Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!
Last week, I reviewed The Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall, a science fiction / steampunk pastiche of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Tina read about a real-life British combat medic, Battleworn: The Memoir of a Combat Medic in Afghanistan by Chantelle Taylor. Marg enjoyed The Recipe for Happiness by Jane Lovering, a novel about a cook in a senior drop-in center in Yorkshire — recipes included!
Book: Boyfriend Material and Husband Material by Alexis Hall
Genre: Romantic fiction
Publication date: 2020 and 2022
Source: eBooks borrowed from the library
Summary: Luc O’Donnell needs to rescue his reputation, again, even though the incriminating photo didn’t capture the truth of the situation. When you’re the son of an aging rockstar father, who is now a judge on a reality TV show for budding musicians, the tabloids like to make you look as debauched as possible.
Debauched is not the reputation that a young man needs when he is finally making some success of his career as a fundraiser for a charity to benefit dung beetles.
What Luc needs is a respectable boyfriend, because right now, as his boss observes, Luc looks “like entirely the wrong sort of homosexual.” Maybe the whole sorry mess can be fixed if Luc brings the right sort of man to the Beetle Drive, the charity’s annual fundraiser dinner.
Fortunately, Luc has a great, quirky group of friends to help him out of his scrapes. Unfortunately, the best that they have to offer is Oliver Blackwood, a man who seems to have his life all together in ways that make the two of them entirely mismatched. Fortunately, Oliver has a current need for a fake boyfriend, too.
Thoughts: I wasn’t sure that I was going to like Boyfriend Material at first. It’s written in the first person, which is why we know that what is going on Luc’s head is rarely what comes out of his mouth. I hate the romance trope where a lie between the main characters is what keeps them apart.
I kept reading, both because I trust Alexis Hall as an author and because I sensed that these lies were less plot device and more character flaw.
When the story moved away from my least favorite romance trope to my favorite romance trope, the fake relationship, I was hooked. I love how the attempt to fool the world brings the two main characters together so that they can discover the things that they like about each other.
The reason to read queer novels during Pride Month is to learn new things. This passage gave me something new to consider about how people show up or choose not to show up in their community. The quote begins with dialogue from Oliver:
“I tried to do the…the community thing. But I went to one LGBTQ+ — well, LGB as it was in those days — mixer at university, realised I had nothing in common with any of these people except my sexual orientation, and never went back.”
I half laughed, not because I thought it was funny, but because it was so alien to my experience. “When I turned up at mine, I felt like I’d come home.” (Chapter 24, Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall)
I know that identity groups aren’t monoliths. I just never thought about how community might be everything to some people and irrelevant to others.
For British Isles Friday fans, these two books take us on a romp around London, with an occasional foray farther afield, once nearly all the way to Wales.
Appeal: Fans of 1990s rom-coms might start counting up the number of weddings and funerals in Husband Material. If you enjoyed the movies by screenwriter Richard Curtis, you would likely enjoy these stories. There are laugh out loud moments and tender, insightful moments.
I liked Boyfriend Material and Husband Material so much that I read them back-to-back, even though they weigh in at over 400 pages each. It was never too much.
Challenges: I’m celebrating Pride Month with books by Alexis Hall. Boyfriend Material and Husband Material count for the June mini-challenge of the 2023 Diversity Reading Challenge. One of Luc’s friends is lesbian, so I pick up another letter in the extra challenge to get as many letters of in LGBTQQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual) as possible. I now have LGBT.
Have you read these books? What did you think?