At age thirty-seven, Laurence Dalziel is worn out from the BDSM scene. Ever since his breakup six years ago, Laurie hasn’t been able to muster much enthusiasm for the submission he needs and used to love. When Laurie meets 19-year-old Toby Finch, his first thought is that this young man does not belong in a sex club, and certainly not as a Dom. But Toby surprises Laurie with his confidence and his conviction that this is what he truly wants.
Toby knows he is meant to be a Dom, but getting anyone to take him seriously when he is young, gangly, and inexperienced is making it impossible. When Laurie surprisingly agrees to a night with him, Toby is thrilled to finally live out his fantasies. Laurie is so sweet in his submission, everything Toby could want. But as soon as its over, Laurie sends him on his way.
Circumstances get the men together again, and slowly they begin to build a relationship. Laurie gives Toby his pain, his submission, and begs so sweetly, it is almost perfect. But Laurie won’t give his heart, holding Toby at a distance even as the men begin to grow closer. Toby is falling for Laurie, but Laurie has too much fear of getting hurt to let himself accept his growing feelings for Toby. And Toby’s insecurities about being too young and imperfect make Laurie’s distance even worse. The men have fallen in love and are making a relationship work in spite of the age gap. But both men must be willing to open up the closed parts of themselves and really share their feelings with one another for them to make a future together.
Ooh, I really liked this one! I am a sucker for an age gap story, especially a big one like this. And Alexis Hall does such an amazing job with this dynamic here. For me, the story is really made by Toby and the fabulous way he is portrayed. I loved the idea of this baby Dom, knowing in his heart that this what he needs and is meant to do, but not being able to get anyone to take him seriously. I loved him as a young man, slightly awkward in his body, bits of acne, just growing into himself. Hall gets that balance between teen and man just perfect. There are times when Toby feels every bit his age, with the way he speaks and carries himself, his insecurities and his gleeful thrills. But at the same time he is clearly a man, confident and strong in his mastery of Laurie, wicked and knowing just what to do to give Laurie what he needs and what Toby craves. The balance here is so tricky; we need Toby to feel like a young man, but we also need to accept that he can be the Dom Laurie needs, and Hall captures it so perfectly, it completely sells the story.
I also love the way the age difference is worked into the story. It is a cause of insecurity for both men, most particularly for Laurie, and it leads to some angst throughout the book. But the conflicts here are much larger, and that is only a piece of it. We see Laurie’s emotional fatigue right away, the sense of being just over this whole scene, despite the fact that he still needs it. As he falls for Toby, Laurie needs his distance, but he ends up hurting both of them before he gets his head together and realizes how much he loves Toby. Laurie can’t quite believe Toby won’t move on to someone else, just as Toby can’t help but feel insecure at times about his youth. But this element is not overplayed, and Hall makes these men both such rich, complex characters with a much deeper dynamics in play than just how old they both are.
Everything about this story was just so beautifully written. I just felt like I understood these men so well, who they are and what they need. The relationship between them is sweet and touching. The kink is sexy and intense. Both these men grow and bloom over the course of the story. I just completely loved it and very highly recommend For Real.
P.S. This story is part of the Spires Universe, which includes Glitterland and Waiting for the Flood. However, these stories all stand alone and are linked thematically rather than by story or characters. So they all can be read independently, but we have loved them all here at Joyfully Jay!