So! I start every review now with an apology for not posting in a while – but hey ho! We shall soldier on, as I want to talk about this delightful little read which, much like Red, White, and Royal Blue has sort of done a mini sweep of queer literature the past year or so.
It’s probably worth noting since purchasing I’ve read it 3 times already, and it gets better with every read. The humour, the characters, the absolute multi-cultural britishness of it all just makes it perfect with a cuppa and a biscuit on a rainy Sunday. It encourages you to become a friend of the characters, and you’re rooting for all of them in their endeavours along the way. Standing at a modest 432 pages, Alexis Hall really gives you the time to care for everyone, while also tying up all those niggly loose ends which can be frustrating as a reader if left threadbare.
Boyfriend Material tells the story of Luc, who works for a dung beetle charity and Oliver, who works as a lawyer. Through mutual friends, they agree to become fake boyfriends to appease Luc’s boss and keep his job as fundraising manager.(note, Luc seems the least of the dung bettle charity’s problems, but this is a novel so I’ll carry on). Dear reader, this is where the loveliness begins. From Luc’s mothers obsession with Drag Race, to the barrage of ‘dick pics’ throughout (think more Richard’s and more genitalia…. it does make sense I promise), their on-page dynamic as a couple is sold particularly well, and becomes a solid backbone for the novel for which to base everything else off.
The best way to describe Luc is chaotic but endearing. It’s refreshing to see a ‘flawed’ hero that doesn’t solve his issues; but has strong coping mechanisms that are developed, brought to life and sometimes don’t work throughout the book. I don’t mean I like seeing him fail, but it makes his character portrayal as genuine and so likeable to a reader. The fact he’s the complete polar opposite to Oliver is just a cherry on top of the cake. The only sore point I have on the novel is Luc’s dad, and the feuding storyline through the starting half of the book. I just felt like it didn’t go anywhere, and didn’t add anything particularly to the relationship dynamic other than potential ‘daddy issues’ which is a trope I try to stay away from.
Oliver meanwhile, is the definition of a routine. I personally have a cup of tea every evening at 9pm and get extremely grumpy should I not have this luxury. I imagine Oliver and I would get on well, and that tells you a great deal! He’s sweet in his own way, abrasive without meaning to be and amazingly adorable. Throughout the novel, Oliver and Luc trying to break down each others walls is lovely to see, and it’s a great pay off at the end to see this happen. His constant patience throughout towards Luc is another highlight which isn’t always brought attention to, but is appreciated and shows he cares a great deal.
The supporting characters also shine. From Luc’s semi-psychotic boss branding him the ‘not correct type of gay’ before promptly barging him out of the way, to best friend Bridgit who is constantly having a PR nightmare at the publishers she works at. It brings movement and hilarity in all the right ways. The novel ebbs and flows at just the right pace to encompass everyone, and the pay off towards the end of the book is well worth it when most of them are bundled up in a van going up the M1 (you’ll have to read the book to know why, sorry)!
Overall, I think this is an outstanding, lovingly crafted and worthy book which deserves every right to be held in just as much regard as Red, White and Royal Blue, to begin a Pantheon of new-age queer literature. Without meaning to spoil it, there’s a sequel on the way next year (titled Husband Material)… and I look forward to re-reading this instalment before getting my hands on it! Until then, see ya.