In Alexis Hall’s Boyfriend Material, Luc O’Donnell is the son of two rock stars, so he’s used to the paparazzi. But when he has yet another bad run in with them and his employers are displeased, he and his friends decide he needs to have a respectable boyfriend for a while to clean up his reputation. Enter Oliver Blackwood, strait-laced barrister who seems to be the opposite of Luc. They both need dates for upcoming events, though, so agree to a fake relationship. As they spend more time together, they discover they might actually be good for each other.
I have an audiobook of this, and the narrator, Joe Jameson, does a fabulous job! He has an excellent voice, which he varies well for the different characters. And he really embodies Luc especially. Whoever chose him to read this, good call.
Luc and Oliver are both fantastic characters, well-rounded and relatable and perfectly imperfect. Luc’s low self-esteem and journey to a healthier mental place is really well written, as is Oliver’s gradual acceptance that he doesn’t have to strive for perfection all the time. And seeing their relationship develop over time was one of the best parts of this book. By the halfway point, I wanted them to just kiss already!
The other characters are… pretty much ridiculous. Alex, Miffy, Luc’s mother, and to an extent the other side characters, are all somewhat unrealistic. Re: Alex, no one is that dense, surely. However, I still found them amusing, and I loved the last scene with Luc and his mother. I can see other readers finding these characters annoying, though.
This book, though on the surface a straightforward fake-to-real relationship plot, tackles much more than that. Luc and Oliver both have family drama, though in vastly different ways. Seeing how their respective families treat them, and the effect that has on them, is brilliantly handled. Luc’s fraught relationship with his father who left him at age three is particularly moving and complex.
More than that, though, ultimately this book is an exploration of the feelings of fear and uncertainty one feels when learning to be vulnerable and genuine. Learning to communicate with honesty and assurance is frightening, especially when a person is used to burying their true feelings, and this is shown brilliantly here. Watching Luc and Oliver face these fears is my favorite thing about this story.
One minor plot-related criticism, though: I wish there had been one more chapter to show where these two—and indeed, the other characters—ended up. Not to say it wasn’t a satisfying ending for the romance, I just wanted a little more closure in regards to the other plot points.
In the end, though, Boyfriend Material is an excellent book. It features a sweet, but realistic, slow-burn romance between two wonderfully written leads. Although the side characters and the associated dialogue is often silly, the more serious aspects make up for them. And the humor and heart is great. This is a perfect book to read if you liked Red, White & Royal Blue!
Overall rating: 8.7/10