a kick out this title.

I will say this title isn’t as great as Red, White, and Royal Blue in the sense that this book doesn’t sweep you away as much because the romance in that was so whirlwind and enchanting and magical, and the romance in this title is much more grounded and realistic and down to earth, and also maybe therefore more relatable.

I don’t know about most readers, but it was actually so scary how much I could relate to the inner conflicts that both the main characters–Luc O’Donnell and Oliver Blackwood–were dealing with. Luc had a hard time growing up with a rockstar dad who ditched him and his mom when he was three, and he’s had run-ins with the paparazzi and them capturing all Luc’s less than stellar moments. He’s had a hard time being able to trust people, so he keeps himself at a distance emotionally so he doesn’t get hurt again, but it’s left him with a lot of self hatred, depression, and feelings of hopelessness. Oliver also has his own issues, but I don’t want to go as in depth about that because part of that is the whole experience of reading it for yourself, but all I can say is how I so deeply related to both the main characters and their inner struggles. That alone is what made this book one that I really enjoyed!

Since it’s a romance title, I suppose I’ll talk about that specifically too. The romance that builds between Luc and Oliver was a well drawn out slow burn of what is not necessarily enemies-to-lovers, but more haters to lovers, and there is a difference! At first, these guys don’t get along, they couldn’t be more opposite from each other in terms of lifestyle choices, clothing style, and even locations they frequent. Both of them need dates to certain events in order to stay off the hook from nosy parents, or to keep a job–which is totally illegal, but read the book for that whole argument–so through a mutual friend, they agree to be their fake boyfriend. It’s a rocky start, but as they hang out, test each other on basic facts, and get to know each other better, that’s when the tension builds and you see little moments or words said that makes your heart quench and you want to squeeze something out of pure affection.

These weren’t just your whatever kisses. They weren’t take it or leave it, get your coat on pulled kisses. They were everything I thought I could never have, everything I’d been pretending I never wanted, telling me that I was worth it, that he’d be there for me and put up with me and wouldn’t let me drive him away.

Oliver Blackwood was giving all that to me, and I was giving it right back. In the clutch of hands and the press of bodies and the urgent heat of his mouth on mine.”

— Alexis Hall, “Boyfriend Material”

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

Wanted:
One (fake) boyfriend
Practically perfect in every way

Luc O’Donnell is tangentially–and reluctantly–famous. His rock star parents split when he was young, and the father he’s never met spent the next twenty years cruising in and out of rehab. Now that his dad’s making a comeback, Luc’s back in the public eye, and one compromising photo is enough to ruin everything.

To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship…and Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He’s a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he’s never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words: perfect boyfriend material. Unfortunately apart from being gay, single, and really, really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust has settled. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened.

But the thing about fake-dating is that it can feel a lot like real-dating. And that’s when you get used to someone. Start falling for them. Don’t ever want to let them go.

I don’t want fine. Fine isn’t enough. It’s not about the open fire or whatever other clichés you can conjure up, but yes, I want a connection. I want you to care as much as I care. I want you to need it and want it and mean it. I want it to matter.”

— Alexis Hall, “Boyfriend Material”

What I Liked:

  1. The Humor! Perhaps one of the funniest books I’ve read ever if not this year alone, I really did find myself laughing at some of the lines the author dropped in this book, from both character’s dialogue to having Luc being our narrator throughout the course of the story. Some of it went over my head because some of it was definitely that british humor that’s not everyone here in America’s cup of tea, but the characters were all so distinct from one another; they all had their particular quirks that you came to expect from them whenever they appeared, and whatever they said or did. From Luc’s coworkers to his diverse inner circle of friends, it did feel over-the-top in some parts, but as you read on it’s exactly what you’d expect from each and every one of them all the same. The Nerd Daily‘s review on Goodreads said it perfectly: it’s like one of those 90’s sitcoms like The Nanny where it had that particular slapstick type of humor, but it works in the right setting!
  2. Both Character’s Inner Struggles! So I really felt the pain and inner turmoil that both Luc and Oliver deal with that makes them both believe there’s something wrong with them and they’re incapable of love. I won’t go into too much detail over what they are exactly, because part of the reading experience is figuring it all out for yourself, but man oh man…I can just say I’ve been where they’ve been and I still am somedays too. It made me root for them and their happiness even harder; great character development!
  3. Luc’s Mom! You know those mom characters that are just gems, and they absolutely steal the show/scene everytime they make an appearance? Luc’s mom is such a delight being a former french rockstar from the 80’s, and can’t cook at all which is a huge part of her charm, even with the crazy 85 year old lady who’s her best friend.
  4. Luc’s Friend Group! They had such a unique dynamic that I really enjoyed! There’s Bridgett who we see the most of; she’s super bubbly, always late, and works for a publisher and thinks she’s getting fired with every little fire that pops up with a client. There’s Tom, a young Idris Elba doppelganger who works for some secret service that has him travelling to undisclosed locations. There’s Priy, who’s an extremely gay muslim girl with braided hair, and will kick anyone’s ass who touches her pickup, and lastly, there’s Charles Royce-Royce (Yes. Both are named Charles Royce and got married).

