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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’s never 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.

405 pages, Paperback

First published October 8, 2016

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About the author

Alexis Hall

49 books9,966 followers
Genrequeer writer of kissing books.

Please note: I don’t read / reply to DMs. If you would like to get in touch, the best way is via email which you can find in the contact section on my website <3

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 514 reviews
Profile Image for Heather K (dentist in my spare time).
3,831 reviews5,505 followers
October 12, 2016
I've had an interesting relationship with Alexis Hall's books. There have been some that I've raved about and adored and others that I've really, truly disliked. I think part of that is because Alexis Hall tries a huge range of genres and styles, and some of those seem to work for me better than others.

I was hesitant about trying Pansies for a number of reasons, but I was so intrigued by the blurb that I decided to give it a shot. I mean, if I don't try things that I'm not sure of, I'll never experience anything new.

This book was really, really lovely.

First of all, it has one of my FAVORITE themes, which is former bully-to-lover, an expansion off of the enemies-to-lovers theme. It holds a special place in my heart. I love the idea of someone turning themselves around and becoming more than they were as a kid/teen. I also ADORE when a MC has to work to get back into good graces, and I always think that it makes for a more emotionally charged book.

I also really like when we get an MC who isn't afraid to be who he is. Sure, Fen is conflicted about a lot of other things, but he doesn't shy away from expressing himself and he doesn't hide. I liked that about him very much.

Pansies isn't a book with a lot of action. The book consists mainly of discussions between Fen and Alfie, with both men exploring who and what they can be to each other and if that will work with how they imagined their lives to be. There are a lot of mistakes made, and a lot of forgiveness granted. Alfie struggles with his more traditional values and how that fits with being gay, and Fen struggles with moving past his recent life upheavals and his past with Alfie. I really liked seeing the relationship between Alfie and Fen grow and change, with little steps forward and backward.

I loved the dialogue, and, let me tell you timid readers, the accents here aren't difficult to decipher. I was afraid after Prosperity, but I had no issues here, just so you guys know.

This book, while wonderful, isn't perfect. I struggled a little bit with the length, because there was so much back and forth between the two MCs that it started to become redundant-feeling. In addition, it had one of my least favorite plot devices at 93% of the way through the story (the ). Gah, I hate that one. However, those issues didn't affect my overall very positive feelings about the story.

If you are like me and have had mixed results with Alexis Hall in the past, take a chance with this one. It is simply a very well done story of two men trying to wade their way through the complicated and very real dynamics of a relationship. Highly recommended.

*ARC provided by the publisher*

October 14, 2016

Pansies is about coming home and making amends. It’s about finding a boy and falling head over heels in love, and wanting to do the RIGHT thing—even if it hurts, even if it makes you cry.

Alfie believes real men don’t cry. It’s just how he was raised. His parents love him, but they don’t understand this whole gay business. When Alfie shows an interest in cooking, his mum tells him not to tell his dad because blokes don't cook; you need a woman for that.

Alfie was a bully growing up. He was scared and confused, and he took it out on the femme boy, the boy who glowed and did things his way. Fen remembers Alfie, how it felt to have Alfie's big hands on him; he remembers the day Alfie saved a butterfly.

Now, fifteen years later, Alfie is a successful financial adviser living in London. But he’s not happy, not really.

“I think about my life, and it should be a great life, cos I’ve got everything I’m supposed to have, except I’m pretty sure I’m not happy.”

“Oh, Alfie. How can you know something like that?”

“Because of how I feel when I’m with you.”

Fen, dealing with major life upheaval, is trying to save his mum’s flower shop. Fen knows flowers, but they’re not his passion, and staying behind feels like drowning.

This is as much Alfie’s story as it is a story of Fen and Alfie meeting again. Alfie has to work for Fen’s forgiveness. He was the perp, Fen his victim; what seemed like childish pranks to Alfie were raw hurts for Fen.

Reading Hall’s writing is like reading poetry, so I didn't really mind that the story was long (6,000 Kindle locations). Some of the interactions between Fen and Alfie felt a bit repetitive, but these MCs are complex, and their relationship complicated.

And Alfie, desperate, a little bit dizzy, a little bit shocked. Because he loved Fen like this, so hot and straining, and lost and found, and his. He still smelled a little bit of flowers and tasted a little bit like salt. And the words scattering at their feet with the shells and sea glass were yes, and oh, and God, and yes, and please, and that last one was maybe Alfie, because he wanted it so badly, Fen’s pleasure, not taken but given, and nothing between them but this, and the things they chose to build together.

If you're looking for adventure and drama, look elsewhere. Pansies is slower paced. Alfie and Fen talk a lot, and Alfie hangs with his two best friends from London (LOVED their conversations!). Fen has an employee, Gothshelley (that’s just what everyone calls her because she's Shelley and makes art called Woe) who’s all black humour and teenage angst.

Alfie does something truly idiotic at the end, but he comes round quickly, because he just can’t imagine his life without Fen.

The ending is sweet and tender, a HEA for sure. While the steam isn’t overwhelming, it’s sensual and lovely. Fen is so sexy when he lets go, and Alfie can't get enough.

While this isn't an angsty book, there are moments of darkness and grief. But there are also kisses in caves and kimonos and DIY jobs that get way out of hand. There's laughter and letters and lasagna. There's forever and what finally feels like home.

And we could listen to musicals. And you could drive my car sometimes. And I could suck you off in the mornings and fall asleep next to you ever night . . . And we could walk on the beach and maybe get a dog. I'd quite like a dog if you would. But not if you wouldn't. Only let's not get a cat because they're snooty buggers. And maybe we could do this all the time . . . Cos . . . well . . . that's what love means to me. But it doesn't mean anything at all really, without you.
Profile Image for Dia.
534 reviews133 followers
December 24, 2016
5 HUGE stars

Another amazing story by Alexis Hall!

This review has been posted on Dirty Books Obsession

I was hooked from the first pages. I loved every chapter, every word. His writing style is. JUST.PERFECT! I have no words to describe how much I love it!

Image result for gif painful men

This story had it all: broken dreams, drama, family problems, but also it had hope, forgiveness and so much sweetness!

Alfie was so sweet and kind. He is not happy even if it seems he has it all: an expensive car, an amazing house, a great job in London, great friends. But he feels he wants more, needs more. Then he meets this interesting stranger with long blonde hair and pink strands and he is drown to him. This stranger seems to have some unexpected secrets he will expose after one HOT night together. And everything changes for both of them.

This story felt pretty real to me. I really do believe people can change so much over the years. My heart ached for Alfie when he felt miserable for everything he was and did when he was a teenager. I understood his frustrations regarding his mistakes from the past.

Fen - what a broken and complicated character he was. The letters he was writing to his mother broke my heart. My heart ached for his awful early years. He wanted so much to be strong, but he really needed Alfie in his life - Alfie's presence to heal him.

I really loved this story! I felt it closer to Glitterland than For Real. I'm sure I will re-read it, because it was so sweet and went directly to my heart!

