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.
Hall's skilled hand with men's emotional realms comes through in the sweetly optimistic, redemptive third standalone in his Spires contemporary gay romance series (after For Real), in which vulnerability takes center stage and difficult history dances with the glimmer of opportunity. London investment banker Alfie Bell abruptly comes out at his best friend's wedding in the small town of South Shields, where he grew up. He then picks up Fen, a beautiful, bitter man with pink-tipped hair at the local bar, and discovers after their encounter that Fen is actually the boy Alfie bullied all through school. Fen tries to keep Alfie at arm's length as he works through his self-hatred via letters to his late mother, whose flower shop he now runs, while Alfie seeks forgiveness from both Fen and himself as he makes his first attempts to impress someone he's truly interested in. Hall's sex scenes are a heady mix of hot play-by-play, breathy exhilaration, emotional discovery, and endearing awkwardness. The book goes on longer than the plot deserves, but Alfie and Fen are so delightful together that readers probably won't mind.
pansies is one of my favorite romances and i’m so happy to have found this gem of a story!