To be honest, when I first saw this book, I thought to myself, “Cheryl, you’ve already read and loved a book very similar to this. In fact, it was one of the best books you’ve ever read. I don’t think I can make room in my life for a read-alike. It truly won’t live up to your impossible standards, you book snob.”
I assumed that Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall was too much like Casey McQuiston’s Red White & Royal Blue to give it a fair shake. So, I passed. And passed. And passed.
<Side note AND shameless self promotion: Never assume and read my review of RWRB here.>
But in the last few months, I’ve had two friends, whose taste in novels is beyond reproach, independently tell me that I should give this one a chance. So I did what I always do, jump on my local library’s website to see if I could snag a copy. The waiting list for this one was so long that I’ve been waiting for a while. And every time I had a new book I wanted to add to my hold shelf, I’d ponder deleting this request to make room for books that I knew I wanted to read. But I soldiered on.
When it finally, finally became my turn, I checked it out and then proceeded to ignore it for a week and a half. I’m a busy woman. I have more important things to read and more important things to do that read a RWRB read alike. I mean, I wasn’t going to like it as much as RWRB so why should I even bother. (Cue eyeroll.)
As the deadline to return loomed, I finally opened it up. With a cynical attitude, quite similar to one of our main characters, I started to read. I scoffed through the first chapter. I mean, I knew better. This book wasn’t worth my time. So, I put down the book and opened the Goodreads description of the book. Then, I opened up my phone to play a stupid game (and I do mean stupid – unlike Words With Friends or the crossword puzzle I play daily, the game I played at this moment has NO redeeming value). Then, I watched some TV – only one or two episodes. Then, I finally retrieved the book, rolled my eyes, and got on with it.
Boy, am I just the biggest idiot to ever grace the book-verse. Seriously. This book was so freaking cute, I can’t even stand it. I immediately felt quite ashamed of my attitude to the poor, undeserving book. The book couldn’t have understood my cynicism. It’s not the book’s fault that I had such high expectations for it being too much like RWRB to enjoy it. But, enjoy it I did and while comparisons can be made between these two books – one could never be a substitute for the other.
Luc, our main character, is having a hard time. He is the son of two former rock stars, one of whom is trying to make a comeback and therefore Luc is attracting more attention from the press than he would like. And not good press. The press, in fact, is making it look like he is a mess – partying, drinking, definitely not adulting. He needs to look adult because his job as a fundraiser for a beetle charity relies on his ability to attract and retain donors to ensure the charity’s success (especially to a beetle charity. Anyone give to an insect charity? Anyone?)
After a humiliating picture lands on the cover of the tabloids (a misunderstanding – Luc had only tripped and fallen – he had NOT been too drunk to walk) several wealthy donors threaten to pull their support. Luc is told to find a steady boyfriend so that he is more appealing to the more conservative donors he needs to make happy and give money at their annual fundraising dinner. Luc’s problem? He’s not exactly the easiest person to get along with – he has a sarcastic sense of humor, teases everyone he knows, and can’t seem to open up to anyone (the scars from his most recent serious relationship haven’t healed enough for him to trust). So what is he to do? Find a fake boyfriend!
Enter Oliver. Luc’s total opposite. Where Luc is snarky and sarcastic, Oliver is serious and sincere. Oliver appears to be the “perfect” boyfriend – he’s a workaholic lawyer who cooks, cleans, and uses so many big words that I gave the dictionary app on my Kindle a workout. He conveniently also needs a date for an important family gathering and is willing to fake date Luc until they get through their respective events. As they get to know each other – you know for verisimilitude (hello, dictionary app…) – their fake relationship skates close to actual, real feelings. When those real feelings are exposed, well all kinds of s*** hits the fan. There is drama right up to the last page of the book. And it is good.
I love Luc. He’s not for everyone, I grant you that. As I said earlier, he hides his broken heart and his low self-esteem behind snarky, sarcastic commentary. He is a complete cynic and he takes great pleasure in demonstrating his intelligence over those he considers less worthy. He’s kind of crappy to his friends and frankly, he’s kind of crappy to Oliver for a good chunk of the book. That’s what makes his breakthrough so intriguing. He really does learn and comes to terms with his limitations. And then pushes past them because that’s what love makes you do.
I love Oliver too. I loved how he tries so hard to be perfect. He takes the world seriously and he’s not willing to compromise his morals and values. He values himself enough to not fall into bed with Luc – even though it’s clear from the get-go that he’s as into Luc as Luc is into him (even if neither of them is willing to admit it). I loved his dry wit (his “Dick” pics were completely hilarious – no they were those dick pics, get your mind out of the gutter! Want to know what these were? Read the book). He, too, grows from his relationship with Luc and if I had one serious criticism of the book, it’s that it happens later than I would have liked.
To enjoy the book, you have to enjoy living in Luc’s head. But it is worth it. It was snappy, smart and witty. It had some of the best banter I have ever read. It may not be for everyone. But it did it for me.
Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall
P.S. Book 2 – titles Husband Material – expected in 2022! Consider it pre-ordered!