Reconnected So They FEEL THE FIRE –A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new contemporary M/M hotshot fireman romance from Annabeth Albert. FEEL THE FIRE is the third book in her brand-new Hot Shots series that feature rural firefighters who live on the edge of danger. I really enjoyed BURN ZONE and HIGH HEAT, so I was excited to read on in this series.

About the book:
Annabeth Albert’s Hotshots series continues—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…

When their career paths bring two high school sweethearts together again, the forest isn’t the only thing ablaze…

Fire behavior specialist Luis Riviera goes where his job takes him. But when he’s assigned to an arson investigation in Central Oregon—the place he left his broken heart twenty years ago—he’s afraid of being burned all over again.

Tucker Ryland had planned to join his first love, Luis, in LA after high school graduation, but life got in the way. Now a fire management expert and a divorced father of teen twins, Tucker’s thrown for a loop when he finds himself working side by side with his Luis, now all grown up and more intriguing than ever.

Though consumed by a grueling fire season and family responsibilities, the two men discover their bond has never truly broken. Tentative kisses turn to passionate nights. But smoking sheets aside, old hurts and new truths stand in the way of this time being the start of forever.

My Review:
Luis Rivera came to Painter’s Ridge Oregon when he was in elementary school. The youngest son in his family he felt a bit stifled in the remote location, but he made a really great friend, Tucker, who eventually became the love of his youth. Luis was a bit shattered when his dad was transferred back to LA, even though it brought him near to his extended family. Because Luis did not want to leave Tucker behind. They were juniors in high school and promises were made for Tucker to leave Oregon and join Luis in California for college and a life together. Unfortunately, Tucker’s dad had a heart attack in his senior year and Tucker was pressed to help run his family ranch–and he had to give up the dream of building an out and loving life with Luis–who didn’t want to wait any longer for his life to get started. Both Luis and Tucker had aspirations to be hotshot firefighters in the forestry service, and they did follow those dreams–in separate states.

Luis is an arson specialist working for the Forest Service and he’s unhappily single, now that his closeted partner was killed fighting a wildfire. As an unattached person, however, Luis’ superiors lean on him to make trips to other localities that need his expertise. So, he’s frustrated to again uproot himself for a temporary assignment. He’s incensed, however, when he learns that this assignment is centered in the Bend area, a short drive to Painter’s Ridge–and that his main contact will be Tucker, the boy who abandoned him twenty years before.

Tucker Ryland is a fire management expert working with the hotshot crews in central Oregon to maintain forest and minimize fire damage. He’s lived in Painter’s Ridge Oregon his whole life, but the small town isn’t feeling as homey as it had when he was married raising in his twin sons. He still co-parents living a few blocks from his ex-wife and her new husband, sharing meals with them and the teen boys, Walker and Wade a couple of nights a week. Tucker long ago came to terms with his demisexuality, and he and Heidi split amicable, but he’s getting lonely knowing that his sons will graduate from high school in a matter of months and their plans will likely take them far from their subdivision.

Tucker is melancholy over the loss of his relationship with Luis. He has only truly connected with Luis in his life; his marriage wasn’t planned and he and Heidi, his then-good friend, made the best of a tough situation. It was through her assistance that Tucker began to understand his sexuality, and both he and Heidi have been positive and open about it with their sons.

Luis has longstanding feelings of resentment, thinking that Tucker hid his sexuality and married Heidi as a beard and a way to remain hidden in his homophobic family. His misconceptions had caused him to hate Tucker, but being around him now reveals the truth, that Tucker is a good and honest man, and that Luis’ juvenile fears and hurt clouded a situation that could have been less fraught way back when. They are meeting again as grown men who’ve had some time, perspective, and unexpected patience to temper their feelings–and allow for a rekindling of their original friendship. For each man, the attraction is intense, and Tucker is ecstatic to have a more than platonic relationship to grow. There are the usual hiccups with the kids interfering. The boys aren’t necessarily trying to cockblock their dad. Actually, free-spirited Wade is digging the idea of Dad getting a boyfriend, while Walker, always the ruminator, is sure that his dad finding a partner will upset his own plans to stay behind in Painter’s Ridge with his girlfriend. I liked how both Luis and Tucker had great conversations with these kids, which clarified and solidified their growing bond.

