In the past, the universe is a glitterball I hold in the palm of my hand.
In the past, I am brilliant and I am happy and my every tomorrow is madness.
In the past, I am soaring, and falling, and breaking, and lost.
And now, there is only this.
Once the golden boy of the English literary scene, now a clinically depressed writer of pulp crime fiction, Ash Winters has given up on 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 throws him into the path of Essex-born Darian Taylor. Flashy and loud, radiant and full of life, Darian couldn’t be more different…and yet he makes Ash laugh, reminding him of what it’s like to step beyond the boundaries of his anxiety. But Ash has been living in his own shadow for so long that he can no longer see a way out. Can a man who doesn’t trust himself ever trust in happiness? And how can someone who doesn’t believe in happiness ever fight for his own?
Title : Glitterland
Author : Alexis Hall
Series : Spires (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 287
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ romance
Publisher : Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date : January 17, 2023
Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5
Hollis’ 4.5 star review
This ended up being my final read of 2022 and I was so glad to go out with a bang. Between the holiday stresses and busyness, a well timed ruin-all-my-down-time cold, and general slumpy behaviour before all that went down, it had been a time. Which is why I needed a (almost sure to be) guaranteed good time. And while this is a reread, I was also curious to see if Hall would make any changes for the transition of Glitterland from indie to trad.
While I can’t say I noticed anything that stood out — one or two bits felt a little updated but to be honest I haven’t read this in four years so it’s possible nothing actually was changed and I was just trying too hard to notice differences — nonetheless? It was a great time.
Glitterland was a recommendation early-ish on in my queer reading journey and not only has it stood out amongst the hundreds I’ve read since, it’s also stood the test of time.
It’s a classic match-up of a grumpy sunshine romance, using the London and Essex as cultural differences to add to the whole opposites attract, with some added hurdles to contend with in the way of depression, anxiety, and more. Hall manages a perfect balance between the serious and the not-so-serious and it makes those heavier moments feel more real because of how they are handled.
Personally, Darian is the standout for me. I’ve always had a soft spot for Ash’s glitter pirate but I know he won’t be everyone’s cup of tea (he is, after all, a shade of orange). But the true magic is made in the match-up and I know I’ve already mentioned the balance but.. it’s there. Also? It’s steamy. Other than For Real (another book I desperately want to see made trad!), this might have the most on-page sex in any of Hall’s books and (notably, in that book as well, my other top favourite) it reminded me of how well Hall uses those scenes to allow his characters to communicate. It’s not just a flurry of appendages and grunts but their personas are very much present in those moments. And, honestly, that’s rare.
Truthfully, I could go on about the fun group ensembles each character has respectively; the nuances and agonies touched on in discussion of the various stages of Ash’s mental health experience and journey and how that impacted, and imploded, relationships and what’s left in the aftermath; I could speak to how fun (as a non-UKer) it is to read along with Darian’s accent on page and in my head (honestly, if you can stand the accent, highly recommend the audio!); I could even drown this review in all the quotes and standout lines (even if you deserve to experience them first hand, in context, and so I refrained) to try and find the right one to hook you. But honestly? Just read this book.
Also, as much as I loved the original cover? This cover also has my heart.
** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **