Review: Boyfriend Material

Alexis Hall's Boyfriend Material is the sort of romantic comedy that would translate well to film, but is able to achieve a level of depth, intimacy and character development not possible within the constraints of that medium. Hall (Pansies) pairs Luc, the tabloid-fodder son of aging rock stars, with Oliver, an uptight barrister, when each needs a fake boyfriend for a few weeks. Luc needs to rehab his image for his development work for a dung beetle nonprofit, and Oliver needs a date for his parents' anniversary party. A mutual friend sets them up, despite their disastrous meeting a couple of years earlier.

So begins a series of awkward dates, joke-filled text exchanges and mini-breakdowns as Luc sorts out his trust and intimacy problems. " 'Yes. But if we're to do this, we have to do it properly.' I blinked at him. Properly sounded ominous. I was not good at properly. 'You should know I perform very badly in standardised tests.' "

Hall deftly balances heavier plot points such as the reappearance of Luc's absentee father and Luc's past disastrous relationship with abundant humor. This is a deeply funny book, especially for fans of situational and British humor, but it's also a love story so endearing and believable that readers will alternate among laughing, grimacing at Luc's self-sabotage and sighing happily.

While some of the humor comes from Luc's workplace and friend group, the opposites-attract, fake-dating nature of the central relationship is a classic set-up for banter and an incremental--if reluctant--development of feelings. When Oliver visits Luc's apartment for the first time and is confronted with the sheer chaos of the place, Hall's handling of the scene illustrates both compulsively tidy Oliver's innate goodness and Luc's realization that not only has he let nearly everything in his life slide, he'd like to do better for someone he cares about.

Both men have an unhappy history with relationships, so while they are physically intimate with each other fairly early on, it takes longer to build a foundation of trust and love. Boyfriend Material's very few sex scenes fade to black and Hall emphasizes emotional connection and vulnerability.

This novel is as funny as it is romantic, making it the perfect book for readers who need a pick-me-up. --Suzanne Krohn, editor, Love in Panels

Shelf Talker: Alexis Hall's Boyfriend Material is a romantic comedy packed with situational humor, banter and the whole spectrum of messy feelings.

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