Hi there! I’m so excited to share my review for a new contemporary M/M romance OUT TODAY from Annabeth Albert. You know I loved TREBLE MAKER and the Portland Heat series, so I jumped to get this Christmas romance. STATUS UPDATE is a heartwarming tale of two men finding themselves in a very uncomfortable position–and it turning out so, so good!
About the book:
Adrian Gottlieb is winning at life. He’s a successful video game designer with everything a man could ask for, including a warm comfy ride to Denver and a date for his sister’s wedding. But he finds himself in need of a total reboot when he’s left stranded at a snowy campground in Utah. Holiday plans? Epic fail.
That is until Noah Walters offers him shelter for the night and a reluctant cross-country ride. Nothing about the ultraconservative geoarchaeologist should attract Adrian, but once he discovers Noah’s hidden love for video games, the two connect on a new level. Soon, a quiet but undeniable chemistry sparks.
Something doesn’t add up, though. As the miles accumulate and time runs out, Noah must face the most difficult choice of his life. Meanwhile, Adrian must decide whether he’s ready to level up. Is their relationship status worth fighting for, or has this game ended before it’s even begun?
Book 1 of the #gaymers series
How about a little taste?
Noah knew the dog was trouble as soon as he and Ulysses entered the campground’s off-leash dog area. The little guy—some sort of Chihuahua/mini-pin mix in a yellow-and-green checked coat—stood in the center of the scrubby grass, barking his fool head off. The only human in the dog area sat at the picnic table on the far side, completely absorbed in his shiny phone, oblivious to his dog strutting around like all eight pounds of him would be enough to keep potential threats out.
Ulysses gave Noah a look, like “you really expect me to ignore that?” Noah tightened his hold on the tennis ball chucker. Ulysses never did well competing with smaller dogs for his toys. He unclipped Ulysses with a stern look.
Still yapping, the little dog rushed over to inspect his new enemy. Predictably, Ulysses wandered away to do his business. He was too old for these sorts of games.
Noah gave a halfhearted wave in the direction of the owner, but the guy didn’t look up from his phone. The young guy was a typical hipster tourist—thick tortoise-framed glasses, artfully messed-up dark hair, with a thick purple streak, falling over his forehead. Slim build, but his wide shoulders stretched his too-thin jacket, making the shiny fabric ripple with his motions. He wasn’t any more prepared for November in Utah than his designer dog. Still, he was a cute guy, if one was the type to notice things like that, which Noah was not.
Noah looked away, studying the sheer cliffs that surrounded the Capitol Reef National Park. Didn’t matter how much time he spent in Southern Utah, he never got tired of the view. Phone guy was missing the light shifting into one of those perfect late fall sunsets that made the early dusk worth the loss of daylight. Pink streaks mingled with gray sky to cast a rosy glow over the scrubby grass and low fence of the dog area.
Rowwwr. Ulysses flopped at Noah’s feet, a deep beseeching whine rattling out of his barrel chest. He was eighty pounds of unhappy. He’d waited patiently all afternoon while Noah worked, and now he was missing out on his ball time thanks to the teacup gatekeeper.
“Okay, but play nice.” Noah threw the ball hard with the chucker toy, going for enough distance to outstrip the tiny dog’s ability to keep up with Ulysses. Not surprisingly, the little guy was tenacious, cutting off Ulysses’s path to the ball. Ulysses gave a warning woof, and Noah broke into a run, heading after the dogs.
“Down,” he called out. Ulysses wouldn’t attack the smaller dog, but he wasn’t above a major tantrum. And despite the smaller dog acting as instigator, people would see the huge black dog and toss out the “aggressor” label. Noah preferred to exercise him late in the day—Ulysses simply didn’t enjoy playing with other dogs, and Noah wasn’t one to force his dog into uncomfortable situations.
The little dog stood over the ball, yapping up a storm while Ulysses barked and growled, ignoring Noah’s command to sit.
Finally, the owner hefted himself off the picnic bench.
“Pixel, baby, what are you doing?” the owner called in a melodic voice that didn’t inspire Noah’s confidence in the man’s ability to control his dog. “Did the big doggie scare you?”
Hah. Typical. Noah snorted. “Can you grab the ball?” He didn’t trust those little dog breeds—too quick to snap. He’d nearly been bitten trying to retrieve a ball more than once.
“Oh sure.” The guy reached under Pixel—typical cutesy name for an annoying dog—and delicately plucked the ball free, but instead of handing it to Noah, he gave it a toss, sending both dogs running.
Oh great. Noah let out a slow breath, little puffs of vapor in the crisp evening air that did nothing to defuse his tension.
“It’ll be okay.” The way-too-handsy guy patted the sleeve of Noah’s parka. “They just need to work it out. Pixel loves to play.”
Noah took a step to the side. Who did that? Touched complete strangers? But the guy kept up his friendly grin, not unlike his dog, who kept gamely chasing Ulysses. Ulysses won the race to the ball this time and hightailed it back to Noah. Not releasing his prize, he whined softly.
“Hey, boy. You got a toy?” The guy knelt to dog level and extended a hand, but instead of sniffing, Ulysses shook his head.
“Sorry. He’s not much on new people.” Neither am I. Noah’s voice sounded rough to his own ears—too many days with only Ulysses to talk to.
“It’s okay.” The guy straightened, then extended a hand to Noah. “I’m Adrian Gottlieb. You been at Capitol Reef long?”
“Couple of weeks.” He returned Adrian’s handshake, hating it when a little buzz shot up his arm. Unlike his own gloved hand, Adrian’s hand was bare, a hint of a tattoo playing peekaboo with his cuff, his grip strong and firm. And Noah had absolutely no business noticing anything more than the guy’s relentless friendliness.
Adrian smiled expectantly as he released Noah’s hand.
“Oh, I’m Noah. And that’s Ulysses,” he added, because dog people always wanted to know all about the dog. No doubt the guy was bursting to tell Pixel’s life story.
“Add-dreeee-an,” a heavily accented voice called from the gate. A beefy guy close to Noah’s age leaned on the fence, bald head gleaming in the setting sun. “I’m lonely. When are you coming back?”
“Coming,” Adrian shouted, then gave Noah a shrug with a “what can you do?” expression on his face. He grabbed Pixel and jogged across the field.
Noah nodded like he knew anything about handling demanding friends. Adrian greeted the mammoth dude with a quick peck. Okay then. Not a friend. He should have guessed, but he was a bit slow about relationship stuff. The country was changing, even way out here, but no one would dare try even that much PDA in his tiny West Texas college town. His stomach gave a weird flip—not quite discomfort, but something else he refused to name. Time to return his attention to Ulysses. He hurled the tennis ball as hard as he could.
This book is filled with awkward, Aww!, and awesome.
First off, Noah is a dedicated archeology professor seeking tenure in his ultra-right wing west Texas Christian university. He’s a reclusive, closeted, 35 y/o man, sharing company only with his dog, Ulysses, for years now. The pressures of publishing are weighing on Noah, who’s taken a sabbatical term to write a research book. At a desolate RV campground just outside of some of his dig sites, Noah’s quiet is disturbed when the RV parked beside his erupts in turmoil, leaving a flamboyant young man and his sweater-clad Chihuahua-mix, Pixel, standing in his stocking-clad feet watching his newest boyfriend depart with their rented RV and all of his belongings.
Talk about awkward.
Noah takes pity on Adrian, offering him temporary shelter in the event that Trent returns. Yeah, not so much. Adrian is despondent, not just because this is yet another failed long-distance relationship, but because he and Trent were supposed to bond on the drive to Denver to attend his sister’s wedding. Adrian just cannot show up alone, because reasons (which are valid!) and he doesn’t know what to do.
Noah’s not inclined to give up his precious writing time–with a serious deadline looming–but he can’t get over how drawn he feels to Adrian. Yeah. That kinda drawn. Attraction, something that Noah has squelched in all its insidious forms for years now, is burning him inside out and twisting him around. Hearing all of Adrian’s sob story he’s just, well, he’s just going to drive him to Denver, dang it!
Thing is, along the way, Adrian discovers some very real truths about the good professor. 1. He’s gay 2. He’s closeted 3. He’s sexy 4. He’s celibate
Adrian would LOVE to erase number four from the list, but only if Noah’s a willing participant. While they endure bad traffic, blizzard conditions and a budding mismatched dog friendship, Adrian and Noah become very, very close. Noah has been able to stifle his sexual desires, but the experience of companionship that he feels–for the first time–with Adrian is hard to get over. So, why shouldn’t he try? After all, Noah’s on sabbatical. His contract’s morality clause is ironclad, but what harm is there in enjoying Adrian in his RV home, relishing tea made to order and soothing neck rubs? If he takes these few days, Noah thinks, and even a few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, to share his life with a kind and compassionate man, he could build up memories that would sustain him in his life as a celibate man. (PS–this troubles Noah more because he feels as if he’s taking advantage of Adrian’s good nature, not because he feels sex is necessarily sinful…)
I seriously laughed out loud (and nearly choked on my dinner!) experiencing an epic “I volunteer as tribute” moment. In the meantime, Adrian and Noah bond over their mutual love of videogames–Adrian is a coder for a crowdfunded MMORPG that Noah has supported. They really connect, sharing other interests like bad 80s sci-fi and gay fiction.
Adrian is so supportive of Noah’s sheltered life, never condescending over the reasoning behind Noah’s reluctance to “come out.” The tenderness was an 11, for real. And the sexytimes are hawt. Appreciative and timid Noah is a great match for Adrian, who’s been criticized by partners for being too aggressive, and too picky in his bedplay. The way they work it out together is spicy and sweet, pour on the heat. Yum.
Expect some big changes for the good professor, and all for the best. Expect Adrian to stand up for himself, and Noah, and vice versa. Great emotional depth, and positive supporting characters, are present, too. This is the beginning of the #gaymers series, and I think we got a hint about the MC of the next book near the end of this one.
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Good luck and keep reading my friends!
About the Author:
Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.
Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two children. Represented by Saritza Hernandez of the Corvisiero Literary Agency.