Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M New Adult romance from Annabeth Albert. CONVENTIONALLY YOURS puts two competitive gamers on a cross-country trip to get on the Pro Tour, and they find out their longstanding tension has space for attraction and even…love.
About the book:
When two “big name fans” go head-to-head at a convention, love isn’t the only thing at stake.
Charming, charismatic, and effortlessly popular, Conrad Stewart seems to have it all…but in reality, he’s scrambling to keep his life from tumbling out of control.
Brilliant, guarded, and endlessly driven, Alden Roth may as well be the poster boy for perfection…but even he can’t help but feel a little broken inside.
When these mortal enemies are stuck together on a cross-country road trip to the biggest fan convention of their lives, their infamous rivalry takes a backseat as an unexpected connection is forged. Yet each has a reason why they have to win the upcoming Odyssey gaming tournament and neither is willing to let emotion get in the way―even if it means giving up their one chance at something truly magical.
Conrad Stewart and and Alden Roth are both in their early 20s and regular competitors in the Odyssey card game YouTube program called “Gamer Grandpa”. The titular “Grandpa” is Professor Tuttle, a mathematics professor at Gracehaven College, where Conrad was a student and Alden is in a graduate program. The vlog is super popular and Prof Tuttle has gotten comped tickets to Massive Odyssey Con West (MOC-West) in Vegas for himself and the whole group of players that regularly appear in the vlog. Reactions are mixed for different reasons.
Conrad’s father cut him off financially when he was outed for being gay–and he’s working to stay in New Jersey and away from his homophobic father in Kansas. He’s living hand to mouth, and hardly has the money to pay for his asthma medications, let alone a trip to Vegas. But, if he’s out there and plays well he could get sponsorship to join the pro Odyssey tour, and then his money woes would be over. Not that he can afford to go…until Prof Tuttle suggests a week-long drive out to Vegas in Black Jack, his personal cruiser. He can’t drive alone and thought the team could help him, and stop at some game shops along the way to film pick-up games for the vlog and drop off some merch. When Conrad’s latest couch surfing experience disappears, he’s got nothing left to lose. He’s in.
Alden is deathly afraid of flying, so a cross-country drive is really the limit of his mobility. And, he’d like to be in charge. He’s neurodiverse, whatever that means–and I’m not being flip about it. Neurodiversity is a spectrum of neurological issues that can include anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive, and may weave into the autism spectrum. Each neurodiverse person is unique and needs a tailored care/management plan. For Alden’s case, he’s definitely rocking anxiety pretty hard, but there seems to be a touch of obsessive-compulsive and what had once been called Asperger’s. For years his moms took him to doctors for a diagnosis on his “issues” and this has left Alden feeling like he’s broken. Add to that, he can’t seem to make it into medical school despite his stellar grades. It’s hard for Alden to read context clues in facial, body or verbal cues. It’s why he seems so prissy to Conrad, who’s a bona fide charmer of all god’s creatures. Not sure where his life is truly headed, Alden volunteers to ride along to MOC-West. He can’t let Conrad with the big tourney, after all.
Two other of the vlog team are preparing for the trip, Payton, who’s flying out to Vegas, and Jasper, who will also join the road trip. And, catastrophe strikes. Prof Tuttle needs to stay back for medical treatment, but he urges Conrad, Jasper and Alden to take Black Jack and gas money to make the trip as planned. And then Jasper’s family emergency leaves Alden and Conrad in the car together. They have an animosity on the vlog that translates into real life. Alden is jealous of Conrad’s easy going nature, feeling Conrad embodies all the qualities that his moms had never found in himself. Conrad just thinks Alden is an insensitive, controlling jerk, not really getting that Alden’s lack of inflections and emotional struggles are an issue he can’t truly control.
Long hours together bring reality to the forefront: these young men have a lot of trauma to deal with, and they do so through small and halting conversations, at first. Their experiences on the road cause them to share more and more of their personal demons with one another, and the long nights in shared hotel rooms lead to even more intimate moments. Conrad is drawn to Alden’s fragile-seeming frame and elfin good looks, while Alden’s always coveted Conrad’s affability and experience. I really liked these guys, who are both sympathetic from the beginning. They both want to win the MOC-West tournament, and they are in excellent position to do so. Once they start falling for one another, however, life gets real complicated, real quick.
I’m not going to say more about the plot except to say that the tournament is handled deftly, and I felt like I could have been there watching. The gaming aspects of the book are easily enjoyed even by an old lady like me who never did get into these sort of games. There is such a great description of the Odyssey community, I couldn’t help but be swept away in the fervor of it all. I’m a huge fan of road trips, and I was grateful for the vicarious exploration I got while reading this book under Illinois’ ‘do not travel order’. I fell in love watching Alden and Conrad support one another, first as friends and later as lovers. There really is NOT a lot of sexytimes in this book, but the emotions are off the charts. I highly recommend!
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!