Clashing Attraction in CONVENTIONALLY YOURS–A Review

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.

My Review:
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!

Interested? You can find CONVENTIONALLY YOURS on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and Kobo.

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.

Find Annabeth online on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Fighting Ghosts in the BURN ZONE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M smokejumper romance from Annabeth Albert. BURN ZONE is the first book in her brand-new Hot Shots series that feature rural firefighters who live on the edge of danger. This book features a dysfunctional family and one man’s determination to keep a promise to his late best friend–over his own happiness.

About the book:
Introducing Annabeth Albert’s Hotshots series—the emotions and intensity of Chicago Fire with the raw, natural elements of Man vs. Wild.

Danger lurks everywhere for Central Oregon’s fire crews, but the biggest risk of all might be losing their hearts…

Smoke jumper Lincoln Reid is speechless to see Jacob Hartman among his squad’s new recruits. Linc had promised his late best friend he’d stay away from his little brother. And yet here Jacob is…and almost instantly, the same temptation Linc has always felt around him is causing way too many problems.

Jacob gets everyone’s concerns, but he’s waited years for his shot at joining the elite smoke jumping team, hoping to honor his brother’s memory. He’s ready to tackle any challenge Linc throws his way, and senses the chemistry between them—chemistry Linc insists on ignoring—is still alive and kicking. This time, Jacob’s determined to get what he wants.

Close quarters and high stakes make it difficult for Linc to keep his resolve, never mind do so while also making sure the rookie’s safe. But the closer they get, the more Linc’s plan to leave at the end of the season risks him breaking another promise: the one his heart wants to make to Jacob.

My Review:
Lincoln Reid lost his best friend Wyatt Hartmann in a big fire about nine months ago. They had been friends throughout childhood, Wyatt’s friendly family taking care of neglected Linc from a young age. Wyatt was the first person Linc came out to–and pretty much the only person. Wyatt’s youngest brother Jacob is gay, too, and Wyatt wasn’t happy about it back when Jacob came out. He could see that Jacob had designs on Linc and Wyatt, in his backhanded bigoted way, forbade Linc from ever messing around with his little brother. Made some crude comments about Linc somehow turning Jacob into a gay man.

That was years ago, and they managed to keep their friendship together, but Linc holds true that he shouldn’t have any romantic interest in Jacob–even though they are both grown men and Wyatt is dead. Jacob has just joined Linc’s smokejumping crew of hot shots, one of many replacements for the new fire season. Linc is having enough trouble keeping himself together with the ghosts of Wyatt haunting him, and Jacob taunting him. Jacob isn’t the flighty queer boy his family thought couldn’t manage his life. He’s a determined firefighter with years of experience and certifications. And, he’s tired of his family getting all up in his business. Especially not the lingering sentiment of Wyatt who wasn’t a fantastic brother for Jacob coming up in the world.

Jacob and Linc have real chemistry together; they have always had. Their connection is growing as Jacob proves himself day-in and day-out in the spring training. And, let’s face it, both Linc and Jacob are lonely. Linc has no living family, and Jacob’s family are too mired in their grief over Wyatt–and mad that Jacob’s joined the smokejumping crew–to be a good support. Jacob proposes for him and Linc to have sex just to get the attraction out of their systems–and Linc is too attracted to let the opportunity pass him by. He’s been alone too long, and grieving his lost family and friend to push Jacob away.

One night becomes another, and another, with Jacob spending more and more time in Linc’s home. This means more than sex, their companionship and camaraderie fills the empty holes in each one’s lives and hearts. And, as the work becomes more dangerous, Linc needs to make decisions to put Jacob at the center of his life, while still honoring his friendship bonds with Wyatt. It’s a big change, and would mean Linc coming out. Can he? Will he?

It’s a solid grief/comfort story mixed with the intense love of any swoony romance. Jacob’s family is a tense affair, with their disapproval of Jacob’s professional life choices, and the grudging approval of his life partner, well, it makes for some fights. Fights Linc doesn’t want to have. He feels like losing the love of the Hartmann’s–his surrogate family–could kill him, even if Jacob remained by his side. It’s a touch call, and leads to a great deal of internal and external conflict for Linc. He feels like dating Jacob would dishonor the love the Hartmann’s have showed him since he was a young boy–and they are quick to remind him how much he owes them–even if it’s hypocritical. I really felt Linc’s anguish, and grief, and tenderness and struggle. He’s a good man, and he wants to take of his “family” the best way he can. Even if he has to sacrifice himself to do it. And it’s Jacob’s strong love and fierce contrariness that pushes Linc to change his stance. Because, when it comes down to it, living without Jacob in his life makes his life not worth living.

Expect family drama, confused firefighters, hot sexytimes and cool insight into the work and experiences of smokejumper heroes on the fire lines. The end is a definite HEA, with growth beyond grief and new love to light up days and warm up nights. I liked the story a lot, and I look forward to more stories in this compelling setting.

Interested? You can find BURN ZONE on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and Kobo.

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.

Find Annabeth online on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Falling Into ROUGH TERRAIN–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M military romance from Annabeth Albert. ROUGH TERRAIN is the seventh 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:
The camping trip from hell may be the first stop on the road to happily-ever-after.

Navy SEAL Renzo Bianchi has a soft spot for Canaan Finley, and not only because the man makes a mean smoothie. He’s the first guy to get Renzo’s motor revving in a long time. But when he agrees to Canaan’s insane charade—one all-access fake boyfriend, coming right up—he never expects more than a fling.

Creating a hot Italian SEAL boyfriend to save face seemed like a good idea…until his friends called Canaan’s bluff. Now he’s setting off into the woods with the very man who inspired his deception, and Canaan is not the outdoorsy type. The sparks are already flying when a flash flood separates them from their group, leaving Renzo and Canaan very much trapped…very much alone in the wilderness.

Working together to come up with a plan for survival is sexier than either of them expects. But back in the real world, being a couple is bringing its own set of hazards…

My Review:
Renzo Bianchi is a navy SEAL, code name Rooster, who’s had some hard times finding a good partner. Generously endowed, but with a heart of gold, Renzo is tired of his mediocre sex life. He’s attracted to a man at his local smoothie shop–Canaan Finley–but he’s not sure he wants to try even hooking up; fully expecting disappointment. He has a big and loving family, but a childhood accident still haunts him, pushing to be the best ever son to his parents.

