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: "Crossing in Time" by D.L. Orton and Micah McDonald

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

Geneticist Isabel is given a once in a lifetime chance; to go back in time and get a second chance with her lover, Diego. But this is for much more than just love as their relationship may hold the key to saving humanity from mass extinction.

Now, I know one would think that knowing me and my other reviews; a "time travel, dystopian romance" would not only have my eyes rolling out of my head but send me into Serena's Plight levels of anger. Neither of these happened. I LOVED this book.

Isabel and Diego are both whip-smart, strong brave characters and there were precious few moments in the plot where I doubted they were anything else. And while their relationship takes center stage, supporting characters like Matt are quick witted, kind, and funny. All of them have such chemistry I didn't want to leave them (and I will be getting the next books in the series).

The time travel bits can get confusing and part of me doesn't want to believe anyone could accidentally set off a nuke (but with how things are with a president who tweets unintelligible typos, it seems sadly likely) but overall, this story had even a cynic like me believing that one relationship could mean saving the world. 4.7 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: "Cross My Heart" by Catt Ford

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

Daniel Hunter sees Lana Renault pass him in the streets and is immediately smitten by this beautiful, elegant, and classy Parisian woman. But Lana is Roland Reynolds; who feels more comfortable living as Lana and wearing women's clothing without judgment. Having had painful and violent reactions in the past, Lana has resigned herself to a life of loneliness. Daniel's gentle and romantic pursuit of her is very tempting but Lana is terrified of how Daniel may react to the truth.

This book reminds me of those old black and white romance movies with some deliciously smutty bits thrown in. At times it does fall into the trap of being too perfect but this is a book for hopeless romantics who believe in happily ever after - which I am not. But, with Ford's writing, I almost believe it. Starting off a bit slow but touching my heart, I give this book a 3.7 out of 5. 

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: "Counting to Zero" by A. J. Quinn

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

The NSA orders Dr. Emma Thorpe to put together a team of hackers - off the books - in order to help the US government fight cyber terrorism. One of the people tapped is Paxton James, currently in an Indonesian jail because she was set up for a crime she didn't commit. Paxton is willing to deal as long as it gets her out of jail and it doesn't hurt that Emma is hot. But trust won't come easy to the betrayed Pax or the hardened agent Thorpe and they must learn to deal with their mounting attraction and fight a cyber criminal with ties to Pax's criminal past.

If you like your romances a little slow, this is a good example of the main couple having an instant attraction but not the insta-love so many romance novels tend to use as a trope. The situation these characters are in gives them some real issues to deal with so the real focus of this novel is the cyber crime. Quinn has created some smart, interesting, and fun characters who are a pleasure to get to know but somehow, it all comes off a little rushed. Granted, they're chasing a cyber-criminal trying to kill people so it's not like they have time to sit around and have tea to discuss their feelings. There is enough here to enjoy a quick, romantic thriller with some strong female characters. If I had one real gripe, it's that Pax must be part terminator because every ten seconds she's getting injured and recovers unrealistically fast. 3.8 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: "Oria’s Gambit" by Jeffe Kennedy

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

With her kingdom, Bara, captured by the Destrye, Oria gambles on a marriage with the conquering leader; Lonen. Since Bara is ruled by magic, the highly powerful and sensitive Oria takes a huge risk in marrying Lonen since he cannot use magic and Bara has never had a non-magic using ruler. The main reason for this gamble is Oria's cruel and despotic brother, Yar; who may likely begin another war despite the peace her kingdom has just attained.

Having not read the first part, there is enough here to make you understand there was a brutal war and that our main pair would like to spare their respective kingdoms any further bloodshed. Oria and Lonen are well developed enough and the writing is competent enough for you to get emotionally invested enough to want them to succeed. But the book does spend a great deal of time meandering around Lonen and Oria's obvious attraction to one another and their hope to overcome Oria's inability to even touch Lonen without her magic causing her pain. The pacing lost it's sense of urgency when the book spends so much time on the romance. The love story didn't distract from the major fantasy elements but once Yar came back into the picture, I felt the characters should have spent less time making gooily eyes and more time getting ready.

Don't get me wrong; Lonen and Oria have good chemistry and the overall story kept me interested enough to not only finish it but to want to know what happens in the next installment. If you like fantasy in your romance, this isn't a bad offering despite being pretty short and ending on a cliffhanger. 3.7 out of 5.

Lenni Reviews: Because You Despise Me by J. S. Cook

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In this novella, the setting is Morocco in 1941. WWII is in full swing and a German courier winds up dead in a brothel in the city of Mariff. Police chief Nicholas Renard suspects the brothel owner, Jacob Plenty, knows more about the killing than he lets on. However, Renard has been in love with Jacob ever since they served together during the war and is involved with the Free French underground movement; two things that could easily land Renard in a concentration camp. Both Jabob's and Renard's pasts collide with the danger looming in the form of Major Danzing; a fanatical sadist sent to investigate the murder.

This book is short and sweet. It has as much intrigue and sentiment as a WWII spy flick and was enjoyable to read. Every man has believable secrets to keep and pain to hide, making the ending all the more bittersweet. Bear in mind, this is a male/male romance so there's some man lovin' in this book. If you're looking for some historical romance for your pleasure in this romantic month, J.S. Cook has a nice one for you here. A bit short for the price ($6.99 on Kindle) but I can't say I'd regret spending the time or money on this original and satisfying story. 

Lenni Reviews: "Pathfinder: Exodus Book Two" by Gun Brooke

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In the wake of utter chaos on their home planet, the Oconodians are fleeing their world on a massive ship called Pathfinder. Due to riots caused by Changers; people who have developed various sorts of powers, this ship will take them on a long journey to a new world. Chief engineer and seasoned soldier Adina Vantressa has the responsibility of keeping all two million people aboard safe by overseeing the proper functions of all the systems keeping them alive. One of those millions is Briar Lindemay; a nurse who, along with her sister Caya, have boarded the ship in search for a better life. Briar joins the expedition as a nurse but also is hiding the fact that her sister is in fact a changer and Briar has illegally boarded the ship to protect her young sister from the violence at home. Thrown together by an obvious sabotage attempt, Adina and Briar become fast friends with a chance at something more. But the same sabotage that brought them together was not the first and with Caya's ability to see visions increasing in strength, Briar is forced to decide if her budding romance is worth risking her sister's safety or Adina's life as well.

The science fiction elements to this story are spot on and very interesting. This novel starts off running and doesn't stop for very long; even when the main characters are trying to get to know each other. What is gratifying about this book is since the situation is so dire, every character has no other choice but to be strong. Male or female; every character is a professional trying to ensure the survival of millions of people during a major interplanetary evacuation and resettlement so nobody is whining here. I know readers are sometimes on the lookout for strong female characters in particular and Brooke gives us an excellent balance of capable people where gender isn't important.

As for the romance, if you're looking for some steamy trash, this isn't the place. In  my opinion, this is a science fiction novel with romantic elements and a couple of steamy scenes here and there. And I mean mature rating steamy, so don't be shocked by some woman on woman sexytimes.

Coming into this series on book 2 makes it so I cannot comment on how this book relates to the first but Pathfinder does end with the promise of more. But since the romance was so secondary in my opinion, I would love to see more about how these adrift settlers manage when they get to their destination. This is not to say that the romance is not executed well, it's just the story surrounding it was very cool. Briar and Adina are a cute couple and your root for them to come through the chaos around them. Kudos so you, Brooke! I look forward to book 3.

Lenni Reviews: 'Just A Sketch' by A. J. Marcus

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Leo Caldwell leads a mundane life as a tech support operator at a call center. He doesn't date much and spends most of his time with his two best friends; Julie and Felix. The three of them decide to change things up by taking an art class together and that is where Leo meets Aud Sorenson, artist and owner of the Bright Thoughts Gallery. The two have an immediate attraction and under the guise of Aud wanting to sketch Leo, they begin to date; touching off a whirlwind of drama that tests their budding relationship to the limit.

This is a cute little love story but when I say whirlwind of drama, I am not kidding. The moment these two meet you are rooting for them but Aud gets a  stalker who threatens their lives and causes so much trouble, Aud and Leo simultaneously question if it's all worth it and knuckle down to stay together. It's all very sweet but as a reader, I had to wonder if these two got hexed or something because so much goes wrong so quickly. This male/male romance does end in a happily ever after (noted because some readers prefer their romances that way) but I think I would have liked to see the sketching featured a little more. It is in the title after all and that initial reason for them to meet up got lost a bit in my opinion. But that's me being very nit-picky.

In the end, this is a cute little story that was fun to read. Aud and Leo are almost too adorable and the smutty scenes aren't over done or silly. It's just spicy enough to make the book interesting but not tawdry. If you like your overly sweet couples in a tidy 200 page romp, Just a Sketch is worth the read.

This book will be available from Dreamspinner Press on December 4th, 2015.