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Ending Was Rushed…This is becoming such a consistent issue with contemporary romance titles being published in recent years–at least it’s an issue for me–is how the ending feels so tightly packed, crowded, and/or just so last minute. The ending of the book is so important because sometimes it’s what leaves one last impression of the whole story with the reader, and I’m just not a fan of this occurrence happening, especially in books I really like or love!
  2. The Whole Thing With Luc’s Dad…So minor spoiler alert, but not really…. Luc’s dad, who ditched him and his mom all those years ago, is back out of the blue because of one reason that’s not the TV show he’s a judge on: he has cancer. That’s also not the reason why I have it under this part of the review, it’s more about how this subplot ends that I was less than enthused about.
  3. No Smut…Now, this is such a minor issue in all seriousness, but based off what I’ve read in the past, the fact that this book treats the romance scenes in a more fade-to-black kind of way was a bummer. Without going into too much detail, Oliver is really uptight and stuffy out on the streets, but wicked in the sheets, but you only get a minor impression of it in the book!

Conclusion:

Another hilarious, charming, and entertaining M/M romance title of the summer! It felt like Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall was this year’s version of Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, which was by far the one really big LGBT romance that was a huge summer hit.

I recommend this title to anyone who love’s the LGBTQIA+ romance novels, I know I say this literally every time I post a review of them, but I’m so happy to see so many more titles in the queer romance genre that are being published + are actually mainstream, and aren’t hidden away in some off to the side shelf if you were to try to go looking for it in the local bookstore.

The playful banter, the hilarious characters, the inner conflicts of self doubt and isolation will grab your heart and pull you into such an endearing, character driven story of two unlikely guys who fall in love under the popular “fake relationship” trope.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fancasts/Dreamcasts

My Fancast/Dreamcast: Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Image courtesy of hollieblog.com

When his mom became the President of the United States, Alex Claremont-Diaz was casted as the American equivalent of a young prince. He’s handsome, charismatic, genius, but there’s one problem: Alex has major beef with an actual prince, Henry, across the pond.

When the tabloids get ahold of a photo involving an Alex/Henry altercation with a wedding cake, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse. Heads of both families devise a plan for damage control: Stage a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instagram-worthy friendship grows much deeper, and soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret, romantic, sexy affair with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry.

Unfortunately, life ain’t easy like a Disney movie like they make us want to believe, and everything that weighs against the two of them begins to threaten their relationship. It raises the questions: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through?

See my full book review of Red, White, and Royal Blue HERE!

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Here’s my official Fancast/Dreamcast:

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Alex Claremont-Diaz: Alfonso Herrero, Tyler Posey, or Diego Boneta

Alfonso Herrero is an Instagram model I’d discovered, and I thought he definitely looked the part. Go follow him and see all the sweet, romantic photos of him and his (real) boyfriend, and tell me you don’t get Alex-vibes from him!

Tyler Posey is a young actor who’s best known for starring in the reboot of Teen Wolf on MTV, and I got to say, I feel like he’d absolutely nail the mischievous smirk Alex gets before he says something to absolutely piss someone off!

Diego Boneta is an actor with a wide variety of roles he’s played: he’s been in the musical Rock of Ages, MTV show Scream Queens, and even played Aaron Samuels 2.0 in Mean Girls 2 (Yes, such a thing exists, and I’m sorry to those that had managed to forget about it).

June Claremont-Diaz: Clara Alonso, Ana de Armas, or Nathalie Kelley

Clara Alonso is a Victoria’s Secret model with some Spanish flair, and is absolutely gorgeous, so I could see her playing Alex’s older sister, June!

Ana de Armas did an amazing job in the film Knives Out amongst the more well known names included, so I think it’d be interesting to see her play a different kind of role like June if they make this book into a movie!

She was in Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, she played a siren on The Vampire Diaries, and is on another CW Show, Dynasty; Nathalie has the confidence in any of her roles to nail the part of June.

Henry, Prince of Wales: Wyatt Nash, Jeremy Irvine, or William Moseley

Wyatt Nash is on a lot of shows I’m watching right now! He’s guest starring on Riverdale, GLOW, and can be seen on the show, Dear White People (All these shows can be found on Netflix). He’s not British, so I hope he could imitate the accent if he got casted!

