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
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Aster Valley is a contemporary romance series by Lucy Lennox. I think she’s one of the best writers of the genre. As I mentioned before, it’s hard for me to get into a pure contemporary romance book. But here, the author swept me along with her wonderfully written stories.
The titular Aster Valley is a small town somewhere in the Colorado Mountains if I am not mistaken (sorry, I forgot the location). It’s formerly a ski resort town with it’s own unique charm that drew the characters in. The books are about the couples who eventually found a home here.
Aster Valley: Winter Waites – Lucy Lennox
Gentry Kane is a rockstar I’ve been half in love with my whole life. And now he’s my patient.
When Winter Waites knocks on the door to the snowy cabin where his next physical therapy patient awaits him, he has no idea his dream celebrity is on the other side. Gentry Kane is everything Winter has always fantasized about. But it was only a fantasy. What happens when Winter is faced with the flesh and blood man who wants more than physical therapy? Can one night in a cozy cabin lead to more? And how will that affect Winter’s growing career in the tiny, charming town of Aster Valley?
Winter Waites is the prequel to the series. This is the story of how the famous rock star Gentry Kane found the love of his life among multitudes of fans in the middle of a concert.
Occupational therapist Winter Waites has been a fan since the days Gentry Kane was singing in college campuses. To suddenly discover that your patient is not only your dream rock star but that dream rock star has been looking for you all this time, well, that’s mind blowing to say the least. It’s a highly improbable but very romantic premise. Don’t we all wish it would happened to us? Teen me would have been over the moon had Billie Joe Armstrong knew I existed.
The story is very sweet and light on the angst. I loved how the author ramped up that awkward, tension-filled first meeting between them. I felt that scene! It’s easy to see how, beyond the physical attraction, Gentry would fall in love with the gentle, caring soul that is Winter. I didn’t even mind the insta-ness of it all. It was kismet.
The only thing here was that Gentry’s hand was injured, which was why he needed a therapist in the first place. Winter was telling him he needed to keep in a brace. Then they had sex without putting Gentry’s hand back in the brace. All the while, I’m like, dude, your hand! Your hand!
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
Aster Valley: Right As Raine – Lucy Lennox
As the first openly gay professional football player, I can’t afford to make any mistakes, on or off the field. And the absolute biggest mistake I could make right now would be to fall for Mikey Vining, my best friend, employee and, more importantly, Coach’s baby boy. I might fantasize about Mikey at night–every night-but actually touching him would be a serious personal foul.
And falling for him? That’s completely out of bounds.
I’ve learned my lesson about falling for one of my dad’s players. They’re a bunch of spoiled jocks with more muscles than brains. I’ve spent years learning to keep my eyes, and my hands, to myself. But resisting the temptation becomes nearly impossible when Tiller Raine and I end up together in a small cabin in a remote Colorado town.
Suddenly, there’s not much to do but look at each other. And talk. And hopefully, hopefully touch.
But what happens when our stay in Aster Valley is over and it’s time to return to the real world? Will Coach blow the whistle on our relationship? Or will Tiller admit there might actually be something he loves more than football after all?
Right As Raine is the nerd/jock, forbidden romance of football star, Tiller Raine, and Michael Vining, his personal assistant/chef/coach’s son/long-time crush he couldn’t live without.
Tiller is an award-winning, highest paid pro athlete. Also a lovable gentle giant who adores his coach’s son. I loved how he calls him “my Mikey“.
Mikey is feisty, talented, ambitious and hardworking. He’s been crushing on his boss for the longest time but keeps his hands off. I really liked Mikey for keeping it professional. His family is shit. They say they accept him as gay but then go out of their way to exclude him.
As with the prequel, the story is very sweet, and fluffy. It is mostly light until the later part. I loved the slow-burn-ness of it all. The book really took time to build up the simmering feelings between Tiller and Raine, resulting in delicious anticipation and fabulous chemistry. Their shift from friends to lovers felt so natural and very easy yet very satisfying.
There’s a bit of angst involved with Mikey having to deal with his homophobic dad. The coach is a manipulative bastard, a homophobe who pretends to be accepting but underhandedly sabotages Mikey and discourages Tiller from openly pursuing relationships.
The scene where Mikey confronts the bastard was difficult for me to go through. Not because it was badly written but because of all the negative emotions the evil dad generated. I nearly dropped the book so again, good job to the author for the effective writing.
The rest of the Aster Valley boys were awesome. Gentry and Winter make appearances as well as Mikey’s best friend, Sam, and the cute geek, Truman, who will be paired with him in the next book.
All in all, Right As Raine is a heartfelt, comfort read. The family drama might pull you out of it but stick around because it is ultimately, a very rewarding book.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
Aster Valley books can be read as standalones but I recommend reading them in order to get the best experience. The boys will make it worth your while.
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Say You’ll Be Nine – Lucy Lennox
One dilapidated cabin in need of renovation.
Two stubborn men pretending to be a couple.
Three summer months to get the job done.
Four tangled legs in only one bed.
Five cameras catching it all for YouTube.
Six hundred thousand Instagram followers.
Seven nosy family members with Opinions.
Eight thousand reasons they should never fall in love.
Nine million reasons why they will.
Say You’ll Be Nine is a standalone novel.
Isaac ‘Nine’ Winshed is all kinds of adorbs and sweet and gentle and shy. He would rather be hit by a train than let someone be hurt under his watch. When he was a child he didn’t want his favorite chicken, Sir Pecks-a-lot, to be eaten so he let it live in his closet.
The man lives to help other people. He wields a hammer like Thor and has the heart of Captain America. His superpower is home renovation. He vlogs about DIY projects on Youtube. The best thing about him is that he didn’t feel too good to be true. I loved how author, Lucy Lennox, made him alive and relatable.
Nine is the ninth in a family of 12. All his life, he’s been dating girls but never really felt the spark. It wasn’t until he was with Cooper when he realized something about himself. For him, it’s not the the gender but the person. And Cooper was that person.
Cooper Heath is an aspiring actor hoping to make it big in Hollywood. He’s best friends with Eli, Nine’s big brother. Cooper was the opposite of Nine in many ways. He’s witty, extroverted, very talkative and a bit dramatic. He’s highly self-reliant and doesn’t like asking for help. He’s currently back in town, living with his mom and twin brother, Jackson.
Jacks has a rare blood disorder and they needed money for a bone marrow transplant. The fastest way was to accept a sponsorship for an LGBT-oriented DIY show on Youtube where Coop and Nine pretend to be a gay couple and renovate a cabin in the woods.
Coop can’t tell his Phillips from a Robertson but he’s very social media savvy. His superpower is Instagram. The project should be easy. All he needed to do was make them look good.
Except…how NOT to fall for the very attractive lumberjack+fake boyfriend whom you were kinda crushing on since when you were a kid? The same lumberjack+fake boyfriend who’s the younger brother of your best friend and by all accounts, straight?
Things are getting real really fast!
I want to see that time-lapse video of the cabin being renovated. As Nine said, it was like watching him and Cooper fall in love. It was fantastic to see how the characters developed and their romance transition from reel to real.
I totally loved how Nine embraced everything with an open heart and an open mind. He himself admitted he was naive but he learned fast and he gave it his all. Coop was very patient with him and they talked everything out, at first. It was wasn’t until the latter part that they headed towards that notorious miscommunication+separation route.
After which we are rewarded with a grand gesture moment that was so cute and so endearingly Nine. I wished this was a movie because that scene would be so beautiful on screen.
Cooper was no slouch either. He pulled off his own grand gesture with perfect timing with the best Christmas present ever. That ending was pure ♡ ♡ ♡ !
Say You’ll Be Nine is my first book from the author and I loved it to bits! This is a contemporary, opposite-attracts, forced proximity, fake boyfriend romance with a slight enemies-but-not-really angle thrown in. There’s also the brother’s bestfriend trope and first time gay going on. Everything came together in the best way possible.
It’s pretty much guaranteed, after reading this book, you’ll want a Nine in your life too!
4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away