“And Fen came to him at last like a shipwrecked sailor finding himself safely beached on beloved, familiar shores.”
Profile Image for Alexis Hall.
Author 49 books9,966 followers
September 10, 2022
Some notes:
-PANSIES is book 4 in my Spires series, with there being 6 books in total.
-Each story is loosely connected and will be about a different couple—so you can read them in any order you like.
-GLITTERLAND, WAITING FOR THE FLOOD, and FOR REAL will also get the same new covers and extra content, and their rereleases will be staggered.
-After PANSIES you can expect a book for Niall & David (who appear in GLITTERLAND) and one for Dom the Dom (who you meet in FOR REAL).

Expected (re)release: TBC. https://quicunquevult.com/book/pansies/
Profile Image for Nicola.
1,393 reviews241 followers
October 11, 2016
Other than reading a novelette in an anthology, I haven't read anything full length by this author. If I'm honest I was a little leery after reading this blog post by the author, but at the urging of a friend who's more familiar with his writing, I decided to give him a fair shot.

DNF @ 15%. (Please bear in mind this is well over 400 pages).

Unfortunately Pansies didn't start well for me. Yes, my reason is personal choice, but it's something that I've commented on before and likely will again: I'm very much not a lover of local dialects being used in written speech. Usually part of my peeve is authenticity, and I want to make it clear that I can't knock Alexis Hall for this and it was like listening to my father-in-law on one of his rants, but even though it can be a welcoming dialect it's not something that works for me as a reader and, for those of you who are British, you'll know exactly what I mean when I say it was like being dropped into a scene from Auf Wiedersehen Pet.

"I just divvent gerrit."

But even when you take that away, I very much struggled with Alexis Hall's writing style generally as it just didn't flow for me; it felt childish, as did the characters, and like I was being punched by short sentences and again, that's not something that works for me.

"So, I met this guy, and he was sort of odd, but sort of sweet as well, and at first I thought he didn’t like me, but then he seemed to really like me, and then he didn’t like me again. And it turned out we went to the same school."


And this was the moment at which I made the decision that it would be best to part ways, because that was an adult talking, not a giddy teen.

I'm straight woman, I know that many of the LGBTQIA books out there aren't necessarily written with me as the intended reader and that is probably the case here. But I am a reader who supports, seeks and wants to read diverse books written by marginalised voices and, as with any book I pick up, I want a story that's well written, holds my interest, invokes emotion and makes me feel. Unfortunately Alexis Hall didn't manage any of that in what I read, I'd have been happy with the holding interest but alas, it wasn't to be and on that basis it's a case of one and done.

Copy received courtesy of Riptide Publishing via NetGalley for an honest and unbiased opinion. I'm sorry I can't be more positive on this occasion.
Profile Image for True Loveislovereview.
2,117 reviews1 follower
March 25, 2017
5+++ Pansies by Alexis Hall
The first page made my shiver already....

Amazing....this is poetry from the highest shelf. This....book gives me goosebumps....

After Alfie flies away from his best friend's wedding he ends up in a bar.
Besides him sits a stunning beautiful young man who he offers a drink. This drink were hateful refused. When Alfie is leaving the bar, the young man comes after him and what follows is a very swoony lovely hot and sexy night. They are amazing together. And Alfie is under spell by this young man.

Fen recognized the man who enters the bar immediately.....the bully....

The characters have all distinct personality and that's so impressive. Their dialogues are real and diverting.

It's harsh really harsh see Fen struggling through his feelings. How will he ever feel free of them...
And so it was for Alfie, he has so much trouble to see how things really are. He is so narrow-minded. He doesn't understand himself and the world around him. He has to redeem.

The unbalanced relationship is hard... And I doubt they fit together outside the physical side.
And then there are Alfie his learned prejudices. I could slap him in his head to give a wake up call. He want Fen so hard but he is fighting against himself. Stuck in his head. And Fen sweet beautiful Fen has it hard.

The waves of all feelings....you just want to go with them
Yep poetry....about 'taste that noise' and 'dazed eyes so light and bright, like the first apples of spring.' Omg I could feel it all

The characters are so well developed really amazing they have their flaws o yes and that was just so endearing.

And beautiful lines...
“It’s just I feel things should be a certain way.” “What do you mean?” “Stupid stuff. How life should be.”

“It’s not just about how you make something look, but how you make it feel."

"He tasted like starlight: cool and bright and impossible"

"Except she (mama) told me it wasn’t really him she was waiting for. She was waiting for me.”
OMG that line floored me

It was deeply intense not just sexy as hell but deeply intense.
The word choices made me speechless it was so touching I felt it through and through.
The yearning they had was overwhelming.

And Alfie at least....Alfie did grow up.....and how......

An unbelievable poetry kind of writing I can't find the right words but it's very impressive.
The writing gives you a higher feeling level. There is writing and there is writing on a higher altitude. That's what this is.
I really want to shout out loud READ THIS!!!

I did hold Google-maps aside to look over where they were and that was awesome
*ARC received for honest review by Netgalley*
Profile Image for Ariana  (mostly offline).
1,320 reviews35 followers
October 31, 2019
Reread October 2019

What a treat! Again.
Loved Fen from the bottom of my heart. Again.
Totally adored Alfie. Again. He is just the most wonderful mix of tall and strong and shy and soft and thoughtful and confused and sweet.
All the yesses!!!

Original review:

I always loved them. So colourful and dependable. So hardy, even in the roughest climate. (And yes there is the double meaning) Such a fitting name in every way for this book.

This. Was. Absolutely, 500 percent sigh-worthy. This is the lightest Alex Hall I’ve read, but it is no less profound than some of his other books. It ticks so many of my ‘love’ boxes I lost count. And I apologize right here for rambling on. I couldn’t help myself.

1. This book is British through and through. Right from the slightly tatty seaside town, cups of tea, the ever present Northern ‘oi’ to Greggs and B&Q. Ok. Yes. It made me homesick. Bu**er it. I could virtually smell the sea air and taste Greggs' sausage rolls which remain unrivalled in this ‘whole wide world.’

2. Nostalgic – yes, it was that, too. That’s partly an age thing, I guess. But being reminded of the 1980s ‘piece de la resistance’ in cooking – “a tinfoil hedgehog skewered with cheese and pineapple pieces on cocktail sticks” , seaside amusement parks and brisk walks on a chilly beach just coaxed out lovely memories. I mean, how can you not love this .... *G*

3. Musicals – I love them. I totally get Fen on that level. I love him for loving them. It is adorable (although I full heartedly agree with Alfie about ‘Les Miserables) "Alfie was pretty sure Les Miserables hadn’t become part of his soul. But he didn’t completely hate it. Still, a bit of relief, though, when everybody was dead, which meant they’d got to the end.” Now THAT had me chuckling out loud! I couldn’t agree more!

