Lenni Reviews: "Scorpio Hates Virgo" by Anyta Sunday

*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review and is rated 18+.

After his aunt passes away, Percy Friedman moves into her home. Even though she left it to him, Percy is intent on selling it not only because it makes him miss his aunt so much, but it is also located in the same cul-de-sac as his childhood nemesis, Callagahan Glover. But, As Percy settles back into the tight-knit community and gets to know Callagahan all over again, he wonders if running away is the best plan.

I enjoyed this "enemies" to lovers story. There is no real malice between Percy and Cal so when their relationship forms, it feels real and relatable. Their sarcastic barbs are funny, the main leads are charming, and even the side characters have plenty of personality without derailing the main focus. It's a nearly perfect bit of fluff but since there's no closure regarding Percy's relative, Frank, I felt as if that bit was incomplete. Other than that, a great sweet and sexy romance. 3.9 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Runner" by Parker Williams and Patrick Zeller (Narrator)

*This audio-book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review and is rated 18.

Matt Bowers has made every effort to isolate himself from the world after he was assaulted as a teenager. He lives on a large piece of land, has everything he needs delivered, and lives off of a sizable settlement account. All that changes when a man comes jogging across his property. Since the stranger isn't doing anything illegal, Matt cannot get his officer brother to do anything about the man encroaching on his safe space. Faced with no other option than to accept him, Matt gradually learns to tolerate the man's presence and even get to know him.

This is a sweet story about a traumatized guy learning to love again. It is a quintessential hurt/comfort story with realistic leads who follow a very natural progression as their relationship grows. Matt and Charlie do become an overtly saccharine couple, though Charlie seems almost too perfect in dealing with Matt's OCD and agoraphobia. Charlie is positively saint like in his acceptance of it and that made him seem less believable in his own right. I mean, he barely blinks at some of the limitations he suddenly has to deal with where as I believe any normal person would at least express some sort of resistance to their life taking a complete 180 in terms of their freedom to do as they please.

I did enjoy listening to this book. Zeller is a great narrator who has a great range to make each character distinct to your ears. While the story kept me entertained overall, I did struggle to remember a lot of things when I sat down to write this review. Cute and romantic but not much staying power. 3.5 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Contemporary Draconic Hoarding Practices" by Dae Richards

*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review and is rated 18+

While Clayton splits his time between his graduate thesis and being a teaching assistant, he meets dragon and magical teacher Syralis; who is in possession of manuscripts crucial to Clayton's work. Syralis is intrigued by the magic surrounding Clayton and agrees to teach him how to control his abilities. But there is an obvious attraction between Syralis and Clayton and when a dragon wants you, they want to keep you like any other pretty bauble they possess and Clayton doesn't want to be a prisoner for the rest of his life.

This story does have a good plot and introduced the reader to an interesting world of magic and magical creatures but the length doesn't allow the reader to enjoy much of it. This is another short story where I feel the world and characters could use a longer narrative. This is a fun little romp though and is good for readers who may want the titillation of lust but no actual boning. 3.7 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Capsicum Head" by L.J. LaBarthe

*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review and is rated 18+

This book follows the efforts of Pete and his lover Jon as they try to make their band Capsicum Head a success. Since their first gig was a failure, they are hesitant to try again.

And... That's pretty much all the conflict here. There's no battle of the bands type thing, no rangling owners to give them a chance just the two gigs and Pete and Jon being together. This is very much a slice of life story but a little too much; meaning it all comes off as too mundane. Jon and Pete are likable enough and obviously are hot for each other, the premise of a multi-racial gay couple is very interesting but it all came off as humdrum. I felt I was consistently waiting for something big to happen. Sadly left me unsatisfied despite the decent writing. 2.7 out of 5.

 

Lenni Reviews: "Pathogen" by Jessica L. Webb

 

*This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review and is recommended 18+

In this second entry into the Kate Morrison Mystery Series, Dr. Morrison is tapped to solve a mystery surrounding a deadly viral outbreak in a rich little town called Hidden Valley. Working with her girlfriend; Sargent Andy Wyles, Kate scrambles to simultaneously treat her patients, find out how to stop the virus, deal with demanding rich people, and navigate her new relationship with Andy.