This gorgeous specimen starred in the movie Warhorse, but most recently was seen in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. Jeremy is in fact British, and is incredibly good looking, so I’d personally love to see him play Prince Henry of Wales!

Yes, who wouldn’t want Peter Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia movies to play another prince all these years later?! William, who I swear was a gay-awakening for me even when I had no idea what that even was, also already plays as Prince Liam on the TV show, The Royals, so why not continue his royal streak?

Nora Holleran: Hailee Steinfeld, Brenda Song, or Janel Parrish

Hailee Steinfeld has been a popular choice for mathematician Nora, and I can kind of see it; Hailee can definitely nail Nora’s quirkiness based off how she was in the Pitch Perfect sequels!

Anyone who is a millennial and grew up watching Disney Channel knows who Brenda Song is… London Tipton anyone? She has more recently been in The Social Network, guest starred on New Girl, and even starred in some thriller on Netflix. I don’t remember the title, but they pretty much spoiled the whole thing in the trailer…

Janel Parrish played Mona Vanderwall in Pretty Little Liars, and was in the romantic Netflix movie, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.

Zahra: Lesley Ann Brandt, Zoe Saldana, or Tessa Thompson

I’ve been watching Lucifer on Netflix, and my girl Lesley here plays a demon who is a master in the art of torture, so I know she’d be amazing at the role of hardass secret service agent, Zahra!

Zoe Saldana is so great at playing sexy, badass female characters! Maybe she can step away from her Marvel movies as Gamora and play the role of Zahra in the (hopefully) upcoming release of a movie!

Another Marvel lady, Tessa Thompson also nails the role of a badass, tough-as-nails woman in so many of her roles.

President Ellen Claremont: Connie Britton

Connie is an American Sweetheart ever since she was in the Friday Night Lights TV show, and everyone wants her to be their mom, or just get close to her luxurious, iconic hair…don’t pretend like you haven’t thought about it!

Rafael Luna: Oscar Isaac, Joey Gonzalez, or Adam Rodriguez

Perhaps my favorite aspect to have come out the new Star Wars Movies–other than Daisy Ridley–Oscar Isaac is a popular choice I’ve seen to play the role of Rafael Luna.

A gorgeous man I discovered on Instagram, he’s also the CEO of mega workout program, Barry’s Bootcamp, so I guess he’s kind of big deal? I honestly don’t know, I’m not big into fitness, but look at his face!

Adam Rodriguez melted hearts in CSI: Miami, the Magic Mike movies, and even played a lustful literary professor in Jane The Virgin; Adam would be an excellent choice!

Senator Oscar Diaz: Jaime Camil

I loved this man’s extra-ness as Rogelio De La Vega in Jane the Virgin, plus he’s an incredibly handsome Mexican actor, perfect for the role of the Senator, who is also Alex and June’s father!

Mary, Queen of England: Judi Dench, or Helen Mirren

No explanation needed.

She doesn’t need one either.

Percy “Pez” Okonjo: Ncuti Gatwa

I haven’t personally seen this actor in anything, but I looked at some images of him, and he can pull off the flamboyant and fabulous style of Fez, who is Prince Henry’s best friend back across the pond.

Shaan Srivastava: Marwan Kenzari, or Rahul Kohli

Both men’s names came up on who would be an excellent fancast option for Shaan, so I couldn’t decide between the two and let them both have the spotlight!

Philip, Prince of Wales: Freddie Stroma, Harris Dickinson, or Josh Dylan

Freddie Stroma is the most recognizable guy in this bunch for me, he played Cormac McClaggen in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, but Harris Dickinson is in the newest Maleficent movie!

Catherine, Princess of Wales: Emma Thompson

I haven’t seen Emma Thompson in anything for quite some time besides playing the kooky Professor Trelawney in the Harry Potter movies, I think she’d be an excellent choice for Henry’s mother!

Beatrice, Princess of Wales: Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, or Lily James

Catch Florence in the movie, Fighting with my Family, where she plays the young but talented WWE Superstar Paige! She had an edginess to her, and we see the same thing every so often in Beatrice throughout the book, so it’d be interesting to see her in this role.

I absolutely adore Emma Watson! I’d love to see her take on this role thats so different than what she usually plays, much like Lily James, but I think she’d do amazing at it either way!

I loved Lily in Baby Driver and the live-action Cinderella movie! She’s cute as a button, but I’d be interested to see how she’d play Beatrice, who has a lot of heavy issues with royal fame and substance abuse that weigh her down.

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Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

LGBT, New Adult Romance

My Review: Red, White, and Royal Blue: by Casey McQuiston

Publish Date: May 14th 2019
Number of Pages: 423 Pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre(s): Contemporary, New Adult Romance, LGBT

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

One thing that I love to see is that there is so much more LGBTQ representation in literature nowadays. Identifying myself as a part of the queer community, it really is uplifting and feels like I’m not only acknowledged, I feel like I’m more understood and accepted amongst in this world when there are authors that write these stories, there are publishers that release these stories, and there are fellow readers who also enjoy these stories.