The arson investigations that brought Luis to Oregon are nearly enough to keep him at Tucker’s side, but he’s not sure he wants to give up his city life for the country–again. And that gets Tucker thinking about what he wants for himself, a luxury he hasn’t had since before his dad’s heart attack in his high school days. This is a mature romance with some delicious sexytimes and a reunion of high school sweethearts that burns up the sheets. I really enjoyed it, and am hopeful we’ll see more of this setting in future stories.

Interested? You can find FEEL THE FIRE on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. I read a review copy provided via NetGalley.

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!

Finding New Love in the ARCTIC WILD–A TBT Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a Throwback Thursday review for a contemporary M/M romance from Annabeth Albert. ARCTIC WILD is the second book in her Frozen Hearts series that feature men in the Alaskan wilderness finding their soulmates.

About the book:
When a plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness, the best place to land is in the arms of a younger man…

Hotshot attorney Reuben Graham has finally agreed to take a vacation, when his plane suddenly plunges into the Alaskan wilderness.

Just his luck.

But his frustrations have only begun as he finds himself stranded with the injured, and superhot, pilot, a man who’s endearingly sociable—and much too young for Reuben to be wanting him this badly.

As the sole provider for his sisters and ailing father, Tobias Kooly is devastated to learn his injuries will prevent him from working or even making it back home. So when Reuben insists on giving him a place to recover, not even Toby’s pride can make him refuse. He’s never been tempted by a silver fox before, but something about Reuben is impossible to resist.

Recuperating in Reuben’s care is the last thing Toby expected, yet the closer they become, the more incredibly right it feels, prompting workaholic Reuben to question the life he’s been living. But when the pressure Toby’s under starts closing in, both men will have to decide if there’s room in their hearts for a love they never saw coming.

My Review:
Reuben Graham is approaching his 48th birthday–in 2 days!!–and prepping for an Alaskan adventure trip with his friends Craig and Letitia when he gets the news he’s going solo. It’s not ideal, but this bisexual attorney is well-traveled and unwilling to let down Craig, who’s urging him to go despite this unexpected drama.

He meets his guide, Tobias Kooly, in Anchorage, and it’s not a meet-cute, per se. Reuben is recently out of a relationship, and not generally panting after younger men–while Toby isn’t usually drawn toward silver “bears” but he can’t help noticing that Reuben is a big ol’ sexy dude.

Their trip together starts inauspiciously, with Toby and Reuben feeling the tension of being opposites in personality. Reuben is quiet and staid, while Toby is dramatic and personable–which suits him as a tour guide. Reuben’s also a little annoyed with his kinda interest in a younger man who seems to be interested in women, but Toby is bi, too, and they work that business out eventually. In the meantime, just as Reuben is getting used to flying in Toby’s tincan of a seaplane, they run into really treacherous weather and crash. The only reason they aren’t both dead is Toby’s heroic flying, and he’s significantly injured in the landing. Reuben, a total city-slicker, is tasked with keeping Toby alive until help can arrive, and the storm is complicating matters.

They’re rescued, but Reuben feels responsible to continue caring for Toby, who is the main support for his family. And, Reuben’s NYC life is kind of crumbling so he allows himself a time out, renting a house that suits both himself and Toby’s care. And, has enough space to bring his teen daughter, Amelia, out for a summer of unexpected reconnection.

The more Reuben lingers in Alaska, the more he realizes his life was passing him by. His situation with Toby is a huge reset, and it’s more welcome than he could have imagined. The age gap is a bit of a stumbling block, as Toby and Reuben realize this interlude is really developing into something more than a summer fling. There’s steamy sexy moments as well as realistic connection between the MCs, and it’s really endearing how Amelia takes to Toby, and counsels her dad to live his best life, for a change.

I really enjoyed the book, and it’s got me hankering for a vacation to Alaska.

Interested? You can find ARCTIC WILD on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. I read a review copy provided via NetGalley.

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!

