What Susan Mac Nicol always does is provide us with truly unique and engaging characters. Lenny is certainly one-of-a-kind, a cross-dressing business person who took a giant leap of faith to cement the branding required in the admittedly quixotic fashion industry. Brook is the antithesis of everything Lenny-as-Laverne represents, yet he is no less a savvy businessman in his own right.
We meet Lenny/Laverne in between relationships—Brook is but a recent memory that still stings, but events soon conspire to bring them together once more, though this time on opposite sides of a conference table. What Brook doesn’t know, and suddenly realizes, is the setup for what follows—semi-comedic and often angst-filled parry and riposte set pieces with lots of opportunities for misunderstandings and their attendant fallout.
The first half of the book is filled with a number of funny and endearing scenes with the irrepressible Lesley who was the main character in Book 4, Suit Yourself. But here is where Cross to Bare goes off the rails and into the plight of many long-running series where minor characters, or those from earlier books in a series, highjack the current novel to the detriment of the main characters’ journey and the overall narrative flow.
A little Leslie goes a long way, and his dominating presence becomes an irritation that invites skipping. An additional issue is the closeness of Lenny and Leslie’s names. It’s not always readily apparent whose viewpoint is taking center stage—those two characters are far too alike for comfort’s sake.
And it hasn’t gone beyond notice that with each new release and “pairing,” there is a tendency to try to create an ensemble cast by bringing back old characters, old locales and continuing story lines that seem to feature excessive emphasis on others’ HEAs rather than concentrating on Lenny and Brook resolving their issues. Brook actually gets short shrift in the book, making the plot and narrative relatively unbalanced.
And one final complaint/disappointment is that in the second half of the book, instead of scenes displaying how each man learns to accommodate the other, their interactions are relegated to one sex scene after another, with little variation or advancement of emotional growth to justify such a single focus.
While I did enjoy Cross to Bare, it’s definitely not my favorite of the series. I give this one 3.5 Stars.