Thursday, August 8, 2013

REVIEW: "Glitterland" by Alexis Hall

Glitterland by Alexis Hall
For Ages 18+
Male/Male Romance -- Contemporary
Riptide Publishing -- August 26, 2013
Ebook, 248 pages
Received from Netgalley

mental illness, unconventional hero, first person narrative

Once the golden boy of the English literary scene, now a clinically depressed writer of pulp crime fiction, Ash Winters has given up on love, hope, happiness, and—most of all—himself. He lives his life between the cycles of his illness, haunted by the ghosts of other people’s expectations.

Then a chance encounter at a stag party throws him into the arms of Essex boy Darian Taylor, an aspiring model who lives in a world of hair gel, fake tans, and fashion shows. By his own admission, Darian isn’t the crispest lettuce in the fridge, but he cooks a mean cottage pie and makes Ash laugh, reminding him of what it’s like to step beyond the boundaries of anxiety.

But Ash has been living in his own shadow for so long that he can’t see past the glitter to the light. Can a man who doesn’t trust himself ever trust in happiness? And how can a man who doesn’t believe in happiness ever fight for his own?

My heart is beating so fast it's going to trip over itself and stop.  Everything is hot and dark.  I've been buried alive.  I'm already dead.

One of the things I love best about male/male romance is the unique collection of characters that inhabit the stories that can't be find in other romances.  The genre allows for authors to take more liberties with their characterization which makes it much more interesting for readers.  Alexis Hall's debut romance is a wonderful and thought-provoking tale of two characters from opposite ends of the social spectrum who come together into an amazing love story.  Opposites attract stories are some of my favorites and this is a great example of why they work so well, no matter the genre.

The narrator of Glitterland is Ash Winters and writer who is dealing with a serious mental illness.  He was once an award-winning author with high expectations for what he would bring the literary community.  Unfortunately, his mental state has consumed his life and disrupted those dreams.  Now, his life revolves around his occasional episodes and he has lost many friends and lovers due to their existence.  At the beginning of the book, Ash is in a very dark place and it is obvious that it will take something different to help him.

And that is brought about in the character of Darian Taylor.  Darian is an aspiring model who is loves fashion, jewelry, make-up.  He is the "glitter" in Glitterland.  My first impression of him was a vain and obsessive wannabe, but that quickly changed.  Darian is the main reason why I love this book.  His outward appearance and less than genius intelligence hides someone who is very observant and considerate.  He seems to understand Ash from the moment he meets him and is determined to help him in any way possible.

Darian and Ash meet at a party and their relationship starts off as a one-night stand.  But, they begin spending more time together and Ash finds himself attracted to more than just Darian's good looks.  Both characters begin to develop and grow in different ways which was wonderful to see.  They really worked as a couple even when the truth about Ash's mental state is revealed.  The scene that followed that brought tears to my eyes with Darian's understanding and determination.   

Most of Glitterland's plot deals with the growing relationship between Ash and Darian.   The depiction of the mental illness feels very organic to me.  It is unpredictable and frustrating which helped me as the reader try to understand what Ash's life must feel like on a daily basis.  The effect of his illness on others is a major aspect of the story and I liked that it wasn't all Hallmark Channel.  Another major obstacle for this couple is snobbery and class divides.  Darian is not the poshest person or best conversationalist so Ash's friends don't seem to understand why their relationship works.  This is the point where Ash started to get on my nerves.  He has a major jerk moment near the end that about broke my heart for Darian.  Thankfully, he grovels accordingly and I thought the ending was super sweet without being cheesy.

Both Ash and Darian were fascinating characters that I was happy to see work out well as a couple.  I was definitely impressed with Alexis Hall's debut and am looking forward to seeing more great stories in the future from him.

I received a free e-ARC of this book from Riptide Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


"I'm not here because I'm broken.  I'm here because I'm whole.  Difficult, potentially undeserving, but whole.  And I don't need you, I just want you.  I want you"--my voice had gone embarrassingly husky--"so fucking much.  And--"  Another breath, another breath.  "--maybe I love you.  Or could love you.  Or might love.  Or may come to love you."  There was a dizzy rushing in my brain as though I was about to faint or have a nosebleed.  "Or whatever."

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