Reforged Future in HIGH HEAT–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new contemporary M/M smokejumper romance from Annabeth Albert. HIGH HEAT is the second book in her brand-new Hot Shots series that feature rural firefighters who live on the edge of danger. I really enjoyed BURN ZONE, so I was excited to read more about Garrick who was a secondary character in that book.

About the book:
Annabeth Albert’s Hotshots series continues—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 jumping is Garrick Nelson’s life. Nothing, not severe injuries nor the brutal physical therapy that follows, is going to stop him from getting back with his crew. But when a lost dog shows up on his front porch, he can’t turn her away, and he can’t take care of her on his own. Thankfully, help comes in the form of his new sexy, dog-loving neighbor. As they work together, trying to re-home their little princess, Garrick can’t resist his growing attraction for the other man, even though he knows this guy isn’t the staying type.

Rain Fisher doesn’t take anything too seriously. He dances through life, one adventure at a time, never settling in one place for too long. When his hot, conveniently buff, neighbor shows up on his doorstep, dog in tow, Rain’s determined to not just save the adorable puppy, but her reluctant owner as well. He never expects their flirtation might tempt him into stay put once and for all…

My Review:
Garrick Nelson is a smokejumper, which is all her ever wanted to be. Except, a bad accident on a jump has sidelined him with severe injuries. He’s worked amazingly hard to get back on his feet, but, while he can walk, he tires easily and relies on crutches or a wheelchair for long periods of the day. That’s why he’s frustrated when he finds an injured stray dog on his porch. She’s skittish, and his lack of mobility hampers rescuing her as she darts away. He wheels himself to his neighbor’s house and enlists the help of her sexy grandson, Rain, to catch and clean up the dog.

Rain thinks Garrick, who is pan, is a delicious treat for his lonely days of keeping an eye on his crafty grams. I mean crafty in that she makes handicrafts–tye-dying cloth for clothes. It’s heavy work, and Rain’s mom has convinced Rain he should be there in case gram needs help–though she rarely does–yet she’s happy to take in her wandering grandson, anyway. He’s drifting since he didn’t get into the city fire training academy, but seeing how buff Garrick is–and knowing he’s a smokejumper–Rain makes a leap to ask him for advice in his physical training regimen. Garrick isn’t sure he wants to commit, but they bond over the care of the stray, who Rain names Princess, and it’s not long before the attraction sparks a brushfire of desire.

This story really handles the emotional toll of surviving a catastrophic, career-ending injury, and the attendant physical issues that arise. Garrick has trouble with sexual arousal, and his nerves aren’t all that sensitive since his spinal injury, but his interest in Rain is more than just companionship–though they do a lot of hanging out as they get to know one another. It’s Rain’s gentle guidance that helps Garrick re-center his life and world accepting his new normal from a viewpoint of ability, not disability. The change is important, because it brings emotional harmony to Garrick, whose depression was getting clinical.

Rain, for his part, does a lot of growing up while he’s in Garrick’s world. His training and focus helps him land a job on a fire crew, and he works hard cutting fire lines and running the comm for his team. He’s insightful and intuitive which helps him on the job, and with Garrick. He’s also body aware and a bit shameless from being raised by freeloving hippies. I loved his sense of compassion, and how he didn’t let the characterization of his youth color the decisions he made now. While he may have been a freewheeler, himself, meeting Garrick gives him a touchstone, a person to whom his life can be bound–for the good of both.

It’s sweet and tender, the way they care for one another. From adjusting erogenous zones, to researching vegan diets, these guys are shaping themselves into ideal partners for one another before they even realize how serious they are becoming. I really enjoyed this one, and expect we’ll get some mature heat for a lonely commander in the next installment. I can’t wait!

Interested? You can find HIGH HEAT on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. I read a review copy provided via NetGalley.

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!

Christmas in July! BETTER NOT POUT–Sale and Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a Throwback Thursday review for a contemporary M/M Christmas romance from Annabeth Albert. I read BETTER NOT POUT a WHILE back, but never had a chance to post a review. Now, it’s on sale for $1.99, so I figured I’d share the sweet and sexy Christmas love…

About the book:
One hard-nosed military police officer.
One overly enthusiastic elf.
One poorly timed snowstorm.
Is it a recipe for disaster? Or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for holiday romance?