Canaan is a local to the San Diego area, having been born and raised there by his grandparents after his teen mom couldn’t. Canaan spent years touring with a local punk band, and only gave up drumming professionally when his grandma was dying. He now lives with his elderly gramps, and he’s one semester away from graduating with his nursing degree. He works at the smoothie shop to pay his expenses, and he loves the SEAL eye-candy that rolls through, but he’s made Rooster his mission, at least for a hook-up. Their flirtation leads to a nice date, and a chance to hang some more: Canaan’s old band is planning a reunion camping trip in the Grand Canyon and they’ve invited Canaan (and his PARTNER) to come along. Only, Canaan doesn’t have a partner. The chemistry between Renzo and Canaan seems great though, and he tentatively asks Renzo to come along…and pretend to be his boyfriend.

Renzo can tell that one of the bandmates is especially hostile to Canaan, which gets his protective instincts all riled up. That, and their chemistry is really off the charts, especially once they get some alone-ish time. The trip is tense, though, and it only gets worse when Canaan injures his foot, and the weather creates a harrowing situation. Stranded and waiting for rescue, Renzo and Canaan have lots of time to bond, which ramps up their romance.

When the dust settles and they’re back to “real life” Renzo and Canaan are game to give being real BFs a try. It seems to be going great–Canaan has all sorts of tricks for dealing with his enormo phallus. Each man seems to be falling hard, but there are new obstacles. Thanks to the accidents on the trip, Canaan’s old band mates want him to step in and do some local gigs. And, before they’d even met Renzo had applied for a transfer to a base in Virginia–so he could be closer to his family in Philly. Canaan meets the family, and helps Renzo get past some of his emotional hang-ups, so it’s a big issue when Renzo’s new orders come through. I likes how tender this story was, and how cared for Renzo and Canaan made the other man feel. Being inside their POVs helped me see how much each of them wanted to please the other–sacrificing some parts of their own joy or comfort to boost the other. It was so sweet, and bittersweet, with the specter of huge life shifts in the offing.

Expect the resolution to come after a decent break and some serious soul-searching. I liked how they reconnected, and their plans for the future seemed well-considered and realistic. It’s another happy SEAL and his mate–and I really enjoyed it from start to finish.

Interested? You can find ROUGH TERRAIN on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.

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.

Find Annabeth online on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Getting Cozy in TIGHT QUARTERS–A #Throwback Thursday Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M military romance from Annabeth Albert. TIGHT QUARTERS is the sixth book in her Out of Uniform series that features romances of Navy SEALS stationed in Coronado, California. Having read and loved OFF BASE, AT ATTENTION, ON POINT, WHEELS UP and SQUARED AWAY, I knew I’d be in for a thrilling romance.

About the book:
Petty Officer Bacon, a navy SEAL and ace sharpshooter, has been on the front lines of more than his fair share of dangerous ops. Yet when a minor injury relegates him to the beta team, he’s tasked with what may be his riskiest assignment yet: the silver fox journalist he’s babysitting is the hottest, most charismatic man he’s ever encountered.

Award-winning journalist Spencer Bryant may have been named one of Pride magazine’s most eligible bachelors of the year, but he’s not looking to change his relationship status. He’s a consummate professional who won’t risk his ethics or impeccable reputation by getting involved with a source. Even a sexy-as-hell military man. But while Spencer can resist his physical attraction to Bacon, he has less control over his emotions—especially when the mission goes sideways and the two men are trapped alone.

Getting out of the jungle alive turns out to be easy compared to facing the truth about their feelings for one another back in the real world. And whether or not they can build a future is a different story altogether.

My Review:
Petty Officer Bacon is a Navy SEAL tasked with escorting an embedded reporter on their latest mission. He’s not happy about it, especially he’s nervous about maybe spilling info that could incriminate two former SEAL team members, Lowe and Strauss who were the MC’s of WHEELS UP. Plus, it’s never good to be on-mission, but not a part of it. As a chaperone, Bacon’s orders are to bring the reporter back in one piece, even if it means bailing on his team.

Spencer Bryant is out to write another award-winning book to highlight issues with veterans and enlisted personnel not getting the support and care they need. A previous confidante, and friend, for whom Spencer wrote a best-seller, was a retired military man whose PTSD put him over the edge. While on mission, Spencer is humbled by the bravery and camaraderie of the SEAL team–and he’s unwillingly attracted to his handler, Petty Officer Bacon, who seems to not have a first name. While running training exercises, Spencer and Bacon develop a camaraderie of their own–tinted with unrequited sexual tension. Their actual mission deep in the terror cells of the South Pacific goes terribly wrong, however, and Spencer struggles with the guilt of Bacon leaving his men in danger to just save him.

The navy shuts down Spencer’s access to the SEAL teams as soon as he’s brought back to base, yet Bacon knows how to find him before he leaves for the US. They know that the navy won’t be happy about any fraternization, even if Spencer’s no longer embedded–and yet the need for affirmation adds gasoline to their smoldering attraction. It should only be the one night, but Spencer’s thrilled when Bacon reaches out later to tell him that things went better the second time around, and his teammates, though wounded, survived.

This communication brings Bacon and Spencer together in a way each man truly needs–contact that supports, not distracts. On leave, Bacon drives from San Diego to LA to visit Spencer and the sparks are ridiculous. These guys fit together so well, Spencer’s far away life providing Bacon with an emo outlet he hasn’t had since high school. Still, the story Spencer wants to write, feels compelled to write, centers on suicide and depression of veterans suffering PTSD, and it’s a wedge growing between them even as their relationship matures over months from buddies-with-benefits to exclusive boyfriend status. When Bacon finally learns about Spencer’s planned book deal he’s crushed–the SEALs are his family and this could hurt them–would certainly offend them that Bacon is dating a man who trashes the navy and other armed forces. It’s the deal-breaker Spencer expected, but he didn’t think he’d fall for Bacon first…

It’s a little bittersweet, but a brief separation and some counseling on both sides helps each man find a pathway back. Bacon’s connection to an amputee helps him see that PTSD and depression are true killers of his comrades, while a mentor helps Spencer remember that life isn’t just a story–it’s meant to be lived and savored. I liked how they each make amends, with Spencer being present for Bacon just when he needs him, and Bacon coming out and trusting his team to support his love for Spencer. There is a lot of support for Bacon, and he’s happy to life his life in the open. The finale brings the story full-circle with Bacon baring his non-classified secrets and them building a life together.

Interested? You can find TIGHT QUARTERS on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.

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.