4. Humour – Just the first scene made me laugh out loud. It kind of set the scene. And it got better. This made me smile, chuckle, giggle, snort and laugh out loud. Incredibly clever and hilarious banter. I LOVED it.

“Want some ketch up for that chip on you shoulder?”

“But the squelch (of the lube bottle) seemed fart-in-a-cathedral loud.”

“I propose a toast. To love, to sex, and to dicks. Whether we have them or whether we don’t.”
“Or whether we are them,” Kitty added.

“I don’t do DIY. I do CSE.”
“Call Someone Else.”

“So Alfie could very well have a hitherto underexploited genetic predisposition towards DIY.”

(before picking a movie) “Do you want the good news or the bad news?”
“The bad news?”
“They’re all musicals.”
“What’s the good news?”
Fen cringed. “Um, there isn’t any. I just wanted to try and make the bad news seem less bad.”

And please – Alfie's efforts to ‘fix’ the bathroom was one of the funniest (and truest) things I’ve read in a long time!
And then, of course there is Shelley. What a fab character! “I have issues.” A perfect beat. “With stupid people.” Her lines were cracking me up.

5. Characters – I'm pretty sure Alfie and Fen are real. They felt so real it was like knowing them intimately. Both so lonely and so messed up with so many completely different issues to resolve.

Alfie (and God forgive me, but I had to beat visions of Michael Caine and Cilla Black into submission over that name) is over 30, but only ‘discovered’ that he’s gay a couple of years earlier.
It’s something he hasn’t quite internalised. Yes, he admits to himself he likes men, likes the sex, but that doesn't mean he is gay, does it! If your eyebrows just hit the roof in horror (and yes, Alfie does spout some pretty shitty homophobic stuff, mostly to himself), you have to forgive him. And when you read this book, you will. I promise.
Because he has been drowned in preconceived idea about what being gay means. Alexis Hall makes sure we get Alfie. And his road to self-acceptance.

Of course meeting Fen who is so certain who he is when it comes to that, does push Alfie in the right direction. Awkwardly and painfully, he is the guy Alfie used to bully at school. I had no idea how that one could pan out, but it was resolved beautifully. It’s not just a case of saying ‘sorry’. The way these guys discuss and get over that issue was brilliantly done.

And you just have to love Alfie for his perseverance with ‘fixing’ things. He is the ultimate carer, ‘our Alfie is’!

As or Fen – to me, he comes across younger than his presumed age. He is a very confused, emotionally-all-over-the-place man who was completely thrown off track by a momentous event in the past. Now, he finds himself caught in an impossible situation he seems unable to change.
My heart really went out for Fen in every possible way. And the urge to bear-hug him almost killed me.

5. Romance – OMG, Alfie was slaying me with all those wonderfully sweet things he says without realizing what he is doing. I practically melted as much as Fen.

There is a LOT of toing and froing, which is due to all the issues that exist between the two men. I liked it. It felt genuine and authentic. People do that when they’re unsure, torn into pieces, emotionally raw and feeling guilty as hell. But the attraction between them was crackling with electricity, their love making beautiful, rough and sweet, tender and hot, but always deeply touching and heart-felt.

6. Language. I've always loved the way Alexis Hall expresses himself. And I have probably highlighted a quarter of Pansies, just for that. Beautiful words, evocative imagery, intelligent banter.
As this is turning into my longest review so far I decided not to quote (with difficulty). You know what I mean when you read the book! Which you should. Most definitely. You must. For all the above points and the epic character development! This is pure bliss!

Profile Image for LenaRibka.
1,412 reviews414 followers
November 25, 2018
29th Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalist

DNF at 30%


I have A VERY DIFFICULT relationship to the author's works.
His debut novel Glitterland belongs, FOR ME PERSONALLY, to one of the best books that MM romance genre has to offer. But all his following works didn't convince me 100%.
I admire the courage of the author to experiment and to remain true to himself, but I have to admit that his experiments were very often not my cuppa.

It is a book, I'd like to finish to give it one star. BECAUSE I HATE IT. But I can't suffer through 400 pages. I have a RL and I have other books to read, so I HAVE TO DNF IT and just leave it without rating.

2)LOOOOOOOOONG-winded plot.
3)BORING characters. And I didn't buy their relationship.
5) Letters.
6)A conceited writing style.

I skimmed even through sex scenes!
I.HATE.THIS.BOOK. (Yes, I am angry and upset right now).
Maybe I'll explain all my issues with it later, but not now.
What a disappointment! :(

A lot of words about NOTHING.

P.S It's how I feel about this book, but I am in the minority. Just ignore me.

**Copy provided by the Publischer via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**
Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
828 reviews3,680 followers
February 11, 2018
I'm not sure if that's the fact I'm coming back to class tomorrow after a medical leave of two weeks or just Alexis Hall's novels' effect on me, but I'm feeling oddly vulnerable tonight. Probably a little bit of both, I guess. There's just something so incredibly undoing about his works, a lingering of feelings I cannot quite name, but, really, in the end I think that I just admire him very much because he takes risks. With his characters - never thoroughly likeable, sometimes very hard to love ; his storylines that one might call plotless but that ring so fucking true, to me they're perfect ; his incredible sense of atmosphere and the care he puts in his settings. Honestly, I've yet to read a book from him that fail to create an emotional response in me. And that's pretty fucking amazing, if you ask me.

Review to come.

TW - Homoantagonism, sexism, slurs
February 14, 2020
Audio – 5+++ Stars!
Story – 4.25 Stars!

The story was a bit wordy and a bit long winded, but Alexis Hall’s combination of humor and angst is irresistible. A truly gifted storyteller!!!

I’m not a fan of a character falling for and forgiving a past bully, but it worked for me this case. I felt that Alfie was truly remorseful, and I liked that Fen gave him a hard time at the beginning. Most of all, I loved how very affectionate they were with one another once they got over their past. I completely fell in love with Alfie and Fen as a couple!!!
Profile Image for Mel.
646 reviews79 followers
November 24, 2022
Yeah. So. *coughs* This book is everything. Go read it. Um, that is all.

I’m sorry but I’m weird with reviewing books by Alexis. I’m so full of love I get silly and swoony and gah… (I fear this review is gonna be long. ) This book is perfect! Pansies is even better than Glitterland, my so-far favourite contemporary, and I’ll try to tell you why now.

It’s in the big and little things. And because I have difficulties talking about the big ones (consider me still speechless), I’m gonna start small. There are these nice little sentences and exchanges throughout the whole book that either make me smile like this one:

Mum always said there’s no such thing as a weed.”
“Um, what are weeds, then?”
“Flowers where you don’t expect them.”

Or sentences that hook into me, right into my heart, and blow me away with their truth and the connection I feel, because, like I always say, Alexis’ writing connects me to the world and to myself because I feel like I’m seen and that’s very precious to me.