Representation truly matters. People who are different and who don’t fit into the typical social criteria need to feel like they are seen and that they matter, because they do! They need to feel like that when they read stories with characters that are just like them. It normalizes the exposure of LGBTQ+, and thus, helps create a society that realizes that there is no social agenda, only a want and need for unity and respect for our differences.

Yes, books are powerful tools if they can be tools to help us achieve that!

This is a debut novel, so some could say that the writer’s style reads similar to a royal romance fan fiction, but it’s still a great love story that is receiving a surprising amount of publicity as being the big queer romance story of the summer! One of the main aspects of the story is politics, which was expected when the two main characters is the bisexual fictional half-latino son of the president and the (fictional) gay prince of Wales.

I am by no means a big fan of politics, in fact I only skimmed the parts of the story where there’s a substantial amount of information about how it all works, I can still say I immensely enjoyed this title despite all that. Compared to the love story, it’s truly such a small aspect of this book, so don’t let that be the reason to deter you from picking it up!

What It’s About:

It’s a sweet, hilarious, and thoughtful love story between the son of the President of the United States and the second born Prince of Wales.

Alex Claremont-Diaz, along with his older sister and best friend, are the “White House Trio,” the marketing strategy designed by his mom, President Ellen Claremont (Yes, a WOMAN president). They are America’s version of royalty, and are treated as such with the paparazzi that follows them around, and the rumors written in Us Weekly and People. They get invited to the Royal Wedding overseas, to which Alex is less than enthused about because it means he’ll have to see Prince Henry, his long time rival. It turns out worse than expected, and a confrontation leads to an international scandal.

With re-elections on the horizon, President Claremont issues a fake friendship as a PR stunt in order to do damage control, but Alex unintentionally starts a bigger news story; he falls for the royal prince. They begin a hot and heavy secret relationship, and everything Alex thinks he knows gets blown out of the water and he questions everything: Is it all worth it? How can you do the things you still want to do with everything stacked against you? and What can you do to be remembered in history?

What I liked:

  1. The Romance! I am a hopeless romantic at heart, and while I’m not the biggest fan of “fluff,” this story had equal fluff with steam and humor to this a definite worthwhile story. Alex and Henry had a great relationship and were incredibly easy to like and support as they fight for their love despite all that threatened to tear them apart.
  2. The Theme About The Importance of Family! It was a major theme of the story and was shown in many different ways: Alex and his relationship with his best friend along with his sister, Prince Henry and his sister, Alex’s relationship with his estranged father, Henry and his older brother and mother, his friendship with his BFF Pez (picture a flaming male version of Awkwafina in Crazy Rich Asians) even both of their relationships with their heads of security. One of my favorite scenes was one where President Claremont organizes a family dinner one night, and turns off the “power suit” and just switches personas and becomes just their mom again; it was a warm and really touching scene.
  3. There is a Woman President! A female President who’s a badass in the office, and a badass mom who loves her family on top of it, and still makes time for them. I totally picture her being portrayed by Connie Briton if they ever make this into a movie!
  4. The LGBTQ Representation! Like I said earlier, it’s so relieving to see a novel with two gay male characters get so much attention and so much mainstream hype. Back in the earlier 2000’s, it felt like these kinds of books, or any books where LGBTQ was a main aspect of the story, it was pushed aside or kind of taboo, so they didn’t get as much hype, and there was no big excitement over the release of titles like that. Now it’s 2019, and this book is on the New York Times Best Sellers list! I hope to keep seeing this as more and more titles come out in the future.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Politics…I’m not a big fan of Politics; while it worked for this story, if they could’ve had parents in different occupations, that would’ve been fine too. This has nothing really against the story or how it was written or even against the author, it’s more just a small personal quirk for me. Luckily, the author didn’t become too technical in matters of terms or explanations behind anything that happens concerning Politics.

Conclusion:

It’s a sweet and sexy romance that’s perfect for the warmer months of summer, and I enjoyed this story so much, it was such a joy to read. Alex is a strong willed, smart mouthed protagonist that I would just adore having as an actual friend. The author crafted such a heartwarming story in the aftermath of the 2016 elections and what it’s done to our country ever since.

I won’t ever really talk about Politics or what my opinions are with anyone, not even most of my family, but it was interesting to read an almost alternate-universe kind of story where a woman actually won and became a great President. Even if it stars two men as the two romantic interests, I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good, well written romance, fiction about politics and stories that showcase the importance of family.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell