Book Review: Pansies, by Alexis Hall

Title: Pansies: A Spires Story
Author: Alexis Hall
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: October 8, 2016
The Breakfast Octopus’ rating: A


Can the fully paid-up pansy make things right with the pink-tipped hipster?

A Spires Story

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.

Spoiler (highlight to read):
[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.


My favorite scene in Pansies came early into the book, when the two main characters first get together for a hot and somewhat confusing hookup. Author Alexis Hall does a marvelous job of keeping the tension just this side of unbearable, and when all is revealed, it’s perfectly poignant. And it stands up to a second (and third, and fourth) reading as well.

I loved the characters’ backstory and Fen and Alfie’s relationship, although I sympathized with Alfie’s wise friends when Alfie was being an idiot. Alfie had a bit of the “entitled manly bro” attitude at the beginning, though he through throughout the story. I loved seeing him work through his internalized homophobia and blockheadish ideas of what it means to be a man, and a gay man in particular. I cried when I read his painful conversation with his loving but ultimately un-accepting mom.

I loved Fen and his grief really got to me. I lost someone close to me earlier this year and Hall’s portrayal of that awful stuck feeling really resonated with me. I loved that Fen knew his own worth and wasn’t willing to put up with Alfie’s nonsense when it hurt him.

There’s so much to love in this book, but I don’t want to give away anything more. Just read it. You’ll love it.

Pansies is out now from Riptide Publishing.


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