Pansies is set in North-East England, and it’s incredible how very atmospheric it is. The roughness and vastness of it all, the sea and the harsh weather. The language. It’s omnipresent and feels like a huge loving wool blanket that is comfy in it’s simplicity and in its feeling of otherworldyness (this should be a word!). It’s like being in another place and time—which is another huge point that speaks in favour of this book. I got lost in it. I just was. There was no rush to finish, no waiting for the next book, no looking at the progress bar. That nearly never happens to me, and I think it was the first time with a contemporary book, since I have it easier to fall into another world by reading fantasy. I also don’t want to read another book ever again. I’m in this love-dazed mourning stage after you finished the loveliest thing. You just don’t want it to be over…

While Pansies covers a lot of heavy stuff—I will come to this soon—there are many hilarious scenes, too. There is this one DIY scene in which Alfie basically destroys everything. I laughed. So. Hard. I am sure I would have cried tears of laughter had I not been sitting in a public space.

Pansies actually takes on quite some heavy subjects. I think the content warning tags above might have given a clue already. But to me it didn’t feel too sad or like there was too much of it going on. Alfie and Fen both struggle with their own demons and past and it’s amazingly rewarding to see them overcome them and get better and find happiness together.

It’s fascinating how one can love one character (Alfie, from whose POV the book is written) so much and think he is a total arse at the same time. Gah. He’s really fucked up and says some really messed-up shit from time to time. But seeing where he grew up and seeing the reason for all of it, makes you just want to hug him better.

“It can be one of the most difficult things in the world, I think. To accept yourself.”

But that he does in the end; that he’s gay and still a man; that men can cry and wear what they want; that he can cook and take care of someone else; that he can accept himself even if his parents and other people don’t.

Being that Fen and Alfie share a difficult past, Fen isn’t at all pleased to see Alfie again and has a lot of understandable and confusing feelings to wade through. Their first meeting was kinda really unique and also kinda horrible.

“You’re wrong, Alfie Bell. You haven’t changed. Maybe you suck cock these days, but you’re still a coward and a bully, and that’s all you’ll ever be.”

Their story is a slow burning one; one that starts off rough and like you can’t see how they ever can be happy together, despite the strong connection they share. There is so much fun, though, too. So many smiles and laughter.

And did you see, that Fen calls him Alfie Bell? He does that so often—in a lot of nicer circumstances, too. It’s the sweetest thing. I mean, Alfie Bell and Fenimore… Gah. That’s just… Be still my heart… Um, got carried away there, sorry.

I really love how we get glimpses from Fen, too, although the story is written from Alfie’s POV. Fen writes a few letters to his mom and there’s this one episode in it, sigh…

I think Alfie Bell has decided I’m his butterfly. And some part of me desperately wants to be. I would love to be held in his hands, sheltered and made precious, especially now, when I feel so very alone.

Okay, what I think I’m trying to say is that this book is beautiful (I think they got this, Mel) and that it deals with sad stuff but is funny, too, and that it’s incredibly romantic and OH MY GOD, I didn’t even mention the sex, which is like, phew… Hot and intimate and passionate and the places are… definitely exciting. Heh :D

A few more things before I leave you. Finally.

The secondary characters are great! Real and lovely and weird and, and… Alfie’s parents, though… They make me sad. I… I cried a little. *sniff*

I think, without going into any details, that their past and overcoming it was handled exceptionally well.

And, like is mandatory in the Spires series, there is food and a recipe. And, and… The cover!!! All the hearty eyes. I think it’s perfect and really mirrors the vibe of the story as well.

Now do the thing and buy the book. I looooooooooooove Pansies and I hope you do, too.

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Tags: M/M, Gay and Queer Character, Small Town, North-East England, Flower Shop, Identity, New Beginnings
Content Warnings: Former Bully/Victim Relationship, Mention of Past Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide (Off-Page), Bereavement, Homophobia, Biphobia, Internalised Homophobia
Rating: 5 stars, Favourite 2016, Favourite of All Time
Blog: Review for Just Love Romance
Disclosure: I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review. I have always been a fan of Alexis, loved every single book he has ever written, and am friends with him, too.

ETA: My first reread confirms: PANSIES is my favourite read of 2016 & my favourite contemporary romance. So so wonderful. I'm so in love with it. And the paperback is incredibly pretty and feels wonderful, too.
Profile Image for Kaje Harper.
Author 72 books2,484 followers
October 19, 2016
4.5 stars, rounded up because I love the guys, the low-key build of the story, and the writing.

Enemies to lovers is a tough thing to write well, and particularly past childhood bully to lover. The scars of childhood bullying linger, set deep, often shaping behavior decades after they are past. It's a difficult balance to allow that to have its full impact, and yet to achieve a reconciliation that feels real. This book did a good job of having Fen pulled between his long-standing hurt and anger, and his appreciation for the man Alfie has become - a man who is trying to make amends.

I adored Alfie - he's rather clueless about people and social life (and his career success fit a bit oddly with the rest of how he is presented.) But he has a good heart, a hopeful, wistful quality to him that was believable as the thing that could win his past victim, Fen, over, eventually.

Alexis Hall writes so well, with a use of language that is flavorful and full of images. There are moments of humor, and the drama is for the most part low key, with nuanced secondary characters. A plot device near the end was not my favorite, but fit Alfie's character well enough to be workable in this case. A book I will no doubt reread.
Profile Image for ellie.
635 reviews1,144 followers
August 31, 2021
2.5 stars⭐️

this is closer to two stars honestly, but im giving it three with it being set in my hometown and bcos im biased bitch💅🏻

so hold onto your hats bcos this is a long one😭 i think bcos this was so personal to me i have a lot of thoughts, feelings and options. sorry in advance if you make it to the end of one of my infamous ramblings :)

i wanted to read this bcos it was set where i have lived my entire life and i wanted to read a romance in my local dialect, about the places and people i knew, the familiarity of my own life that i never encounter in my usual romances. i could picture the grey seaside and the mishmash of shops, as well as all the people i knew (obviously not personally but i could point to someone in my real life who was just like a character in the book😭). it was pretty refreshing to read. on top of this being a former-bully to lovers romance, it should have made a recipe for my ideal read.

but instead, i had this sense of distaste nearly the entire goddamn time while reading this.

and it all centred around one of our heroes, the former bully, Alfie.

it took me a while to warm up to Alfie... then any time i started to soften towards him, he’d do/say something that was just not it and had us back at square one. all that groundwork we’d built together... Alfie just let me down time and time again.

like his reaction to realising who Fen was and that he used to bully him was... less than stellar. truly made me wince. i– truly someone cannot be that dumb right? when you realise the guy you slept with is also the guy you bullied relentlessly back in school, your first reaction should not be what Alfie fucking said:
”Look,” he said, as calmly as he could, “I get that we weren’t exactly friends back then, but—”
“You made my life a living hell.”
“I was a kid. It was just a bit of fun.”
“A bit of fun? Are you a fucking sociopath?” Fen wrapped his arms tightly around his own body. “Every day. For six years.”
Alfie made a frustrated gesture, nearly losing the sheet. “It wasn’t just me.”
“That’s the best justification you can find? God, you’re pathetic.”
“Well, it didn’t stop you making my life miserable.”
Alfie was still feeling too unexpectedly wounded to be capable of controlling what came out of his mouth. “Yeah, but you didn’t exactly help yourself either.”
Silence. Again.
“What,” asked Fen very quietly, “the fuck is that supposed to mean?”
“I mean, you could have kept your head down. You didn’t have to make a big deal about it.”

i–💀 tell me this mans did not just say that oh my god.

BUT despite my lips curling at that entire encounter, i was even more ready to continue reading bcos i wanted to watch him redeem himself.

and that just didn’t happen?

if anything, he just dug a bigger hole for himself. i didn’t find him endearing honestly, he just seemed too oblivious about his actions to truly care. so i was unconvinced about a lot of his feelings and actions being bcos he actually wanted Fen... it felt like it was bcos he was finally being confronted with the type of person that he was and didn’t like what he saw. that he just wanted to clear his conscience.

and reading Fen’s inner monologue about how he dreaded to wake up everyday and go to school did not help Alfie’s case whatsoever. it made me wish Fen had flushed Alfie’s head down the loo when he’d had the chance.

And, you know, all I thought was that it’s been something like fifteen years, and he was still finding new and special ways to make me feel worthless.

I never told you how bad it was. And how much I dreaded, God, I dreaded everything. Waking up in the morning, knowing he would be waiting for me, him and his friends, and all the rest of them. Old taunts or new ones, it didn’t matter, I never learned to shrug them off. I never learned not to care. I didn’t dare tell you.

I don’t know if it was because of or in spite of, but I really thought I was in love with him back then. For all those years. Because he was the only boy who touched me. He was all I had. His hand on the back of my neck, forcing my head down the toilet. Or his body shoved against mine to stop me fighting. His bruises on my skin. His fingers in my hair.
I’d lie awake in bed, terrified of tomorrow, and I’d think about him touching me. I’d dream about him and want him. And imagine how it would feel if he was gentle with me.

that last quote i didn’t find romantic either. just truly fucking sad. that teenage Fen craved intimacy and closeness so bad that he hoped his tormentor would touch him just to make him feel something? i just found it kinda distressing, honestly.

i will admit that the second half of this definitely looked up, but i was more resigned for a lot of it than anything since i just didn’t enjoy the first part. i really didn’t think Alfie did anything worthwhile to earn Fen or his forgiveness. i was just like okay? what now?

my dislike for a lot of this also centred around Alfie’s internalised homophobia. it was... something. idk it didn’t make me pity or sympathise with him. it just felt unnecessary bcos he was trying so hard to get Fen’s attention and forgiveness, but still had particular stereotypical, toxic masculinity-type thoughts... like Alfie’s dad talking about Fen:

“Bent as a nine-bob note, of course.”
Nothing happened. The sky didn’t cave in or fire burst up from under the pavement.
In the end, it was Billy who broke the silence. “Howay, Da. Ye knaa Alfie . . .”
“Aye, ah do, but it’s not the same. Ye divvent see wor Alfie meking posies, wi’ pink in his hair.”
“No,” said Alfie quickly, “and you won’t. I’m not like that.”

Alfie could have defended Fen? corrected his dad? but just sits in this limbo state of him openly being gay but tries to do everything in his power to “not be gay” whatever that means :/// it just felt redundant for Alfie to pursue Fen if he wasn’t fully comfortable in his own or in Fen’s identity.

i have read gay characters with a lot of internalised homophobia and still enjoyed the book, but something about the portrayal and execution of it here just didn’t sit right with me.

i think it’s bcos he was just set in his own ways that he didn’t even see the need to change his attitude. like how he didn’t see an issue with him bullying Fen fifteen years ago bcos they were adults now and Alfie wasn’t the same person... it’s like if it didn’t fit his very narrowed opinion and perception, it didn’t really matter? that it was the other person’s problem and not his? idk, he just really rubbed me the wrong way and i found nothing endearing about him at all. like if i had a quid for the amount of times he “wasn’t in the mood to hear it” when someone would try and call him out, id be in space right now with Jeff and Elon.

as well as Alfie not understanding why Fen didn’t want to label his sexuality, but interrogating him about his sex life and then proceeding to try and label him? or not understanding musical theatre so mocking Fen’s interest in it?

there were times i just wanted him to fuck off back to London tbh and leave Fen alone.

but i will admit, in the later chapters you actually get to see Alfie interact with his parents more and i understood where some of his internalised homophobia came from— i just wish the author had done a better job at portraying it through the whole book, not just in odd segments. bcos majority of the time i didn’t understand it and it just made him look like a dick :/ if the author had just explored his psyche more and why he thought the way he did, i wouldn’t have had an issue. but he’d just say things... then not fully realise the impact of how damaging they were.

and after i softened up to him... he’d do something AGAIN that just made me lose all that faith id built up in him. like the scene outside the flower shop when he was shouting at Fen? fuck him. was i supposed to feel bad for him? lol. sorry but your biphobia ain’t it, Alfie. idk if it makes me a bitch, but his attitude just stunk so goddam bad that when he broke down i was like 👁👄👁soooo, anyways

and in the end... his internalised homophobia was never truly tackled. like that man needed therapy— he needed something. but it was still left dangling and unresolved. there was nothing he was actively doing to combat those thoughts and opinions. so that’s why i had an issue with it in the end, even if the two encounters with his mam then his dad enlightened me a little to his behaviour. it just wasn’t enough for me to fully understand nor sympathise with him.

but when they were good together? they were sooo good together. they’d make me smile and my heart melt. they had some truly beautiful and lovely moments together— i loved the scene of them playing Mario Kart with Fen’s dad, and then the scene where Fen lets go of all his letters to his mother at sea. the book really had me fluctuating back and forth between boredom, annoyance, sweetness and anger lol.

so there were moments where i saw the potential, particularly in the really beautiful writing style as it just accentuated Alfie’s thoughts about Fen which were pretty stunning to read... he just had these moments where i wanted to throttle the fuck out of him.

side note: i didn’t like Alfie’s friend/ex-boyfriend, Greg. idk he just rubbed me the wrong way. well the fact he called the north “a hovel” was probably it— he kept playing into the stereotype that being from the north east means you’re uneducated, inferior... and just all around have shitty lives. i met many a person like him at my old uni... and there was a reason i hated all my classmates🤡 his snobby attitude made me wanna fling myself out of a second story window :))))


i know some other reviews didn’t like the use of the north eastern dialect, but as someone who speaks just like the characters in this book, i loved it. it was fun af to read the characters bcos they felt a bit more familiar since i could relate to the way they spoke, the thoughts they had and the places and people they knew. it was a nice change from either American dialect or RP English. none of that posh shit.

the accuracy of all the north eastern staples made me laugh and smile:
⭐️the tinfoil hedgehog made of pineapple and cheese skewers😭
The centrepiece of the whole arrangement was a tinfoil hedgehog skewered with cheese and pineapple pieces on cocktail sticks. This was as close as North East England got to a canapé. childhood memory unlocked.

⭐️characters shouting “EH?” any time they didn’t hear what you said😭

⭐️going on a night out without a coat on (only southerners do that shit)— even if it’s the middle of winter with arctic temperatures.

⭐️the dialect and humour was pretty perfect— it felt like things i would say to my friends and made me giggle a time or two.

“An’ wharraboot ye, pet?”= “and what about you, pet?”

“Howay” = “away”, which basically means come on/come off it, to describe your disbelief of something.

”Let us choose fer mesel. And I’ll tek the roses.” = “let me choose for myself. And I’ll take the roses.” – we tend to say “us” when we’re just referring to ourselves singularly... idk why we do that lol😭 – the book truly had me reflecting on how strange i must sound from an outside perspective.

i could go on forever with how comforting i found this book— and hey, if you read this and ever need a translator? hit me up😌 it was truly heartwarming to read something so familiar and even nostalgic, so while id normally give a book like this two stars bcos my enjoyment was pretty minimal, it’s like my northern civic duty to bump this up a star ;)
Profile Image for Papie.
605 reviews111 followers
May 28, 2022
DNF at 27%
This is a former bully romance and those rarely work for me. And here, it was just too much. Alfie wasn’t the sidekick watching his friends bully the gay kid. He was the ringleader. We’re talking shoving Fen’s head down the toilet kind of bullying. Multiple times. For years. I just can’t.

And I have to say the dialect is hard to understand at times, but I’d get over it if I liked the romance. 🤷‍♀️
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Line.
1,082 reviews173 followers
November 26, 2018
I left my MM mystery-hole for this book, and boy am I glad I did!
So Alfie is a 30 yo brilliant, but clueless character. He works in finance in London, he only realised two years ago that he is gay, and he's sort of estranged from his family after coming out.
His best friend is getting married, and Alfie finds himself back in the wee town in northern England where he's from, in a melancholy mood.
He ends up coming out to the whole party in a spectacular fashion, and I was laughing my head off. Great start to a great story.

Alfie leaves the party, and ends up at a pub, where he lays eyes on Fen. Alfie hits on him, and ends up taking Fen to his hotel (even though it is clear, that all is not straight forward).
Fen is prickly and mean and all-over the place, and when he leaves, he drops a BOMB on Alfie. Turns out that Alfie bullied and tormented Fen, for years, in school.
What follows is a brilliant second-chance romance, WITH grovelling! Halle-lu-jah!
Alfie doesn't get Fen's issues with him in the beginning, like: why can't Fen just forget about it and move on? But as the story unfolds Alfie grows as a person, and it is beautiful to witness!

Alexis has written a heartfelt, amazing, gripping story of personal development, acceptance and second chances.
His descriptions of the English countryside and the characters of this book were flowery and just on the right side of enough. This is a 'wordy' book, yes, but the humour and pace of the story carried me through with a minimum amount of being overwhelmed.

Also I loved his (= the MC's) insights and thoughts in regards to second chances, family and growth. One does not simply forget about years of torment, and then move on -IMO.
I have been complaining about the lack of understanding, grovelling and choosing to leave the 'family' behind when they are acting horrible in a LOT of my other reviews, but this one spoke to almost all of my personal beliefs.
Another plus was the secondary characters like Greg and Kitty. Boy, oh boy, they were great, and I felt that they provided a great sounding board for Alfie, when he was being TOO daft.
And the smexy times... Thank you! They were evenly spread out through the story, they were descriptive and they were HOT!

The reason this is not a clear 5 star read, is the epilogue and the (sometimes) unclear relationship between Alfie and Fen, and Alfie and his parents.
I would have loved for the epilogue to have been further down the road, for a true HEA.
Also I had some trouble, once in a while, understanding the parameters for Alfie and Fen's relationship. I actually thought they had decided to give it a REAL long-term shot, when it was suddenly pointed out that they had an expiration date, a few weeks later.
I don't know how, but I missed that 'discussion' or didn't understand it or something.
And lastly I wanted Alfie to tell his parents off, just once! He had such an amazing journey, and he grew as a person, but I really needed him, to tell them, to shove their antiquated ideas where 'the sun don't shine'.

The rest though, the rest brought me back to a small English town near the Scottish border, where pubs and nature and weird, but great, characters are found in abundance!
Beautiful, heart-warming story, that will definitely be read again.
Profile Image for Christelle.
808 reviews
April 16, 2017
Tough to rate : will go with 3 stars (please, don’t “tomato” me : remember that bullying is not nice !).

Why more than 2 stars ? Because I read it in a row and never felt bored. I also enjoyed all the Britishness of this book. And there were some nice feelings and moments and some funny situations and dialogs.
Why no more than 3 stars ? I never fully click with the characters, nor the story and let say it, the writing style. And to be honest, I oscillated between thinking the characters were in their early twenties and then in their thirties.

I felt I missed a lot in understanding the characters, like it was starting to be explored but then not, leaving me with a lot of guessing to do on my own. Like, how to reconcile Alfie, the bullying guy saving a butterfly and Alfie, the nice block. Like how to reconcile Alfie, gay, and Alfie, homophobic. And what about Alfie's relationship with his family (and even Fen’s relationship with his father).
I also felt like I read the half of 2 stories about Fen : the beginning of the story about the bullying and the ending of another story about Fen’s grieving of his mom.

Nice HEA though, and I was glad for Alfie and Fen.

PS : Thank you, Ariana, for this nice gift !!!
Profile Image for  ~Preeti~.
623 reviews
July 2, 2022
I have avoided reading this gem because of the bully trope. No, I am not entirely against the trope and have indeed read and enjoyed some other books with it in the past. But, I should have known better because you forget everything about the trope once you start reading Alexis Hall. He has such a beautiful way of writing characters that I just couldn't hate Alfie for his childhood bullying.

I liked that the focus was more on the present relationship and not on the past. And, the discussion of grief was handled quite well.

Definitely my favourite book by the author after For Real.

P.S- Love the Cornell Collin`s Cockney accent.😍😍
Profile Image for dammit, liz .
231 reviews2 followers
February 17, 2017
This book encapsulates all my favorite things about AJH's writing. If you're not a fan of the Spires books, you might not love this, but I adore the flowery, descriptive writing. The characters were flawed but lovable, and at times a little subversive. This is a somewhat quiet romance, which I like. The conflict that arises isn't due to an over the top plot, it's just about people being human, making mistakes, and growing. Witty, charming, and romantic. Definitely recommend.
Profile Image for Xia Lake.
Author 5 books168 followers
November 25, 2018




I am heartbroken that I'm DNFing an Alexis Hall book. I am heartbroken that I got to 50% and realized I don't like the MCs. Everything takes just too long, the romance, the dialogue, the plot, the character development.

It may not be the right time for me to read this. I may come back to it later.
For now I'm gonna DNF at 50% and crawl in a deep, dark hole. I'm sorry Alexis. I still love you and your writing!
Profile Image for dobbs the dog.
514 reviews9 followers
November 28, 2022
Reread November 2022 via audio

I think this books gets better each time I read it. I also keep noticing things that I’ve somehow missed on previous reads?

Reread July 2022 via audio

Reread May 2022 via audio

Upon my third read of the Spires books, I can confidently say this is my favourite. I think it’s the seeing myself so much in Alfie and South Shields feeling like my own home town. I don’t think I can really add anything more to my existing review.

Reread January 2022

CW: all the internalized homophobia. Plus a fair amount of general homophobia.

OMG this book. This whole series, really. It’s all so freaking good. The writing is just beautiful, and not really like anything else Alexis Hall has written. There’s funny bits and geeky/nostalgic bits (because it wouldn’t be an AJH book without those), but on the whole this series is just so beautiful.
So, anyhoo… Pansies is set in South Shields, which is in Northern England, on the Eastern coast. The way the town is described makes it seem like a small town, but it’s really not. I googled it and I’m pretty sure it’s large enough to count as a city. It’s hard for me to pick a favourite in this series, but I think I feel the most connection with this one, I can see myself in Alfie (in general terms, not specifics). The city I grew up in is a similar size to South Shields, very working class, very conservative, and it has that small town feel to it. For a city of 80k people, I was constantly running in to people I knew, before I got married and changed my last name everyone knew who my family was because my grandfather owns a masonry business that has built all but 1 of the major buildings in the city. And from the time I was a teenager all I wanted to do was leave. And I did! And while I don’t think I could ever move back there, I have occasionally felt the pull of being somewhere so familiar, where all of my family is. Also with growing up in a conservative, small-town-feeling city of 80k, there’s also that total submersion in heteronormativity. Like, when Fen asks Alfie why it took him so long to figure out he’s gay, and Alfie tells him it’s because it was never a possibility for him. You just assume you’re the same as everyone else because everyone else assumes that you’re the same as them, and there are so few examples of anything else. There were so many times while I was reading this that I felt so sad for Alfie. That he grew up in a homophobic family, in a homophobic town, that he has so much internalized homophobia, it just kind of broke my heart. Ugh…
When I originally listened to this, there were quite a few things I missed. One of them being how Alfie’s accent gets thicker as the book goes along. I mean, it’s just what happens when you go home and are surrounded with that. I think it also shows how he’s becoming more himself when he’s back in South Shields, not trying to be someone he’s not in London.
I feel like I could go on and on about this book. And I’ve barely even said anything about Fen, who is just lovely.
The Spires series is just so incredibly good. I know they’re still quite a ways off, but I absolutely CANNOT WAIT for books 5 and 6. I need more Spires in my life and heart!
Profile Image for Darla.
270 reviews35 followers
October 23, 2016
I can't wait to read the final version - I Beta read an early draft. I loved it so much! As with all things Alexis Hall - beautiful prose, fully developed, interesting and unique characters and a sense of geographical place that is just gorgeous and is part of the story. I have reminisced over conversations between characters in this story many times since my initial read and can't wait to revisit the scenes that unfolded in this very lovely story.
Profile Image for MaDoReader.
1,365 reviews147 followers
February 7, 2017
No es mi preferido del autor, pero me ha gustado mucho.
La construcción de la relación, sus conversaciones, los momentos íntimos, todo eso me ha parecido muy romántico, aunque para mí, es el menos emocional de la serie y en algun momento, bastante peliculero (el final y alguna cosa más)
Por cierto, la portada ¿no os parecen un padre con su hij@??? WTF?
January 29, 2022


OMG. Alfie... Sweet, Sweet Thoughtful Alfie! He just wanted to make it right...and he was determined. I adored him from page 1

Finn.....the prickly pink tipped hair guy, was hard to like...but, Alfie completely and utterly stole my heart. He was truly book boyfriend swoon-worthy adorbs. The romance~OMG, was super sweet! My favorite quote happen at first kiss....

“Kissing like Alfie had always imagined it was supposed to be. Movie-star-magic-silver-screen-fireworks-in-the-sky kissing. Endless and restless, like the sea beating in the distance. Like listening to a shell, except it was everything and everywhere, the taste of salt water rich and sharp between their lips.

And a strange sort of sweetness too. It took him a moment to place it.

“Hey,” he whispered, breaking the kiss. “Hey, you smell of flowers.”

He was shaking—shaking, really shaking—in his arms, his fingers curled urgently against Alfie. A rock climber trying not to fall.”

Sigh.... *sizzle mush*

I per se' hate bully driven storylines. But, this story, made for a heartfelt read....My favorite thing about this book was the description writing was so excellent, I trudged on. I loved how easy it was to smelled the flowers in the shop, new and old, and there was so much more to feel and smell as well as see. I really like the way this writer ALWAYS does this with ease. And, his audio of this book as always fab! I love reading it and listening to it the same❣️

Re-read 12/21/22

I love this writer❣️

And, I loved this re-read even more than the first time.
Profile Image for Lenore.
596 reviews365 followers
October 25, 2016
Lovely writing, as always. It's the main theme that doesn't sit well with me .

I'm still contemplating my rating and full review.
140 reviews7 followers
August 8, 2022
Pansies is what you get when Richard Siken's "Crush" and Bruce Springsteen's mid to late 70s albums make sweet sweet love by the Tyne (that's clearly the river in the name of Bruce's 1980 song/album) and their union is blessed with a little Geordie baby. And then Lana Del Rey sings Video Games over the baby's cradle.
(Sourcebooks feel free to hire me to do the promo for the new edition, I am evidently a marketing wiz of the highest order and none of my references are obscure)

Look, for me personally the romance bit of this book would be a solid 4 star read. I mean it's Alexis Hall, so it's obviously well-written, funny, thoughtful, poignant, the works - but something just didn't fully click for me. Maybe it felt like we didn't get to spend nearly enough time with Fen so he was relegated more to the "dream boy" role? Maybe I never fully recovered from the third act conflict? (I won't go into spoilers but just let it be known that I thoroughly dislike the third act conflict as a romance structure beat.) Maybe instalove is just not my cuppa? Either way, on the strength of the romance alone, this would have been a pure 4 star read.

But- but-

So after much deliberation it is a 5-star read (4.5 to be more precise), on account of my boy Alfie Identity Struggles Bell. And you, gentle reader, will now be treated to a ridiculously long essay on why Pansies' depiction of Alfie Bell is THE character exploration of masculinity, queerness, working class and regional identity. Good? Good.

So. We meet our boy Alfie on his best mate Kev's wedding in South Shields, where they both grew up. Alfie has been living and working in London (and making A LOT of money), he's so used to code-switching that his accent (initially) sounds a lot posher than the rest of the folks at the reception, and he's gay. But he only figured out he was gay like a year or two ago, and he's not even thirty yet.
So Alfie's this big strapping Northern lad, socialized in a working-class environment, convinced for most of his life he was a red-blooded heterosexual... and now he is living the life of a rich gay southern banker. But that "work hard-play hard" City lifestyle also clashes with what he wants out of life (a partner to protect and care for, kids, domestic bliss), which is shaped as much by his personality and desires as by his upbringing.
In short, Alfie feels like he is neither fish nor fowl.

Now, the novel's set-up (rich business person goes back to their home town, is forced to re-evaluate their lifestyle and priorities after experiencing a profound connection with the local baker/beekeeper/florist/rancher/farmer) is clearly the stuff of a certain kind of low-budget Hallmark TV movie. What Hall does is: a) makes the rich business person rediscovering the joys of domesticity a man and b) forces the protagonist to reframe his own upbringing and youth to see how a person with so much internalized homophobia and very strong feelings about How Men Behave(TM) can even begin to build domesticity.
And this produces so many interesting conflicts (even though some of them are downright painful: see my comments on 3rd act conflict above). Because the partner he wants to have this life with does not have Alfie's hangups - Fen has always been very visibly queer (so much so that in school he got mercilessly bullied, by Alfie among other people!!); for him, there is no code-switching, no doubting, no overcoming lowkey toxic ideals of masculinity. Fen was a bullied queer kid from the North who got out, got himself a great life down South, and only went back because his family needed him. Alfie is the one who was...basically great at being a Proper Lad, had the most normative possible working-class male socialization, did everything right - and now has no idea who he is or how to live his life. And that makes him a FASCINATING protagonist. (And just on a personal note, very relatable. Not that I have a similar background/life story, but Hall's depiction of a person who is kinda neither here nor there, and feels like there are these different versions of them existing in different places is just...oof. Been there, bestie!)

So. Pansies is very good. You should read it while streaming either Bruce Springsteen or Alexis Hall's Pansies playlist. Or Lana Del Rey. Case closed.
Profile Image for Elena.
823 reviews80 followers
October 12, 2017
3.5 stars

I’m a little bit in shock. I was so sure I would love this, just like I loved every other story of the Spires Universe.

Pansies has many of the things that made me love the other books: the beautiful writing, the flawed, complex characters and that something, unique to Alexis Hall’s stories, that usually speaks to me on a deep, intimate level.
But this time his magic didn’t work on me. It was there, lurking under the surface, just enough to keep me going, but still out of reach.
I can’t really pinpoint why, although I know what I didn’t like.

I spent the first third of the book with a strange, ambivalent feeling.
I liked Alfie and Fen, I liked the writing, I liked everything, but it bothered me that I was reading about the beginning of a romance between

Maybe it’s realistic, I don’t know. What I know is that it was disturbing to read, it prevented me from getting completely invested in their romance and it made me consider abandoning the book.

Alexis Hall’s magic must have worked somewhere in the middle, though, because at one point I got past my issues with the premise, probably because Fen was not shy when it was time to put Alfie in his place.
And that was when I noticed another problem: this book is just too long, in my opinion. There were parts where the story was dragging and it became tiresome to read.
Still, there were also bits that made it worth it. I laughed out loud all the way through
And they were quite sweet together, in general.

But then, right before the end, one of the tropes I despise most made its appearance.

So, while I certainly can’t say that I loved it, I can see why so many others did. I’m disappointed that I’m not among them, but I’m still looking forward to the next story in the Spires Universe.
Profile Image for Aeren.
510 reviews30 followers
October 21, 2016
Le doy 4.75 porque al final se me ha hecho un poco cuesta arriba, sólo un poco, o igual es que es viernes y estoy cansada.
Lo cierto es que Pansies es el claro ejemplo de que para enamorar con una novela, no hace falta contar grandes historias o aventuras porque la aventura más importante de todas es vivir. Alexis Hall ha sabido hacerlo de una forma increíble, con un lenguaje rico, dulce, que te hace sentir desde el minuto cero, con tres certeras frases. Y qué frases, confieso que hace mucho sólo compro en papel en contadas ocasiones, cuestiones de espacio y porqué no, de dinero, hay libros que sabes que aunque los disfrutes sólo vas a volver a ellos muy muy de vez en cuando, Pansies en cambio está hecho de la pasta de esos libros que son el equivalente a una manta calentita en una tarde de invierno, sólo el simple hecho de releer párrafos a voleo es ya una auténtica gozada. Me ha encantado el mimo con el que ha desenvuelto a los personajes, cada uno a su modo inolvidable, pensé que iba a sentirme más identificada con Fen y su dolor, con esa vitalidad, con esa cabezonería, pero admito que ha sido Alfie quien se ha llevado un poco de mi corazón, al final quería llorar por él y por ellos, ese epílogo, una maravilla y por supuesto, mención especial a uno de los protagonistas del libro, ese mar, como Alfie Bell, yo también llevo la sal en la sangre. Una preciosidad para leer, subrayar y mimar.

Profile Image for Sam (AMNReader).
1,227 reviews261 followers
December 14, 2020
There were several times through this book that I couldn't figure out how I felt about it. I mean, it's so so good, of course, but so much of it was painful that I can't quite say it hit me the right way right now.

Some other day? Maybe. Or maybe this one isn't it for me.

The prologue is stunning. Fen's letters are stunning. I loved Greg and Kitty, but I found a couple of conflicts unconvincing, partially because these characters know so much of love. It was well-written. Complicated and not. And so are my feelings on it overall.
Profile Image for Kira.
320 reviews16 followers
October 15, 2016
4,5 stars

Pansies is like a celebration of the main thing I love about Hall's books, meaning how humane they are. It's like he is not afraid to make his characters completely uncool by romance standards and, in doing so, they come across as extra human and relatable.
Like, take Alfie here. He is good-looking, rather muscular and tough, he moved to London from his small town, has a very well-paying job, great car, posh apartment, a good taste in wine... Many books would make him into this kind of suave, work-hard-play-harder type who is afraid of commitment and probably hides his goodness somewhere deep inside. Instead, he is fretting about the mechanics of picking up a stranger in a bar; admits upfront that he wants commitment, not just a good time; is not sure he is good at being, you know, a man's man; is not afraid at showing kindness; fails at some traditionally masculine things, like installing a shower rail, but turns out to be decent at cooking...
Sure, this is, while more unusual, is still not some revolutionary stuff here. I just found it a very well-done mix of believable, relatable and complex. I absolutely adored the beginning for that.

I took off half a star for Shelley who, it seemed, existed as a comic relief first and as a person second. Which was rather startling because everybody else was 'person first'. Also, the story kinda run out of steam for me in the second half, but I strongly suspect that it's because my mind has just been elsewhere these past few days. The only reading I can concentrate on is grammar dictionaries. :) So, for now, I'm rounding my rating up, not down. I need to reread Pansies sometime in the future when I have a clearer head.

Oh, and look at my shelf stats before I wrote this review - such round and vaguely satanic numbers. :) I didn't even want to move this book to my Read shelf.

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