This is not the type of book I usually pick up as medical thrillers just aren't my thing but this time I wanted to step out of my comfort zone. I found the collection of smart, capable people to be a relief. There are ill meaning characters and a pretty annoying bully but nobody working to solve this problem is grossly incompetent. Sometimes a stupid character will be used for plot purposes but not here.

Andy and Kate are a true power couple; quick thinking, intuitive, and well-developed but I do feel I would have needed to read the first book to get the full impact of what happens between them. This is especially evident in the ending (which I will not spoil) where the combined events and stresses of both books impact the ending. And as this is an LGBT novel, there is a little smut but the soul of this book is the medical mystery. It may not be my usual fare but I enjoyed it nonetheless. 3.5 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Rainbow Gap" by Lee Lynch

*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review and is rated 18+

This sweeping novel follows Jaudon Vicker and Berry Garland's relationship over the course of 15 years. Set in Florida during the 1950's and 1960's, the book starts from their childhood when the classically girly girl Berry protects the boyish Jaudon from bullying classmates. We are along on their journey through college, Vietnam, even the budding LGBT community all while they stay bonded in a deep and powerful relationship.

You can feel in every word how much love was put into this book. The setting is real enough that you feel transported back in time and the level of detail becomes hypnotic. However, this book also gets bogged down in those details and the actual story slows to a crawl. When the plot moves, dear gods this book is beautiful. Otherwise, you feel every inch of those 342 pages. It's worth it though to get the full impact of Jaudon and Berry's journey. 3.9 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Leo Loves Aries" by Anyta Sunday

*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review and is rated 18+

Twins Theo and Leone have both lost their significant others to each other. Theo's girlfriend and Leone's boyfriend paired off and the twins decide to lick their wounds with school work and junk food; until their wedding invitation arrives in the mail. They both agree to show they've moved on by not only attending the wedding but choosing dates for each other. When Jamie Cooper applies to be their roommate, Theo thinks he's perfect for his sister but finds Jamie so infuriatingly amusing that their friendship deepens to something more.

As far as "gay for you" romances go, this one does it right. I've read too many of these where the straight guy has all these icky feelings about another man's naughty bits and has to get over that because he's attracted to a specific man. Here, Theo had dated only women in the past and considered himself hetero but Jamie as a person, sparks his interest. Theo doesn't stress about his orientation or how he can't understand being sexually attracted to another male; all he knows is he adores Jamie. This makes their pairing all the more genuine and it was easy to get invested in what's happening to them.

As for the rest of our cast of characters, they are all written very well so they feel real; flaws and all. The steamier scenes are placed perfectly within the narrative, despite the short courtship. You don't get the sense Theo and Jamie tumble around randomly just because there hasn't been a sex scene in a while. They make an adorable couple to follow on their journey and the ending is sweet and satisfying.

If I had a gripe, it would be some unexplored bits like Theo's fear of water and you don't get to know the ex's very well. I thought the water would come into play in the climax of the story and other than Theo's ex - Sam - being thoughtless, they don't get much back story. Those are VERY minor criticisms and didn't take away from my enjoyment of this book.

If "gay for you" is your thing and you want a fairly lighthearted M/M romance, I recommend this. Theo and Jamie are just all around fun to read. 4 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Fenced-In Felix" by Cheyenne Blue

*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review and is rated for 18+

Felix Jameson has been working on turning her family's land into a hospitality business including cabins, campgrounds, and trail rides with her own horses. As she's doing errands and distributing some promotional materials around her small Australian town, she meets Josie, a drifter currently bar tending at the local watering hole. Felix tries to avoid getting involved but Josie also needs a place to board her horse; Flame. But Flame looks eerily like a recently stolen racehorse, leading Felix to wonder what this woman she has fallen for may be involved in.

This book is in a series called "Girl Meets Girl" but it functions perfectly fine as a standalone story.

I got a real good sense of the Australian outback and Felix and Josie as characters. I love how the mystery surrounding the horses moves their relationship and while that initial event brings them together; it follows along with them in a very real way. As the mystery deepens, so does Felix and Josie's connection. It's also comforting for everything to be wrapped up in a realistic way so we avoid an unrealistically neat ending.

If I were to nitpick, I would say that the ending needed an epilogue for some of the unanswered questions as to the fate of the horse after the investigation (I am trying to avoid spoilers). Also, it kinda bugged me in the beginning when Felix kept saying Josie wasn't beautiful. And I don't mean "she wasn't beautiful; she was - insert descriptive term like 'compelling'-". It it was just eh, not pretty. Ok then, what are you attracted to? Just her butt? I got over it but it raised my eyebrow... Overall? 4 out of 5. A very sweet and saucy lesbian romance.