Teddy MacNally loves Christmas and everything that goes along with it. When he plays an elf for his charity’s events, he never expects to be paired with a Scrooge masquerading as Santa Claus. His new mission: make the holiday-hating soldier believe he was born to say ho-ho-ho.

Sergeant Major Nicholas Nowicki doesn’t do Santa, but he’s army to his blood. When his CO asks an unusual favor, Nick of course obliges. The elf to his Kris Kringle? Tempting. Too tempting—Nick’s only in town for another month, and Teddy’s too young, too cheerful and too nice for a one-night stand.

The slow, sexy make-out sessions while Teddy and Nick are alone and snowbound, though, feel like anything but a quick hookup. As a stress-free holiday fling turns into Christmas all year round, Teddy can’t imagine his life without Nick. And Nick’s days on the base may be coming to a close, but he doesn’t plan on leaving anything, or anyone, behind.

My Review:
It’s the week before Thanksgiving and Sergeant Major Nick Nowicki is dressed in an ill-fitting Santa suit on his way for a PR shoot in Mineral Spirits, a timy hamlet in upstate NY. His CO at Fort End’s hubby usually does the Santa gig, but he’s suffered a heart attack and Nick doesn’t have to asked twice for this favor. He likes Commander Grace–even as he hates this final post of his military career; he has one month left in his 28-year enlistment now that the army has decided not to renew his commitment. Nick isn’t close with his family, due to a tragedy that broke his parent’s marriage and his mother’s many years of alcoholism. In his life and career, he’s been mainly solitary, with only one long-term boyfriend who hit the road while he was deployed. A native of Phoenix, Nick has virtually no experience in driving the harsh winter storms that are a part of life near Fort End, and he can’t wait to retire to Florida where he plans to open a fishing charter with an old army friend.

Teddy MacNally is a small town boy through-and-through, and at 28 he’s made good for himself he’s made good for himself. Always been a compassionate one, he got a masters in social work and came back to Mineral Spirits–where half the town is one relation or another–to run the Helping Hands Resource center. He raises funds that help folks with basic needs and right now he’s dressed as an elf for the Where’s Santa? photo spread that the local paper publishes to drum up donations for the center’s Giving Tree, a Christmas present for needy kids-type of thing. And, Saint Nick is sure a grumpy Santa. But Teddy sees a loneliness in Nick that he empathizes with–he’s pretty isolated in Mineral Spirits. Not counting the sleazy, married men on his Grindr, there aren’t any male companions in a reasonable distance.

Nick doesn’t want to form any attachments to Mineral Spirits, or Teddy and his loving, oversharing, family because he’s leaving in a month–but a bad snow storm lands Nick in Teddy’s home for a night and their attraction grows irresistible. And, due to on-going Santa duties and Nick’s current car trouble, he’s reliant upon Teddy for a few more carpool situations. So, he can’t really turn down the many invites he gets, from Teddy his sister and brother, to attend the MacNally Thanksgiving. And, when his CO gives him leave for the entire holiday weekend…well, Nick may want to protect his heart, but he understands the logic of finding some sexy solace with Teddy, even if the sexy elf is nearly 18 years younger than himself.

But, man, those nights they spend are real nice. And, well, Teddy is a grown man–not a kid, no matter his baby face. Being around the MacNally’s, who are about as non-dysfunctional as any family Nick has ever met, helps Nick see that his sad life experience isn’t the only one out there. And, As Teddy hopes, Nick can envision himself in a place where he has a real community, and maybe a true love to boot. If only Nick didn’t have these plans to relocate to Florida…

This is a sweet and sexy age-gap romance in a picturesque small town with two engaging leading men. I liked how they found both comfort and a confidante within their arrangement for camaraderie. Their progression from acquaintance to more follows a quick but acceptable path, due to each man being rather lonely, and finding a chemistry and kinship that suited. The age gap was a big problem for Nick, but Teddy’s assertiveness and independence kept chipping away at Nick’s preconceived notions about young guys wanting young partners. They are a special couple, and I enjoyed watching them fall in love.

Interested? You can find BETTER NOT POUT on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, 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!

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.
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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!