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    AUDIO REVIEW: Natural Twenty by Charlie Novak

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    Roll For Love: Natural Twenty – Charlie Novak

    Plants are easier than people—that’s Leo’s rule of thumb. After all, nobody really wants a man who looks like he belongs in a biker gang but would rather spend his time buried in books and flowers. It’s just easier to be single. Until he meets the owner of the new book shop.

    Jacob Morris knows two things: he’s really attracted to the man who runs the local flower shop, and he doesn’t date. Not when he’s still healing from a bad breakup, has a new business to run, game nights to organise, workshops to host, and a website to build.

    When friendship blooms into something more, Leo and Jay must decide whether to roll the dice and take a chance on love or keep forging ahead on their quests alone. Will their roll yield a one or a perfect, natural twenty?

    Natural Twenty is an 80,000-word contemporary MM romance featuring Dungeons & Dragons, secret flower language bouquets, a spoilt Staffy (or two), and a best friend who is basically a gothic prince. It is book one in the Roll for Love series and can be read as a standalone.

    When I picked this up, I had no idea what “natural twenty” meant. I learned later this refers to the roll of the twenty-sided dice in Dungeons and Dragons. If I understood it correctly, getting a natural twenty means maximum success.

    Natural Twenty is the first book of the geek-tastic series, Roll for Love. This is an insta-attraction, slow-burn, friends-to-lovers story of Leo, florist and Jay, bookseller. It’s packed full of all things geeky, from scifi and fantasy books, Dungeons and Dragons, cosplayers, steampunk conventions, superhero shows and pop culture references.

    Leo looks like a lion but is actually a kitten. His intimidating, taciturn exterior puts off a lot of people. They failed to notice underneath it all, there was a sweet, gentle giant who gives his heart too easily. His sole companion in life is his dog, Angie.

    Jay is an adorkable transplant from London, who left his old life after his ex cheated on him. He came to live with his friend, Edward, to mend his broken heart. Starting fresh, he bravely opened his own bookstore in Yorkshire. On his opening day, he received a welcome bouquet from Leo, who had decided to check out the new establishment in the neighborhood.

    The two struck a friendship but couldn’t deny the attraction between them. Friendship was slowly turning into an enjoyable, comfortable relationship when angst, internal conflict and struggling business got the better of Jay. He decided to put a temporary halt on things because he couldn’t handle all the pressure.

    This should actually be a more straightforward book. I couldn’t help but feel it should have been a lot shorter, perhaps a novella. Things could have been resolved a lot quicker.

    It showed Leo and Jay going about their day to day. This is fine, even enjoyable sometimes but there was too much internal dialogue. Mostly, I struggled with keeping my attention focused on the story. I felt the dreaded saggy middle. Happily, Joel Leslie’s fabulously on-point narration kept me going.

    And while I liked reading about the how-tos of running a small business, especially a bookstore, going through some business minutiae did feel a bit tedious at some points. Ditto with the Dungeons and Dragons part. Having never played the game, I couldn’t fully appreciate all the references.

    On the upside, the book had a lot of wonderful side-characters. Chief of whom is Edward, cosplayer and gothic prince, who basically stole the show. All the time I was reading, I kept thinking how much fun his book would be.

    My favorite part here was floriography, the language of flowers. Each chapter is marked with a flower and their meanings. I have zero interest in flowers but the way Leo put together his bouquets for Jay, carefully picking each flower and leaving pieces of his heart in each blossom, that was absolutely beautiful! Especially coming from a guy who struggles with words. It was such a deeply romantic and meaningful gesture. It made me appreciate flowers a little better.

    Things started picking up when Jay’s bookstore became viral. From then on, the story moved faster and I was able to enjoy it more. Despite my complaints about the draggy bits of the book, I still love the way Leo and Jay were brought together, first as friends, then as lovers and then later when they were reunited. It was a sweet, fluffy journey made more charming with some floral magic.

    All in all, Natural Twenty might not have rolled out maximum success but it’s still a good roll. Read if you love adorkable elven bards who sing Spice Girls offkey, gothic princes who drink in tea sets that match their wardrobe and most especially, gentle giants who speak in flowers.


    Thank you to Gay Romance Reviews and Audible UK for giving me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

    3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it

    Soundtrack: Bloom
    Artist: RKCB

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    REVIEW: Future Ex Enemy by Kate Hawthorne & E.M. Denning

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    Future: Future Ex Enemy – Kate Hawthorne & E.M. Denning

    If there’s one thing David Cranston hates, it’s Luis Montgomery.

    When he finds out they’ve both been invited to participate in a floral contest that could make or break both of their careers, David dives in, ready to win. But there’s only one problem, and there’s only one bed.

    David and Luis are forced together and tension isn’t the only thing running hot between the two of them. David realizes he wants to come out on top…in more ways than one.

    A drunken night and a hungover morning leave both men regretting actions that found them a little bit too close. Unfortunately, they keep getting closer, and closer, until the lines between hate and desire blur into something far more complicated than either of them bargained for.

    Back home, Luis and David struggle to make sense of their feelings, and Luis has to face some hard truths. He thought he hated David and his roses and his baby’s breath and his lemon verbena lotion, but he was so wrong.

    Because if there’s one thing Luis Montgomery loves, it’s David Cranston.

    That brilliant title and that perfectly written blurb! I had to read it of course.

    Future Ex Enemy is the third book of Kate Hawthorne & E.M. Denning’s Future series. I haven’t read the first two books but now I had to get my hands on them too. The characters there made appearances here and I’d love to know them better.

    The MCs for book 3 are two rival florists with opposing aesthetics and strong opinions. David Cranston is a traditionalist, a zealous proponent of roses and baby’s breaths. Luis Montgomery bucks tradition and is avant garde enough to use funeral flowers like lilies as wedding decor. Their animosity towards each other started the first time they met. David was being an asshole to Luis when the younger man applied for a job at his shop. The older man had his reasons which was later revealed in the book.

    A wedding from a rich, influential family had the two of them working together. Then a floral arrangement contest pitted the two florists against one another. They were taken out of state for the contest and had to share a room. Putting two men who hated each other so much and wanted to fuck each other so badly in the same bed? Fire and gasoline.

    I love enemies-to-lovers stories and I love it even more when the characters really hated each other. It makes the eventual transition to lovers that much more squee-stastic. The authors did a good job showing the antagonistic relationship and the inevitable shift of feelings between the two florists. They genuinely liked pissing each other off while throwing off USTs like fireworks. There’s an 8tracks playlist entitled “Don’t look at my fucking boner when we fight” <– that’s David and Luis right there.

    This is a highly recommended book if you’re into the trope or simply want to enjoy a story about two men who were passionate about flowers and each other. I live for the fights, the tension, the zingers, the coming together, the HEA. Also, I will not look at lemon verbena lotions the same way again.

    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Hatefuck
    Artist: The Bravery
    Album: Stir the Blood