Pansies (Spires Universe)

Author: Alexis Hall

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Rating: 4 stars

Buy Links: Riptide & Amazon

Type: Novel

Received from Publisher


Blurb: Alfie Bell is . . . fine. He’s got a six-figure salary, a penthouse in Canary Wharf, the car he swore he’d buy when he was eighteen, and a bunch of fancy London friends.

It’s rough, though, going back to South Shields now that they all know he’s a fully paid-up pansy. It’s the last place he’s expecting to pull. But Fen’s gorgeous, with his pink-tipped hair and hipster glasses, full of the sort of courage Alfie’s never had. It should be a one-night thing, but Alfie hasn’t met anyone like Fen before.

Except he has. At school, when Alfie was everything he was supposed to be, and Fen was the stubborn little gay boy who wouldn’t keep his head down. And now it’s a proper mess: Fen might have slept with Alfie, but he’ll probably never forgive him, and Fen’s got all this other stuff going on anyway, with his mam and her flower shop and the life he left down south.

Alfie just wants to make it right. But how can he, when all they’ve got in common is the nowhere town they both ran away from.


Review: This is a lovely story revolving around: realizations, atonement, friendship, family, introspection, and of course, love.

This author writes with lush, romantic, descriptive prose. I felt absolutely plopped right into the story, actually seeing and feeling everything from Alfie’s perspective. All of the emotions were absolutely tangible. Poetic words painted a vivid picture of the settings in the story. I found just the right amount of dialect used to present a sense of realness, and to make the point of Alfie slipping back into boyhood speech mannerisms. I enjoyed this, it was very much a vibrant part of the story – not merely an attempt at authenticity.

Alfie and Fen are both natives of South Shields, a northern village. After clashing in high school – Alfie being the bully and Fen being the out and proud gay boy – the two men moved on, moved to the south in pursuit of their dreams. Well, in Alfie’s case, it may have been more of an escape. Living in a posh London flat, he had good friends but no true connection with himself, let alone a special someone. Alfie was successful but not truly happy. Fen had built a successful career, but being devastated by the death of his mother, had returned to South Shields to keep her flower shop, Pansies, running. Doing so cost him dearly, in more ways than one, and had consumed him. Alfie had forgotten about Fen, Fen had not forgotten Alfie. Far from it.

Alfie was closeted to hometown friends and family, yet out and about in London. Alfie had enjoyed ALL the sex with his ex, Greg, but never internally embraced his gay. When he found himself back in South Shields for a mate’s wedding, things took many unexpected turns, including encountering Fen again. And what a transcendent encounter it was! I really want the reader to explore and discover the plot from here out. The author’s writing flows so seamlessly, so evocatively, it makes for a consuming read.

I liked both main characters very much. Alfie had a heart of gold – despite his youthful misguided behavior- yet at thirty was still constrained by his parents’ values and opinions. Fen was definitely not hiding his sexuality, but was tied to his mother’s memory and unwittingly to his father’s life choices. He reminded me of one of his flowers – bright and vibrant, but wilting due to lack of nurturing and light. As the two men came together, they began to see life through the filter of each other’s experiences. Alfie expanded his horizons, dealt with his internal conflict, and Fen began to see the brightness possible in life again. He bloomed under Alfie’s attentions. The two of them together definitely pushed the boundaries of off the charts chemistry.

There were many themes in this story – despair, guilt, fear of letting parents down, leaving the known to explore the unknown. All were woven together so captivatingly and so plausibly while spinning out the story of Alfie and Fen. I appreciated how the author had them work through their differences and life obstacles without having this be an angst laden story. Well, Alfie had me smacking him a time or two, but he learned and worked through his feelings. I must mention that Alfie’s friends, Kitty and Greg, were well written and presented. I applaud the fact that they had his back.

At times I found the lush romanticism of the writing style to be a tad overwhelming, perhaps some passages where fewer words would have meant more. However, what is absolutely certain is that this is a must read if you love an evocative, well rounded, compelling romance.



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