Find Annabeth online on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Matching Goals LEVEL UP–Release Week Review and Giveaway

Hi there! I’m super excited to share a release week review and giveaway for a new contemporary M/M romance from Annabeth Albert. LEVEL UP is a companion story of the #gaymers series because one of the MCs is a side character we met in both CONNECTION ERROR and OFF BASE. If you liked STATUS UPDATE or BETA TEST, you’ll enjoy this one, but it’s totally a standalone, too

Catch the excerpt, my review and enter the giveaway for a $20 GC below!
About the book:
Landon can’t believe he’s let himself get roped into participating in a charity calendar, let alone one that features tastefully photographed nudes. The genius physicist is hardly model material and he’s dreading the nude part of the photoshoot. Amid his reluctance, the one bright spot is his emails back and forth with the photographer.

However, Bailey ends up being not quite what Landon expects, and their first meeting is decidedly awkward. Bailey’s persistent though, and gradually Landon warms to the burly photographer, and they discover they have a shared love of gamer culture.

A tentative friendship is born, but the road from friends to lovers isn’t easy. Landon’s battling past trauma and must decide how much of a risk he’s willing to take. A sexy connection may not be enough to keep them together unless both are willing to put their hearts on the line.

Approximately 40,000 words. Previously released as part of the EXPOSED anthology, and loosely linked to the #Gaymers universe, this friends-to-lovers, hurt/comfort story stands alone with a guaranteed happy ending. Contains a brief mention of a prior assault, but no on-screen violence or flashbacks.

How about a delicious taste?

Bailey was the type who moved a lot as he gamed, biceps flexing, knees wiggling, shoulders jostling. Landon always liked people who got so into gaming, but it was more than a little distracting. His body was quickly coming to associate that orange scent of Bailey’s with good things, and other parts of him apparently liked Bailey’s nearness, which was a novelty because instead of intimidated, as he would have expected, he was more than a little turned on.

“Oh man, that was a rush.” Bailey laughed as both of their health meters dipped to zero. “I’m almost wishing I’d gone into game art, not photography. Amazing how these graphics have held up over the years.”

“Totally. And speaking of art, let me find the Space Villager stuff.” Landon reluctantly stepped away from the game. He headed to the nearby kitchen, where he was pretty the papers were buried with a stack of mail. Paper control was not his strong suit. “You’ll go nuts at the latest screen shots and promo teasers.”

“Cool.” Rather than follow Landon, Bailey went to sit on the couch.

“You want a drink while I’m in here?” Landon called to him after he found the papers under a pile of pizza ads. “I’ve got four flavors of Snapple, soda, and water.”

“Surprise me with a Snapple flavor.” Bailey looked right at home on Landon’s couch, lounging back.

He really did not look at all like any photographer Landon had ever met, and curiosity had him asking, “So why photography? You said you could have done game design?”

“Yeah, I had plenty of friends at the art institute go that direction. But I’ve been in love with photography ever since I worked on our middle school yearbook. I figured out quickly that taking pictures of events and sports was far more fun than trying to do the sports myself, so I did yearbook all through high school, got a photography scholarship to the art institute in Portland.”

“So you don’t play a sport?” Landon had a hard time believing that. With Bailey’s height and breadth, he totally looked like he lived for weekend games of some type.

“Nope. Hopelessly uncoordinated.” Bailey shot him an endearing smile when Landon handed him the bottle of tea.

“Me too.” Landon clinked bottles with him, then held up the papers. “Found the codes. But can I show you some stuff on the TV screen while you have your drink?”

“Absolutely.” Bailey took a long swig of tea, and Landon had to look away before he got mesmerized by Bailey’s full mouth, how it looked when his tongue chased a stray drop of moisture, how pink it was in contrast to his paler skin and brown beard.

Landon queued up the pre-release trailer Josiah had sent him a link to. Bombastic music filled his small living room as on the screen, and a spaceship pulled in for a landing on a planet filled with ruins of a once-powerful civilization. The narrator had an iconic voice and detailed all the special features of the expansion pack. Landon had already watched this a half-dozen times, and it still gave him happy chills.

“Wow. I can’t wait.” Bailey looked suitably awed. “This is even cooler than when War Elf added the mystic raids.”

“I know, right? Now look at the in-game screen shots.” He brought up another video, body relaxing more and more despite Bailey’s nearness. It was just so awesome to have someone new to share this with. He’d been hyped about this all week, but Pike was distracted by his boyfriend Zack’s deployment, Savannah didn’t game much, and the rest of his regular crew seemed to have other things occupying their attention.

Somehow, as he shared more video clips, he drifted closer to Bailey, so that their knees were almost rubbing. It wasn’t a giant couch, so there wasn’t a ton of room to move back, but even so, Landon wasn’t looking for an escape. He was aware of Bailey, very much so, but not nearly as freaked out as he’d been a few hours ago. Instead, his senses seemed to soak up Bailey’s scent and nearness, and it wasn’t until the fourth or fifth video that he realized that he was aroused.

Clink. Somehow Landon’s left hand, holding his drink, and Bailey’s right hand tangled.

“Oops.” He tried to extricate himself without spilling both beverages. Bending to put his on the floor, he hadn’t realized that Bailey had also leaned down until their heads collided.

“Ow,” they said simultaneously.

“Oh my gosh. I’m so sorry.” Bailey reached out, feeling around on Landon’s head. “Did you see stars? Break the skin?”

“I’m fine.” Landon didn’t pull away. Bailey’s hand felt damn nice. Gentle. Soothing more than just the bump on his head. Their eyes met, and he really needed to move back, break this spell, but he didn’t, instead leaning into to the touch. Bailey’s eyes darkened, and he stroked down Landon’s jaw. God, that felt so good, like an extra blanket on a chilly night, warmth he hadn’t realized he was missing. How long had it been since he’d been touched like this? Hugged, sure. He’d hugged Savannah goodnight, and hugged and wrestled around with his best friend Pike at the last LAN party, but neither of those things was touch like this. Caring. Sweet. Arousing.

Bailey leaned in again, way slower this time, all the time in the world for Landon to stop him. But he didn’t. Bailey’s beard tickled an instant before their lips met, a soft slide of mouths. Not aggressive at all, not the on-a-tight-schedule rush of a hookup, Bailey kissed like they had a sleepy Sunday afternoon to kill, like each reaction of Landon’s mattered, like he was trying to memorize something important and was going to take his time learning the lesson.

Landon was the first one to take things further, mouth opening on a sigh, welcoming Bailey’s agile tongue. He tasted sweet, like tea, and minty like the gum he’d popped after the pizza, familiar yet new at the same time. How had he managed to forget how awesome kissing could be? A laugh bubbled up in his chest, but quickly transformed to a groan of pleasure as Bailey nipped at his lower lip.

Not content to let Bailey be the one exploring, Landon sent his own tongue on a quest, tracing Bailey’s full lower lip, delving inside to rub tongues, retreating playfully to earn another nip. Fuck. This was nice. The video switched over to something random, and he barely registered it. He couldn’t say how long they kissed, just that he didn’t want it to ever end.

My Review:
Landon is a wunderkind physics genius we met in CONNECTION ERROR and OFF BASE, as a roommate to Pike–who crossed those series. Landon is bisexual, but he doesn’t date men bigger than himself having been raped in college by strapping athletes. He often struggles with intimacy, in fact, as a result of PTSD stemming from that experience. Still, he’s a sexy, lithe man and has agreed to pose for a “naughty” calendar for a literacy campaign. He’s been in touch with the photographer via email, and Bailey seems like a nice girl–their cyberflirting has Landon intrigued.

Unfortunately, the photographer, Bailey, well…he’s a guy. And gay. And BIG. Turns out the sweet fey-looking girl featured in Bailey’s Instagram feed is his assistant. Landon is flustered, and frustrated, but Bailey is as magnanimous and warm as he had been online. And, they still have common gaming interests. The photo shoot goes well. Well enough that Landon and his best pal agree to drinks with Bailey and his assistant. There is a mutual attraction growing between Landon and Bailey, but Landon’s afraid his anxiety will crop up if they become intimate. Plus, Bailey’s living in Portland, though he has a job prospect that will bring him back to California where Landon lives.

Landon initially shuts down Bailey romantically, but explains why. His trauma causes Bailey pain, knowing that his physical state isn’t something he can change, but Bailey’s still interested in being Landon’s friend, if nothing else. So they continue to game online, and chat over the phone, too. Over the course of another month they build a strong friendship, one that they aren’t sure they want to risk in case getting physical leads to panic attacks. I love though, how Bailey is so down for whatever, and how his mellow attitude brings Landon peace. They have some sexytimes on Skype and that really helps them build on the attraction in a non-threatening manner.

When they reconnect in Cali, it’s a far better experience than the first time they met–and Landon has been seeing a therapist to help mitigate his panic attacks. Plus, it works for him that Bailey is more than willing to let Landon be the more aggressive partner. Landon’s growth stems from a deep desire to make his friend his lover–and he crosses emotional barriers he didn’t intend to address in order to do so. There is a decent amount of steam for the situation, though the conflict is pretty low-stakes. I found it to be a feel-good sort of book, with two decent guys finding unexpected friendship and love that conquers their fears.

Interested? You can find LEVEL UP on Goodreads, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $20 GC.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

Annabeth Albert avatarAbout 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. The #OutOfUniform series joins her critically acclaimed and fan-favorite LGBTQ romance #Gaymers, #PortlandHeat and #PerfectHarmony series. To find out what she’s working on next and other fun extras, check out her website: http://www.annabethalbert.com or connect with Annabeth on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Spotify! Also, be sure to sign up for her newsletter for free ficlets, bonus reads, and contests. The fan group, Annabeth’s Angels, on Facebook is also a great place for bonus content and exclusive contests.

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 active children.

Find Annabeth online on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook.
IndiGo

Military Monday! Getting Life SQUARED AWAY–A Review

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.

My Review:
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.

Interested? You can find SQUARED AWAY on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.

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.

Find Annabeth online on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Forbidden Fraternization in WHEELS UP-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary M/M military romance from Annabeth Albert. WHEELS UP is the fourth book in her Out of Uniform series that features romances for SEALS stationed in Coronado, California. Having read and loved OFF BASE, AT ATTENTION and ON POINT I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into this new one–and what a bittersweet love story it was!

About the book:
Their love is forbidden, but their hearts aren’t listening to rules and regulations.
Lieutenant Dustin Strauss is a reformed man. No longer a twentysomething hell-raiser, he’s his SEAL team’s new XO-and a man with a secret. Or seven. He’s kept his bisexual identity under wraps for years, along with his kinky side and a fondness for the military-themed semianonymous hookup website Joe4Joe. His latest chat buddy is more than a sexy online distraction-they’re taking their very not-safe-for-work relationship into real time.

Petty Officer Wes Lowe has a smart mouth, a take-charge attitude and an uncanny ability for making things go boom. The life of an enlisted man isn’t always enough to satisfy him, but one wild, no-questions-asked weekend with his online love comes close. When a transfer order comes in, Wes feels ready and centered. He’ll make a good impression on his new SEAL team and keep his growing feelings for Dustin on the down low.

But as they log more time online and some very real emotions surface, Dustin and Wes struggle to pretend they’re just a harmless fling. And when his commander introduces Dustin to his team’s newest member, they’re in for the shock of a lifetime…and a crushing disappointment: their difference in ranks means even a friendship without sexual contact could end their navy careers for good.

With their hearts on the line, Dustin and Wes may not survive their next mission, let alone find a way toward a future together.

My Review:
Lieutenant Dustin Strauss has known for a long time that he’s attracted to men. He’s never been with a man, though he knows his family likely won’t be too upset if he were to come out–his younger brother Dylan is about to marry Dustin’s best friend Apollo–you may remember them from book two AT ATTENTION. Still, Dustin’s father has been fixated on Dustin marrying a woman and having kids, neither of which truly appeals. The idea of remaining a lone appeals even less–all his friends are coupled up and Dustin feels very much like a third wheel. Not only is he nervous about his sexuality, he’s ashamed that he’s really turned on by submission. Yet, he’s found a cyber pal via the Joe4Joe app that has filled his long lonely nights with exactly the kind of interactions that push his buttons.

They meet one night when Dustin is visiting the DC area. And it’s the best night of Dustin’s adult life. He and Wes really get along, and their sex is amazeballs–for each. Wes is especially adept at getting into Dustin’s headspace and working through his insecurities. Neither Wes nor Dustin has confided that they are SEALs, and they expect this is only one night. Until Petty Officer Wes Lowe is shipped out to Coronado to fill the demolitions expert position open on Dustin’s 16 man team, of which he’s the second in command.

Now, Wes is under Dustin’s direct command, and it’s wholly awkward. Not to mention completely prohibited. If anyone discovers that they’ve been intimate both Dustin and Wes could be subject to court martial.

