Ah, your 20s: the time when everyone is settling down, finding a partner, and making that magical trip down the aisle. Or at least that’s what romcoms would have you believe the end goal is for every couple. But for Luc and Oliver of Husband Material, there’s quite a bit of growing up to do before (if?) that happens. Set two years after Alexis Hall’s runaway hit Boyfriend Material, Husband Material shines as a sequel that beautifully develops and strengthens the relationship between Luc and Oliver while delivering laugh-out-loud comedy.
Husband Material is a unique take on the “will they or won’t they” trope by firmly establishing that Luc and Oliver are in a committed, loving relationship. Everyone’s favorite fake dating to real dating lovers are back, and it seems they’ve both matured since we last met them. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t face new challenges, with Luc feeling the pressure to propose to Oliver as they attend their friends’ weddings. Oliver, meanwhile, is beginning to question the kind of life he wants for himself — and whether his dreams align with what’s expected of him. Hall cleverly structures the book into sections featuring (of course) four weddings and a funeral, with the order in which those events occur being essential to Luc and Oliver’s journey as a couple. I would encourage readers to view Husband Material as a collection of vignettes rather than a straightforward narrative like Boyfriend Material, as it enhances the emotions and helps ground the story.
Without giving too much away about the nature of their conflicts, one of the loveliest parts of Husband Material is the way Hall portrays his central couple’s anxieties and quirks. Luc and Oliver have always felt real in a way that most romcom characters don’t, which is part of why readers fell in love with them in Boyfriend Material. But in Husband Material, they are forced to lean on each other for support in new ways. You can see how much they love each other, and how much they’ve learned from each other, even as they squabble or shut each other out. It feels true to how people behave when they’ve been dating for a while and the honeymoon period has faded, but instead, a deeper and more profound bond develops. Hall also delves deep into the pressure of planning a queer wedding and all of the trauma that can bring. Both Luc and Oliver struggle with the fear that their wedding won’t be “gay” enough (or that it’s “too gay”), not to mention the idea that marriage is a heteronormative institution at its core that they shouldn’t take part in. When tragedy strikes, it upends everything they thought they believed in and the way they envisioned their lives playing out.
It’s heavy stuff, but as usual, Hall brings the laughs alongside the feels. Many of the popular supporting characters from Boyfriend Material are back and more hilarious than ever, with my personal favorite being Luc’s lovable dolt of a coworker, Alex. There are so many fabulous one-liners that will have readers shaking with laughter. Hall keeps the plot moving forward at a brisk pace, but never in a way that feels rushed. I sense that I may be in the minority, but I thought the ending was perfect. It left plenty of doors open for the forthcoming sequels in the London Calling series without a frustrating cliffhanger while paying off Luc and Oliver’s emotional arcs. The last line paints a beautiful picture that is equal to any big screen romance, and it’s sure to induce tears.
Husband Material may differ a bit in structure from Boyfriend Material, but once again, Alexis Hall has created a well-written and witty romantic comedy that will have readers swooning. For readers looking for a novel willing to subvert romantic tropes while providing a familiar, comforting reading experience, Husband Material will fill that void perfectly.