Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary M/M military romance from Annabeth Albert. SQUARED AWAY is the fifth book in her Out of Uniform series that features romances for Navy SEALS stationed in Coronado, California. Having read and loved OFF BASE, AT ATTENTION, ON POINT and WHEELS UP, I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into this new one–and what a different love story this was!
About the book:
In the wake of tragedy, SEAL Mark Whitley rushed stateside to act as guardian to his sister’s three young children. But a conflicting will could give custody to someone else—someone Mark remembers as a too young, too hot, wild party boy. Even after six years, Mark can’t shake the memory of his close encounter with Isaiah James, or face up to what it says about his own sexuality.
Isaiah’s totally over the crush that made him proposition Mark all those years ago. In fact, he’s done with crushing on the wrong men altogether. For now, he’s throwing himself into proving he’s the best person to care for his cousin’s kids. But there’s no denying there’s something sexy about a big, tough military man with a baby in his arms.
As the legal details get sorted out, their long-buried attraction resurfaces, leading to intimate evenings after the kids are tucked in. A forever future is within reach for all of them, if only Mark can find the courage he needs to trust Isaiah with his secrets—and his heart.
Navy SEAL medic Mark Whitley’s older sister and her husband died in a car wreck, leaving behind three young kids. He’s rushed home from his latest mission, fully expecting to assume care for the kids. He’s their closest blood relative, even if he has hardly seen the kids in their lives. He isn’t ready to be challenged for custody by Isaiah James, cousin of the children’s father. Isaiah and Mark met several times over the years–notably in the run-up to the wedding, when a barely-legal Isaiah kissed Mark at the reception.
Isaiah has been a part-time caregiver to his cousin’s children since their birth. He even has his own room in the home Mark grew up in–where Mark’s sister’s family lived since their parents died in a plane crash a few years back. Isaiah wants nothing more than to care for the kiddos–as thanks for the years his aunt cared for him while his widowed father traveled. Isaiah may not be able to settle on a career his father approves of, but he’s clearly a great caregiver to the children, who adore him. And he could manage on the generous life insurance and estate that’s left behind, not that it’s his motivation.
Mark doesn’t trust Isaiah–he’s 24, outrageous and well, he gets around the men. Not there’s a real problem with Isaiah’s sexuality, except for Mark’s bigoted uncle who will counter-sue for the estate if Isaiah is granted guardianship. And, well, Mark isn’t sure Isaiah won’t hare off to find himself a man…he’s so young and surely wants to party. On the other hand, Mark can’t take full custody and still maintain his commission. Being a SEAL means weeks-long missions and months-long deployments. Plus, he has zero skills with kids, unlike Isaiah.
While the legalities play out, Mark and Isaiah share Mark’s childhood home, and the care of the kiddos. Mark gains first-hand knowledge of Isaiah’s capabilities, and he can’t deny the attraction building between them. But, Mark’s barely had any attraction in his life, and the discussions that ensue help Mark to recognize he’s someplace on the asexual spectrum–demisexual, or gray ace, they think. Which is cool with Isaiah, as it turns out. He loves what intimacy they can share, and their emotional connection is far more valuable to Isaiah at this point in his life; he’d begun adulthood with a crush on Mark, and his feelings are only stoked by their closeness and camaraderie.
There’s so much emotion going on here, with grief filling the first half of the book. Excitement and exhilaration do pick up in the second half, and Isaiah may be young, but he’s not afraid to stand up for the kiddos, who are sweet!, and finally for himself. Expect a super-sweet happy ending that brings this broken family together for good.
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.
Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!