They know this. And yet their connection is so strong, so necessary. Wes has a stressful life, constantly awaiting for bad news about his young sister’s failing heart. He’s plagued by insomnia, and finds comfort in his time with Dustin–virtual or in person. Wes is also the only person with whom Dustin can be his whole self, gay and kinky, and feel safe. No matter how many times they say they need to stop, they just can’t quit one another. And, they want more. They want the whole package of companionship and comfort–not just sex. It’s quite telling that neither of them really sought out partners before, and would remain celibate before looking for a suitable partner.

In the course of duty, Dustin and Wes both know their connection is too strong to be healthy, or safe. Dustin feels as if he’s constantly distracted, and this adds to his general dissatisfaction with his commission. He doesn’t get along with his commanding officer, and he’s less and less enthused with command. He’s got friends who’ve left the service, and are all the happier. Could he be? Would he and Wes be able to make a true life together if Dustin made this choice?

This was a really compassionate and bittersweet look into this complex world of military rules and regs. Both Dustin and Wes are great guys who want to be loved for who they are, and have the joy of open companionship. They have real struggles, and it’s heartbreaking to see them leave each other time and time again believing this is the “last time” or “never again.” I found myself wanting to yell at the book, tell the navy to make things better, dang it! And that was telling, for me, how very invested I got into these guys and their developing love story. The end is quiet, but lovely. No giant grand gestures here, because doing so could upset the very complex plan they have in place for eventual forever love. Their patience and understanding was enormous, and I found that to be engaging too. Likewise, their considerate treatment in the steamy bits–the vulnerability and the dirtiness were magic together, and I loved how in-tune both Dustin and Wes were with their needs, and those of the other. It’s a book I won’t soon forget.

Interested? You can find WHEELS UP on Goodreads and , Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, GooglePlay, Kobo.

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.

Find Annabeth online on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook.

Manning Up–TRUST WITH A CHASER, Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a release day review and giveaway for a new contemporary romance from Annabeth Albert. TRUST WITH A CHASER is a May/December romance that’s almost a Romeo-and-Julian read, too, if these guys were teens, that is. As it stands, Mason and Nash are two grown men on opposites sides of…a lot. I’ve loved the Portland Heat books, the musical romances (TREBLE MAKER, LOVE ME TENOR, and ALL NOTE LONG) her #gaymer romances (Status Update, Beta Test and Connection Error) and her SEALs stories (OFF BASE, AT ATTENTION, and ON POINT) but TRUST felt like a very different book, for me. And I relished every second of it.

Catch the excerpt from Chapter One below, and be sure to enter the $20 Amazon GC giveaway, too!
About the book:
One hot cop. One bar owner out for redemption. One smoking-hot summer fling destined to leave scorch marks…
Mason Hanks has returned to Rainbow Cove, Oregon with one goal in mind: turn the struggling coastal community into a thriving LGBTQ tourism destination. Step one is transforming an old bar and grill into a gay-friendly eatery. Step two? Don’t piss off Nash Flint, the very hot, very stern chief of police who’s not so sure he’s on board with Mason’s big plans.

Nash Flint just wants to keep his community safe and enjoy the occasional burger in peace. He’s not big on change nor is he a fan of Mason’s troublemaking family, especially his rowdy older brothers. But Mason slowly wins him over with fantastic cooking and the sort of friendship Nash has been starving for.

When their unlikely friendship takes a turn for the sexy, both men try to steer clear of trouble. Nash believes he’s too set in his ways for Mason, and Mason worries that his family’s reputation will ruin any future with Nash. Burning up the sheets in secret is a surefire way to crash and burn, and discovery forces a heart-wrenching decision—is love worth the risk of losing everything?

Trust with a Chaser is a 75,000 word stand-alone gay romance with a May/December theme, a hot law-enforcement hero, opposites attract, plenty of sexy times, and one hard-fought, guaranteed happy ending with no cliffhangers.

How about a yummy taste?

When Adam stepped inside the glorified closet I was using as an office, eyes all twitchy and hands wringing a bar towel, I knew I wasn’t going to like what came out of his mouth.

“Sheriff Sexy just walked in. He’s your problem.”

Fuck. I squeezed my eyes shut and took a deep breath. “Please don’t call Police Chief Flint that. He might hear, and I’m pretty sure he’d find a citation for you. And I am not bailing your ass out.”

“You’re just worried that one of these days you’re going to slip up and call him that.” Adam grinned at me. This was an old argument—he’d been calling Flint that stupid nickname since we were in high school. The hard-nosed cop wasn’t one to cut teen drivers any slack—especially if they were in any way associated with the name “Hanks.” “Anyway, you know he freaks me out. I’ve got no idea what he wants—all our permits are in order, right?”

“Of course.” Standing, I grabbed the folder with the permitting paperwork. I prided myself in the organization I was bringing to the bar and grill that I co-owned with Adam and our friend, Logan. Flint wouldn’t find anything to complain about, not with me in charge. “I’ll go deal with him. You go back to the bar in case we get a rush.”

Adam snorted. Despite it being opening weekend, traffic had been embarrassingly light. We’d worked for weeks transforming the old tavern—a Rainbow Cove institution for decades—into the newly renamed Rainbow Tavern. The gay-friendly bar and grill was our vision for pulling our sleepy little coastal town into the twenty-first century. Logan had crafted a new menu of upscale bar food ready to go, and Adam had innovative drinks specials at the ready. All we needed were customers. And to not run afoul of Nash Flint on our first day of operation.

Flint was a Rainbow Cove institution himself—born and raised here, same as Adam and me, but unlike me, he’d never left, sliding into his father’s shoes as police chief and apparently fitting the role as easily as a pair of broken-in jeans. He’d been Officer Flint last time I’d seen him, almost ten years prior.

Guess I could have seen him had I come down for Freddy’s trial, something I still felt niggles of guilt over, and I told myself that was why my stomach fluttered on my way out to the tavern’s dining room. Unlike Adam, I’d never found Flint particularly…

Sexy. All my thoughts fled as I took in the man sitting in front of the plate-glass window. He dwarfed the small wooden chair, one of dozens that Adam and I had painted bright colors. Broad shoulders stretched the confines of his uniform shirt, biceps bulging under the short sleeves. His cut-glass jaw was firm as ever, as were those hard hazel eyes. But what had been frankly terrifying to my teenaged self made my twenty-seven-year-old libido sit up and take serious notice.

Flint blinked as I approached, head tilting to one side. I’d been getting a lot of that since I’d been back in town. “Mason…Hanks?”

“The one and only.” I stuck out my hand. “What can I do for you, Chief Flint?”

He returned my handshake with a sure grip, only a moment’s hesitation. I guessed he wasn’t all that used to shaking hands with a Hanks. Oh well. I was out to prove to the whole damn town that I wasn’t like my father and brothers, and if I had to start with Flint, so be it.

“Nice place you’ve got here.” His eyes swept around the renovated room—restored antique bar on the far wall where Adam wasn’t bothering to conceal his nosiness, dance floor beyond that, colorful tables and chairs in the front of the bar, only a handful occupied despite the dinner hour.

“Thanks. Our permits are all in order.” I held out my folder. “Liquor license is on top.”

He waved the folder off. “Not worried about that.”

No? Then why the heck was Flint in my establishment? “Good. We’re on the up-and-up. You won’t have trouble from us—”

“Glad to hear it,” he said levelly, eyes skeptical, reminding me that I was, after all, nothing more than a Hanks. “Cheeseburger?”

“Pardon?”

“That Ringer kid didn’t see fit to give me a menu, but I’m trusting you all offer something approximating a burger? Salad, no fries, and an iced tea.”

“You want to order?” I was still struggling to keep up with him.

“This is a food establishment, right?” He shook his head as if he hadn’t expected more from me, and that rankled.

“Of course.” I crossed the room in long strides, grabbed an order pad from the bar, ignoring Adam’s gaping. As soon as I returned to Flint’s table, I added, “Anything you want. On the house.”

“None of that.” He sighed like my very existence was tiring. “Got my meals from the old tavern for years. They kept a tab open for me.”

“We can do the same—”

“Let’s see if you can cook first,” he said, voice drier than yesterday’s toast. “I thought I’d come by, check the place out.”

“Appreciated,” I said and meant it. Business, any business, was good, but people in Rainbow Cove trusted Flint. If he gave us the seal of approval, more locals might give us a try, make us less dependent on the tourist trade that we were going after. Tourism took a while to build, and our grand plans of making Rainbow Cove an LGBTQ travel destination weren’t going to happen overnight. We needed every customer we could get, Flint included, even if he was the unlikeliest of allies.

“You still haven’t brought me a menu.” He shook his head. “But whatever you’ve got passing for a burger is fine. Nothing vegan though.”

“We’ve got local grass-fed beef, third-pound patty on a brioche bun with a pesto mayo and local gouda. Or—”

“I reckon that will do fine.” Flint always had a bit more country than coastal in his voice. Not Southern, but you could tell he was rural Oregon through and through, and I liked the slow, deep rumble of his words. What I didn’t like, however, was the implication in his tone that he wasn’t expecting much from us.

“Sure you don’t want fries? We have hand-cut sweet potato as an option with a chipotle dipping sauce. As far as salads, I’ve got side, Caesar, spring berry and pecan—”

“I’m on duty here. Kind of pressed for time. The burger and a side salad are fine. I don’t need anything fancy.”

Yeah, well, maybe I want to give it to you. I quashed that thought, same as I had the one about how hot he looked in his uniform. Wanting to impress Nash Flint wasn’t going to get me anywhere.

“I’ll put a rush on it.” I made a note on the order pad, not that it was really needed since Logan hardly had a packed house to worry about.

As I walked over to the window to put in Flint’s order, I noticed more than one table giving him curious glances. Hell, maybe I was wrong about any business being good business. Last thing I needed was Flint scaring away what few customers we had. Not that he was known as a gossip or anything like that, but he was awfully…old school. Traditional. The last kind of guy you’d expect to find at a gay bar, that was for sure, and even though we were attempting to attract a mixed clientele, he stood out.

My Review:
Mason Hanks is a 28 y/o out-gay man with a mission to help revive his hometown of Rainbow Cove. He and two friends have re-opened a tavern there (with a gay-friendly theme) to serve upscale nosh and drinks for tourists. The grand plan also involves investors who are considering renovating a derelict oceanside resort for gay-friendly guests. But first, Mason’s bar has to show some level of success.

Mason’s not sure if Police Chief Nash Flint becoming a regular customer is good thing, or not. Well, they could certainly use the business, but Mason, as the youngest child in the criminally-troubled Hanks family, certainly has mixed feelings about the close-proximity of law enforcement. And, he’s even more nervous about the startling attraction he’s feeling for the well put-together older man.

Not that Nash is feeling any less conflicted. Even though he arrested Mason’s eldest brother for criminal mischief–and knowing he’s had more than a dozen run-ins with Hanks trouble over the years–Nash can certainly appreciate what a bright spark Mason is. It’s not just the delicious food that brings him to Mason’s bar almost daily. Pushing forty, Nash has kept a tight rein on his sexuality for his entire life, knowing his family–his town–would hardly approve of a gay police chief. He’s always kept his liaisons on the super-down-low, but, maybe, if Mason were interested in him…couldn’t they (perhaps) have a little fun under cover(s)?

I’m not going to be coy about it: Mason is VERY interested. But, it’s difficult. Mason’s family has been at odds with the Flints since Nash’s father was police chief. Hanks’ have always been ne’er-do-wells but Mason’s broken that mold. He’s kind and compassionate, committed to bringing tourism and tourist money to this dying hamlet. Mason’s family issues include bringing his destitute father and brother restaurant left-overs, and assisting in the care of his seven year old niece, too, and he does this with an open heart–even though he’s frustrated with his brother’s lack of direction/parental skills. Nash sees all of this, and it only makes Mason that much more irresistible. Mason’s compassion–and cooking–lures Nash to secret “cooking lessons” at Mason’s home in which food is prepared but they mostly consume each other. This hidden romance is tenuous and tender, as each man recognizes the importance of their connection, and how troubling it would be for the world at-large to learn of it.

Still, Mason’s not happy being relegated to acquaintance in public, even though he knows his family would rail against the relationship. And Nash’s mother pretty-much thinks Nash ought to be celibate, or hide his sexuality forever, which has become a tiresome existence for Nash. I loved how they worked through this, though it comes with some rotten heartbreak-y moments. The white-hot attraction tempers into a smooth and tasty love before too long, which, when the lid pops, leads to some challenging moments and big decisions. I felt like this was handled in a realistic and admirable way, for both characters. The book is a careful back-and-forth, and having both Mason and Nash narrate the story helps us see how complex and complicated their worlds are, and how much they both risk and sacrifice to find love with one another. I really enjoyed this one, and look forward to new stories in Rainbow Cove. There are at least three of Mason’s dear friends who remain unattached, so I’m sure we’ll experience these guys finding love in the near future. I, for one, can’t wait!

