Published by Sourcebooks, Sourcebooks Casablanca on 7th July 2020
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Wanted: One (fake) boyfriendPractically 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.
‘Boyfriend Material’ is fronted by the over-the-top (by that I mean neurotic, overreactive, self-aware and yet so insecure) narrator Luc O’Donnell pretty much spending the whole story categorising his shambles of a life—both dating and professional—and by extension, carried by Alexis Hall’s assured, flowing and oh-so-British prose.
And if this is your idea of what a rom-com is supposed to be, then I’d expect that ‘Boyfriend Material’ would be the genre’s shining trophy.
Hall recreates what I think is the closest to the kind of writing that propelled the Bridget-Jones type of chick-lit into the spotlight, with a storytelling style that’s got flair, overly long sentences and fine exaggeration with characters so self-aware that they should be their own psychiatrists and succeed at it. Only that it’s a fake-boyfriend trope with 2 leads who protest too much about being with each other, only well…to find out that they actually do like each other a lot, but waffle too much right up until the end to admit it in earnest.
As with most books, there’re parts which I loved here, written in a way that makes you laugh and want to cry at the same time, although it does feel overly long at times. That much concerned is Hall it seems, with dragging out every single emotion and detailing every conversation—and done so at the risk of turning a likeable character into one that gets frustrating and annoying—that I thought the story could have been better compressed in the end with characters that just didn’t draw their own personal angst out just because there are various permutations of how to go around the same bush multiple times.
Luc O’Donnell however, has self-pity that goes on for miles, a bitchy side that emerges so often I started to wonder if he’d be more successful staying single and hosting his own snarky talk show that solely aims at bringing down happily-marrieds. That Oliver stuck with him for so long made him a legend, and it wasn’t long before it felt like Luc had simply degenerated from a misunderstood man into a petulant, spiteful man-child.
It isn’t often that I start a book thinking that it’ll finally be a 5-star read, only to have my enthusiasm dim alarmingly as exasperation slowly takes the place of awe and wonder. In this case, it really was about likability I guess: I needed to come to a point early on where I could convince myself that this was a pairing I could get behind and that Luc was truly a character I could adore. But sadly, it never quite came to this and I’d contemplated giving up so many times but soldiered on only because I really wanted to know what the hype was all about.