Lenni Reviews: "Better with Bacon" by Matthew Lang

*This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review and is rated for 18+

David, Patrick, and Li Ling have been a trio for years; with Patrick and Li Ling dating since high school. Two weeks before Valentine's Day, Li Ling dumps Patrick and ends up in David's bed. But Li Ling calls the next morning and she's pregnant. Assuming Patrick will go back to her, David takes a job assignment out of town to drown his sorrows in work and random hookups. Will these friends turned lovers come together or is all hope lost?

What's great about this book is having a collection of decent people. It is such a trope to have randomly bitchy or manipulative people in order to make the main characters look even better but here, the characters act SO rational, I almost didn't believe it at times. I think I have gotten too used to massive irrationality in my love stories...

It's also great to see a more multicultural cast. More stories need more non-white characters.

Now, I will freely admit I requested this title to review because, bacon. Bacon is amazing. So, my biggest gripe is that bacon wasn't shamelessly crammed into the plot as much as possible. But that's just because I'm silly. Other than that, my only other gripe is how some characters are too rational in some areas and not rational enough in others. David runs off without talking to Patrick AT ALL. He could have waited 10-20 minutes but then again, the rest of the book wouldn't have happened.

All in all, this was a cute read! I enjoyed it and give it a 3.5 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Whiskey Business" by Avon Gale

*This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review and is rated for 18+.

In order to get his hometown some much-needed money, Ryder Waites is selling his family's whiskey recipe to a company named Bluegrass Bourbon. To seal the deal, he has to convince a hard-assed representative from the company; Adam Keller. Keller is out to prove he can get by on his own merits and not rely on his rich family's money and reputation. As the stuffy Adam audits the distillery, their attraction grows. But Adam doesn't want to get attached as this is supposed to be a quick business trip and nothing more.

At 17% I had snorted laughter out loud at the sentence "That sort of dislike-to-lovers thing only happened in Harry/Draco fanfic." I have read way more of those than I care to admit before I grew out of that to... Well, books like these.

The story generally follows that formula, though. Couple meets, instant attraction, hot smexy times, misunderstanding, reunion and resolution. What sets this story apart is the setting. The town of Gallows Grove feels like the real star here with its fun residents and pun laden business names. The writing gives this place real heart and makes it come alive around our two very likable leads. A perfectly serviceable romance with a fun setting, I give this a 4 out of 5. 

Lenni Reviews: "Spell Cat" by Tara Lain

*This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review and is rated for 18+

Professor Killian Barth teaches the history of witchcraft and has a unique perspective on the matter considering he is indeed a witch. He is the most powerful male witch to come along in generations.  Keeping his identity a secret from regular humans, he catches the eye of the quantum physics professor; Blane Genneau. Their attraction is instant but Killian is being forced to marry another witch, Lavender, in order to save the witch race by pumping out magical children. But not only is Killian gay, Lavender is in love with someone else, and Killian finds the magnetism between him and Blane is too strong to resist. There's also the added rub that if a witch sleeps with a human, it will drain the witch's power away. Can Killian find a way to not only be with the one he loves but overcome prejudice against humans, find a way to save his race, and convince a man of science to believe magic is real?

First off, I have to point out that Lain made Lavender a likable character. It's so easy to fall into that trope of one of the people in the forced marriage being a complete horror to make the main character look even more put upon. But Lavender is a kind, sweet person and even tries to help Killian whenever she can. That was very refreshing.

While this book was decently written and cute, sometimes it felt a little contrived. It has this fanfiction like quality to it where everyone is too perfect, too pretty, and sex literally tears the skies apart it's so good. I mean, geez, nobody even had an interesting mole or tattoo... I also would have liked to see the fantasy elements explored more. I know that they're technically supposed to take a back seat to the romance but there are some interesting concepts here that I felt were glossed over to get the couple where they needed to be. But I do give this book credit for turning a couple tropes on their heads, having some fun characters and steamy romance scenes. 3 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: "Timing" by Mary Calmes

*This book was given to me in exchange for an honest review and is rated 18+.

Stefan Joss has been invited to be in his best friend's wedding. Not only does his boss take this as a chance to take on a sales deal to the trip to Texas, Stefan has to deal with his friend's brother, Rand Holloway; who has made no effort to restrain his hatred of Stefan. With the chaos of the wedding and meeting with his client, Stefan learns there is more to Rand's feelings than hatred and his business deal ends up risking his life.

While meant as a romantic mystery kind of story like Mystery of Nevermore, the mystery in this book took far back seat to the romance. Not a criticism, just something I noticed. I can see either adding more of the mystery or taking it out entirely and just having the wedding be the backdrop that brings Stephan and Rand together.

Anyways, Rand as a hard-ass cowboy coming to terms with how he fucked up and will do his part to fix it and Stefan putting in effort too worked for me. I liked them both and I wanted to see them together. The smexy times are prevalent and positively indulgent so if you want a healthy dose of manluvin, this book is more than happy to dole it out along with some romantic sappiness.

When it came to the action/mystery parts, I kinda got whiplash. You're crusin along in this lovey dovey romance and WHAM! Rape! Murder! Guns!

"Well... That took an uncomfortable turn..."

"Well... That took an uncomfortable turn..."

Even so, I enjoyed this book. You can feel the love all over; even aside for our main pair. The details in describing ranch life (Rand owns a ranch) were written well enough to get a real feel for the setting and I ended this book with a cheesy grin because it was so damn sweet. 4 out of 5.
 

Lenni Reviews: Dreamlands #1 by Felicitas Ivey

Keno Inusaka is a hacker who stumbled into the computers of a secret organization called The Trust. This organization prides itself on hunting demons so they kidnap Keno and keep him prisoner, letting the world think he's dead. When the facility he works in is breached, Keno finds himself in the Dreamlands; living among the same sort of creatures The Trust kills. He is given as a gift to Samojirou Aboshi, a demon, who treats Keno with more respect than anyone at The Trust ever did. When a team of soldiers come to bring him back, Keno isn't sure if he wants to go, having found a place where he is safe and loved. But The Trust doesn't want to let him go.

This is a pretty awesome first outing for a fantasy series. It's well developed with fun world-building, interesting characters, and an engaging story. Keno and Samojirou are a cute couple and their relationship develops slowly over time. They don't jump into bed right away because Keno's past abuse is addressed and worked through with patience and care; so there isn't much in the way of out and out smut. There are some steamy love scenes so this book is for mature audiences.

If I had to complain about one thing, it would be that the story is terribly short on decent human beings. A lot of fantasy or science fiction stories have "the monsters are more human than the humans" angle but I found myself thinking too often that there are too many assholes in this book. It made me kinda depressed! Other than that, 4.5 out of 5 for this book! I look forward to the next one!

 

For more reviews and silly things, check out Haunting Hypatia.

Lenni Reviews: Song of Song by L. J. LaBarthe

Song of Song is a science fiction romance by L. J. LaBarthe. Set in the far future where humanity has expanded beyond Earth, this book stars Dex (short for Dex742A-GR23), a genetically engineered man called a Boxie, and his AI cat, Manx, fleeing their home in search of freedom. Dex has been created to serve one purpose and if he deviates from that purpose, he will be killed. Once he and his fellow Boxies have been ordered to turn in their AI companions, Dex is too attached to his friend and decides to flee. While in outer space, Chen Lau Song is a fugitive fleeing the oppressive government on a sentient and evolving ship called Fa'a. The government wants to use Fa'a as a weapon but as the genius who created her, Song decided to run with his ship to make sure she couldn't be used as a tool or a template for other warships. Dex and Song meet when Fa'a is damaged and Song commandeers the ship on which Dex is hiding. Their mutual desire for freedom is what brings them together just as the despot seeking control of Fa'a and the entire galaxy; Cory Lewis Atticus Melvile (you can tell he's bad because he's way over named...) plots and schemes - willing to go to any lengths to capture them.

The sci-fi world built in this novel is very well done even if the characters are a bit cliche. You have the eccentric genius in Song, the man who wants out of his slotted life in Dex, and the evil businessman in Cory. It really is the setting and the overarching plot that sets this book apart; making it more a sci-fi with romantic elements than the other way around. If you're looking for the emphasis to be all on the budding relationship between Song and Dex, you may be let down. But the story as a whole is very entertaining. Manx and Fa'a are adorable characters and the rest of the cast and crew are likable characters fleshed out just enough so you care about what happens to them. Except for Cory... He's a twit.

If this story could have been fleshed out some more, it would have been even more fun. The universe created here has so much potential and I hope LaBarthe has more planned for it. I mean, come on. You CANNOT have a character named Shafaquat: Sultana of Agony and Cleverness with no back story! I can see an entire book about just her, easily.

If you like your sci-fi with a sweet little M/M romance, Song of Song will live up to your expectations. While some adult situations are present, they're not overwhelming and I had a great time reading this book.

Lenni Reviews: "Bane" by Amelia C. Gormley

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I must have said a dozen or so times in my tenure as a book reviewer here that I'm going to be writing a review for you guys for the second book in a series without having read the first one. Well, surprise! Bane is the sequel to Strain, which I have indeed read! I happened upon it in one of my free ebook newsletters so when I saw this book in my review box, I snatched it up.

Bane follows the further adventures of Rhys Cooper, a man with a strange immunity to the virus which has ravaged the planet. The virus has three strains that do three different things: infect you with a disease called Rot, turn you into a monster called a revenant, or a super-human they call Juggernauts (or Jugs for short). Scientists in the Clean Zone have caught wind of Rhys' immunity and asked him to be a test subject for a possible vaccine but his partner; Darius Murrel, and the rest of Delta Company don't trust the government. It is the same government that developed this virus, had the Jugs fight for them, then banished them from society.

While as steamy (read: smutty) as the first book, Bane focuses more on the twisted story of trying to find a cure and a safe place for uninfected people and the Jugs they fear. With the virus in the book is so virulent, transmission and risk of another outbreak is a constant concern. The tension surrounding a possible vaccine, how it will effect the balance in the word, and whether or not it will even work, was the most riveting part for me, and I look forward to a sequel if Gormley has one in the works.

As for the M/M romance aspect of it, Rhys and Darius are pretty well established as a couple. The main romantic conflict comes from characters introduced in a different book; Nico Fernandez and Zach Houtman. Nico is a Jug and Zach is one of the doctors working with Rhys on a cure. Kept apart for a decade by Nico's infection, they are thrown together again. Their possible reconciliation is the backdrop to a well built, post-apocalyptic landscape.

To sum it all up, Gormley has sharp world building skills and a red hot pen for her erotic portions of her books. If you like your M/M romance with a sci-fi bent, Bane is a welcome addition.


If you like Lenni’s reviews; she also has her own writing posted at www.atthequillsmercy.com

Lenni Reviews: "Evac" by Michael Murphy

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"Evac" is the story of a war veteran named Benjamin - Benji for short. While on assignment in Afghanistan, Benji loses his entire unit; including his partner, Blade. While his body mended, his mind is fractured; as he suffers from debilitating PTSD flashbacks. Finding it nearly impossible to reconnect as a civilian, Benji claws for any sort of release from his mental pain; participating in ever more dangerous activities until finally ending up on a bridge ready to end it all. It is here where he meets Nick, a young man on the same bridge for the same reason. The two men find common ground and give each other hope for a better future.

"Evac" is a quick but powerful story. Even at under 200 pages, I found myself both empathizing with Benji and enraged at the utter incompetence of the people around him. With such tragedy, it is very gratifying for him and Nick to get together with their much deserved happy ending. But what a ride getting there! Random sexual encounters, a brief stint at a BDSM club, picking bar fights; Benji hits all the self-destructive marks before  he meets Nick and is set on a more balanced path. Yup, I said BDSM club. And Michael Murphy doesn't flinch a bit in his depictions of the lifestyle and all the smutty encounters, so count this among the "mature audiences only" books.

And in case you're all wondering: "Lenni? What's with all the naughty LGBT books!?" Well, to be perfectly honest, I think more of these books should be reviewed on sites like ours and - I freely admit - I made myself a complete pest at the Dreamspinner Press booth at BEA this year. I have a LOT of books from them and I'm hell bent on reviewing as many as possible. Expect more of these in the future.

To get back on point, "Evac" packs a quick emotional punch with good pacing and development in a small package. Benji's unflinching honestly and pain to tug at your heart even if the book hits all the sorta cliche romantic tropes. But, they're cliche for a reason; it's how romances work. If you're looking for a quick and smutty romance with a happily ever after, "Evac" will do ya well.