Interested? You can find TRUST WITH A CHASER on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $20 GC.
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.

Find Annabeth online on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook.
IndiGo

Friends to Lovers ON POINT–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a release day review for a new contemporary M/M military romance from Annabeth Albert. ON POINT is the third book in her Out of Uniform series and features two Navy SEALs who are teammates, roommates and best friends, with more on the horizon. I really loved OFF BASE and AT ATTENTION so there was no way I’d miss out on this one!

Drop down to check out the excerpt, my review and get in on the $20 Amazon GC giveaway, too!
About the book:
Never fall for your best friend…
Pushing thirty, with his reenlistment looming, decorated navy sniper Maddox Horvat is taking a long look at what he really wants in life. And what he wants is Ben Tovey. It isn’t smart, falling for his best friend and fellow SEAL, but ten years with Ben has forged a bond so intimate Maddox can’t ignore it. He needs Ben by his side forever—heart and soul.

Ben admits he likes what he’s seen—his friend’s full lower lip and the perfect muscles of his ass have proved distracting more than once. But Ben’s still reeling from a relationship gone to hell, and he’s not about to screw up his friendship with Maddox, too.
Until their next mission throws Ben and Maddox closer together than ever before, with only each other to depend on.

Now, in the lonely, desperate hours awaiting rescue, the real challenge—confronting themselves, their future and their desires—begins. Man to man, friend to friend, lover to lover.

How about a little taste?

The rain pelted down as he made his way up the ridge, thick sheets that obscured his vision and made the terrain slippery and treacherous. Overhead, a large black bird with a colorful beak swooped in, almost sending Ben skidding into a ravine.

He whistled low, a deliberate pattern, one of the team’s signals. He repeated the sound as he approached where Maddox was supposed to be. An answering signal came from a dense thicket of green vegetation.

“It’s me. Hold your fire,” Ben called as he slipped into the mass of trees and roots. The plants here were nothing like the ones back home—giant heart-shaped leaves and bright rubbery flowers that almost looked bird- or insect-like. The trees had massive, visible roots covered with moss, and were connected by thick vines that could easily be mistaken for a deadly snake.

Below him, he could see the encampment, SEALs scurrying around. The injured hostage and Issacson, their wounded radio man, were carried out, which had to mean the chopper was close. Time to haul ass. “Maddox?”

“Here.” Maddox slid out of the shadows, rifle at the ready, just as Ben had expected. “Com’s down for you guys too?”

“Yup. Chopper’s coming in. LT sent me to bring you in. No time to waste. Issacson took a bullet, but he’s stable, and one of the hostages is in bad shape. Possible hostiles escaped, but Rogers and company are hunting them down.”

“Got it. Lead the way.” Maddox let Ben take point as they made their way down the ridge. They had to skirt the edge of a steep drop, every muddy step cautious even as they needed to make haste.

Crack.

Whoosh.

Two things happened at the same instant—gunfire broke out above them and a chopper approached, engine noise making it hard to track the source of the shots. But Maddox was already on it, crouching low, rifle ready. Another shot whistled over their heads and Maddox returned fire. They both left the trail and headed into the brush, intent on finding the hostiles.

The chopper circled low, then went back up. Fuck. The chopper was struggling to land in the encampment clearing, which meant the next pass was critical. Still staying low and gun ready, he inched forward. No more gunfire had followed Maddox’s, but that didn’t mean he could let his guard down for a second.

The chopper circled again, but the terrain had shifted and Ben could no longer see the encampment beneath them.

“Fuck.” Maddox never cursed, so Ben whipped his head around just in time to see Maddox slipping off the poor excuse for a trail.

Ben scrambled on his stomach, stretching out an arm, trying to catch Maddox. “Grab on.”

“No. Don’t—” Maddox didn’t get the sentence out before they were both tumbling down the muddy incline, heading straight for the ravine that lay between them and the encampment. Ben tried to slow their descent but his attempt to grab at some vines only resulted in the foliage following them down.

Maddox screamed, a legitimate yell that chilled Ben to his boots because Maddox never lost composure. Ever. Ben had once watched Wizard put sutures in Maddox’s scalp while Maddox hummed, never dropping his tune.

Ben grabbed for him again and— Pop. Ben’s arm pulled at an unnatural angle, caught up in a tree root and not Maddox’s strong grip as he’d intended. He wrenched loose but the damage was already done, and still he slid, mud carrying him faster, rocks and vegetation raining down after them.

“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.” Ben’s arm and shoulder were on fire and he was still moving, sliding, nothing working—

Boom. The bottom of the ravine arrived without warning, a muddy bog that sucked him down, but it was hardly a soft landing, rocks and plants poking at him. His arm had him cursing, eyes watering. He’d seen Rogers dislocate a shoulder last year in the grinder obstacle course, and at the time he’d rolled his eyes at how Rogers had carried on. He had a sick feeling that he’d done the same or worse to his shoulder, and he got the urge to cry and howl.

“Oh fuck.” His stomach heaved and he barely made it to his side before he threw up from the pain. He turned his head and almost lost his guts again. Maddox lay a few feet from him, leg at an unnatural angle, blood dripping from his head, helmet nowhere to be seen. Not talking or cursing.

Clawing at the rocks with his good arm, Ben pulled himself closer, looking for the telltale rise and fall of Maddox’s chest—and not seeing it.

“You are not fucking with me,” Ben growled. “Mad? Come on, man.”

Still nothing, not even a ghost of movement across Maddox’s pale lips. Terror, nothing Ben had ever known before, froze his veins, made him lightheaded from more than just the fall. He refused, utterly refused to live in a world where Maddox wasn’t okay.

“Maddox. Horvat.” He shook his shoulder, cursing under his breath. No, no, no.

Whoosh. A chopper—the chopper—flew overhead, much too far to spot them down this ravine, and heading away from them.

Sputter. Maddox let out a mighty cough. It might have been the most beautiful sound Ben had ever heard, because it meant Maddox was here, that he was fighting, and Ben started to laugh with relief until Maddox spoke. “Heck. They’re leaving us.”

My Review:
Maddox Horvat and Ben Tovey have been friends and teammates as Navy SEALS since they completed BUD/S training ten years ago. They have always had each others’ backs, but Maddox has wanted more for a long time, now. Especially since the past two years when Ben has lived in his apartment, after his nasty divorce from Trey. Ben’s been a man-about-town, never banging the same guy twice, since Trey disappeared, not that he didn’t get around bunches what with their very open marriage. But Maddox wants Ben all to himself, and struggles to hide his desires in order to maintain their close friendship.

It’s time for Maddox to re-up with the SEALs, and he’s not sure he wants to. He’s got some money saved, and has been working on his baking for years now. Even if his dream comes to pass and he and Ben become a couple, they couldn’t stay on the same team any longer. Besides, the reason Maddox got into the service in the first place was to prove to his homophobic family that he was just as much a man as any other, no matter who he loved. Knowing that they will never accept him as he is, even if he should die for his country? Well, kinda takes the impetus away for proving one’s self.

While out on a dangerous mission, Ben and Maddox get temporarily left behind, and it brings their world together into extreme focus for both men. Maddox is seriously injured, and Ben is tasked with keeping off the enemy and keeping Maddox alive until they can be rescued. During those stressful hours Ben recognizes that he needs Maddox in his life, no matter what. And the peculiar feelings he’s been having–about him and Maddox together for real–are banging through his concussed head.

Stateside, their healing isn’t only of the physical. Maddox and Ben need to be near one another to feel whole, and their time in the hospital brings clarity for Ben: he needs to try to love Maddox they way he needs to be loved–because Ben can’t exist in a world where Maddox isn’t by his side. Maybe, Ben thinks, if he seduces Maddox, then Maddox won’t leave the SEALs; won’t leave him, as his mother and husband did…

I really enjoyed the slow burn as these two felt their way toward a loving, intimate relationship. They have always been each other’s best friend, and they’ve had a deep intimacy in terms of knowing one another, but the step into lovers hasn’t been easy. Maddox has very defined ideas about monogamy, thoughts Ben hasn’t had in years now, but for Maddox he’d give up a whole lot. Maddox knows Ben wants him on his team, in the trenches, and in bed–behind closed doors–but Maddox is beyond doing what other people want. He needs to do for himself, and if Ben walks away, well it’ll hurt deep, but Maddox will weather that storm and find a man who can love him for who he is, not what he does. Maddox wants a settled life, and he wants Ben in it, but Ben has to choose him. And, well, I’ll just say that Ben makes the right choice.

This one is hot and steamy and sexy and sentimental and fabulous. I could hang out in Maddox’s kitchen all day and half the night. Ben is a grouch, but the kind of grouch that is endearing. He grows a lot during the time of the story, and makes the right decisions, eventually, to find his own happiness. I liked how he made things right within his family, and opened himself up to forgiving people who’d hurt him. I highly recommend this one!

Interested? You can find ON POINT on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iTunes. I received a review copy via NetGalley.
Be sure to check out my reviews for OFF BASE and AT ATTENTION, the previous titles in this series. While you don’t have to read the books in order, they are fabulous, too!

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $20 GC to Amazon.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

Annabeth Albert avatarAbout 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.

Find Annabeth online on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook.
IndiGo

Feeling the Love: DANCED CLOSE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a recently released contemporary M/M romance form Annabeth Albert. DANCED CLOSE is the 6th book in her Portland Heat series, and I’ve enjoyed each of these standalone romances including WRAPPED TOGETHER and KNIT TIGHT. This romance features a wedding planner in a bind, and a baker with hidden talents–and dark secrets.

About the book:
Portland, Oregon, is one of the hottest cities in America. Just ask all the hard-working men sweating it up behind the counters of the restaurants, boutiques, and cafés all over town …

Newly clean and sober, Todd’s taken a shine to his job at Portland’s most talked about bakery. It’s not just the delicious desserts they sell, but the tasty treats who keep walking through the door. That certainly includes Kendall Rose, a wedding planner with eyes the color of brown sugar and skin to match. Todd doesn’t try to hide his attraction to Kendall’s elegant confidence and unique style, even as he worries about exposing the secrets of his past.

For Kendall, the attention is just part of the anything-goes Portland he’s grown to love. But he’s still looking for that special someone who will embrace all of him—including his gender fluidity. So he takes a chance and asks Todd to be his partner in a dance class leading to a fundraiser. When the music starts and he takes Todd in his arms, Kendall is shocked at how good it feels. Turns out taking the lead for once isn’t a mistake. In fact, it might be time to take the next step and follow his heart …

My Review:
Todd is a twenty-two year old starting his life over again. He’d struggled with weight issues, and addiction in his childhood, but he’s clean and sober, now. Still, it’s not easy to make his way in the world. A former runaway/homeless teen, he’d seen the worst of life on the streets. He doesn’t have a fancy degree–or even and unfancy one–but he’s a true blue spirit, willing to go the extra mile and work twice as hard as the next guy. He’s currently working in an upscale bakery, and that’s where he meets Kendall.

Kendall is a genderqueer man who is definitely gay, but unhappy in his usual “role” due to his feminine-leaning fashion and slighter stature. He’s met Todd on several occasions when he brings wedding-planning clients to the bakery. And, there’s a spark, for sure. Todd has old-fashioned manners, and treats Kendall with respect. When Kendall’s partner for ballroom dancing classes cancels, he asks Todd to stand in–delighted to learn that Todd was a champion dancer in his early childhood. Todd isn’t a spotlight kind of guy–not anymore–but he agrees to be a partner to Kendall when he learns it’s all part of a benefit for the homeless shelter that rescued Todd from the streets.

I really liked the slower pace of this romance, because Todd’s history isn’t like those of the men Kendall usually dates. Todd wants a partnership, more than a casual partner. They have dinners together, and talk, and dance, and have some shenanigans. But that’s only after some very frank and honest discussions about risk. Because those conversations are necessary for these guys. I also really liked the way that Todd accepted Kendall’s genderqueer identity. Kendall has had many experiences of being belittled for his outre habits, yet, Todd admires him earnestly. This is a sweet tale, and the love story spoke to me–for all of it’s challenges.

For series fans we get a little bit of Vic from BAKED FRESH, as Todd works in his bakery. I liked how close Todd was with his Gran, and how hard he works to remain sober. It’s interesting at the beginning when Kendall teases Todd about his age, and Todd thinks about how aged he is for such a “young” person. He’s a guy who thought his life was mostly over before it had even begun, and considers himself unworthy of love. But, Kendall’s insecurities fit him–they fit each other in the right ways. They are able to support one another emotionally, and that means a lot to these two guys who really do want a solid love. It was an interesting and engaging read in this novella series, and I devoured it in one night-time gulp.

Interested? You can find DANCED CLOSE on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Annabeth Albert avatarAbout 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.

Find Annabeth online on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook.