I picked this up after Julia in Austin reviewed and raved about another novel by Alexis Hall and mentioned For Real as a favorite. This is actually the first M/M romance I’ve read, and it also has a BDSM focus. I think I assumed the structure would be like most of the romance novels I am familiar with but with the sex having a BDSM spin. As someone has since pointed out to me, when a novel markets itself as being BDSM or focused on a specific preference like that, it tends to involve more sex than the average romance. Not knowing that, I was a bit surprised by how quickly and how often the chapters featured sex. I would probably classify this more in the erotica section than romance (making this my first erotica read) but it’s the writing that really makes this one stand out to me.
The story alternates first person views between Laurie and Toby. Laurie is a 37 year old sub who has been single and frustrated with relationships and love since his previous relationship ended badly six years ago. Laurie is still involved in the BDSM scene, so he occasionally runs into his ex and the new guy. Laurie’s friends are worried about him and his lack of human connection, and drag him to a club one night. While there, Toby, a 19 year old dom, makes his first visit to a club. Everyone is surprised at his youth (and assumes he is a sub) but only Laurie approaches him and despite all his intentions ends up taking Toby home with him.
I was incredibly impressed with the writing. While Toby appears to be the more emotionally available and open, both of the characters have some baggage. Laurie is very much hung up on the age difference, expecting Toby to eventually leave, and has a hard time letting him in. He doesn’t even know how much he keeps Toby at a distance until characters point it out to him. Toby, on the other hand, is enthusiastic and ready for a real connection but he also has his own problems.
While there was more sex than I was expecting, the story itself felt so real and so well written that I’ll definitely check out more by Alexis Hall (even most of the sex scenes held my interest more than in some more traditional romances). I hope Dom the Dom ends up with his own story because he was a genuinely nice guy in his short appearances!