Coming Clean OFF BASE–Review and Giveaway!

off-base-blitz-bannerHi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a new contemporary M/M military romance from Annabeth Albert. OFF BASE is the first in a new military romance series and features spin-off characters from her #gaymers series. Let’s get ready to meet a closeted Navy SEAL, and the brash math prof who renovates his heart. Also, expect significant input from Josiah and Ryan from CONNECTION ERROR.

Catch the excerpt and review below and be sure to enter the giveaway for a $20 Amazon GC.
off-baseAbout the book:
After trading the barracks for a fixer-upper rental, Navy SEAL Zack Nelson wants peace, not a roommate—especially not Pike, who sees things about Zack he most wants to hide. Pike’s flirting puts virgin Zack on edge. And the questions Pike’s arrival would spark from Zack’s teammates about his own sexuality? Nope. Not going there. But Zack can’t refuse.

Pike Reynolds knows there won’t be a warm welcome in his new home. What can he say? He’s an acquired taste. But he needs this chance to get his life together. Also, teasing the uptight SEAL will be hella fun. Still, Pike has to tread carefully; he’s had his fill of tourists in the past, and he can’t risk his heart on another, not even one as hot, as built—and, okay, yeah, as adorable—as Zack.

Living with Pike crumbles Zack’s restraint and fuels his curiosity. He discovers how well they fit together in bed…in the shower…in the hallway… He needs Pike more than he could have imagined, yet he doesn’t know how to be the man Pike deserves.

How about a little taste?

“What do you mean they’re not coming?” Zack tried hard to sound like the badass navy SEAL he was now. He’d passed all sorts of interrogation training—there was no reason he couldn’t hide that he didn’t particularly like this guy. Or this fancy bar where he and his nontrendy clothes and military haircut were out of place. He’d agreed to go out for drinks with a group. His friend Ryan had promised him a drink for finishing his SEAL qualification training and getting his trident, and Zack had figured dealing with the rest of Ryan’s crowd wouldn’t be horrible. But tolerable was a far cry from being stranded alone with Pike freaking Reynolds without Ryan as a buffer.

“They blew two tires getting out of Santa Monica and are waiting on a repair truck now. Ryan said to have fun without them.” Pike looked harmless enough—shorter than Zack with a lean build and bright red hair and freckles that made him look too young to drink—but Zack knew from experience he was anything but benign. Pike was the type of guy who would flirt with wallpaper, but he seemed to have singled Zack out for special attention ever since their first meeting at a LAN party.

Which was all well and good, but unlike a lot of Ryan’s crowd, Zack wasn’t openly gay. And what Zack hated was that Pike seemed to see through all his “no, really I’m straight” protests and see things Zack refused to even think about. And a whole night with Pike? Torture. And that was coming from someone who’d been tossed into frigid water with his arms and legs bound. Repeatedly.

But he’d happily endure another round of drownproof training if it meant an easy out of this situation.

“Is Landon coming?” Please say it’s not just us. Surely, Pike’s omnipresent sidekick would be there to bail Zack out.

“Nope. He’s doing research at the Hadron Collider for the next few months. Just us, I think.” Pike grinned at him. “Alone at last, right?”

Zack guessed that the Hadron was one of those supersmart things Pike’s crowd just assumed everyone else knew about. He certainly wasn’t about to appear dumb and ask. “You don’t have to stick around on my account,” he said instead.

“Dude.” Pike smacked him on the shoulder. “I’ve had a shit week. Another three interviews for jobs for the fall, another three fuckups on my part. Don’t make me drink alone.”

“I guess I could do a beer.”

“On me, right? We’re all super stoked that you passed SQT.” Pike gave him another of those disarming smiles.

Ba-deep-deep. Zack’s phone chimed. Sure enough, there was a message from Ryan apologizing for bailing. Have fun with Pike, Ryan ended. But whatever you do, don’t let him talk you into shots. He looks scrawny, but he can drink you under the table. Trust me.

Zack shoved his phone away. Nope, no way was he doing shots with Pike. Last thing he needed was to get drunk and forget himself around the guy.

“So what’ll it be? They have a whole selection of craft beers here.” Pike offered him one of the little bar menus artfully strewn around on the huge antique wood bar.

“A Bud’s fine,” Zack said. He’d never developed a taste for the fancy stuff. This whole place was fancier than he was used to, what with the exposed hardwoods everywhere, the prettified bar food emerging from the kitchen, and the painted inspirational quotes behind the bar. Even the name, Mellow, was a far cry from the hole-in-the-wall places he’d drunk at in college or even Big Ted’s, the little sports bar right off base that his fellow SEALs favored.

Pike signaled the burly bartender, who frowned at them after Pike gave their order for a Bud and some fancy-ass beer Zack had never heard of. “Hand stamps, please. Both of you.”

Zack stuck his hand out, showing that the bouncer had indeed checked his ID. Pike put his arm right next to Zack’s—way too close for comfort. “See, look at us, finding things in common.”

“Getting carded is hardly something to be proud of,” Zack mumbled as he pulled his arm away. Back in San Diego, when he went to the bars with his friends, they never got carded anymore. And he liked that—he was twenty-three now, for crying out loud.

“Of course it’s not for you, Muscles.” Pike did that whole standing-too-close thing again, moving over so others could get to the bar.

Zack really shouldn’t like that Pike noticed what the past few months of training had done for his physique. He’d always been lean, but days of log- and boat-carry drills had carved out muscles he hadn’t even been aware he had. Zack accepted his beer from the bartender, then followed Pike to one of the little high-top tables ringing the bar area.

“Seriously, you are jacked now.” Pike winked at him, giving him the sort of once-over Zack’s buddies gave girls in bikinis. “Look at those shoulders. It even makes you look taller.”

Flattery was not going to work on Zack. Not even a bit. Besides, Pike was the short one, probably five seven or so. But Zack was a perfectly respectable five ten. In your boots.

“Truth, man. I just call it like I see it.” Pike shrugged. And that right there was the whole problem with Pike—he had absolutely no filter and a way too keen sense of observation.

My Review:
Navy SEAL Zach Nelson is a closeted gay man being tormented by one of his teammates, Cobb. He’s trying to pass, and mostly does, but he fears even experimenting with a man–because he knows his family will never accept him. And, he’s assured by Cobb that none of the guys in the squad will protect him if they find out he’s gay. Vulnerable, he looks for off-base housing so he can escape Cobb’s relentless haranguing. The senior chief of Zach’s squad has a small three-bedroom house he wants to renovate, and offers Zach free rent if he’ll do the work.

Zach struggles, however, as he’s not a handy guy. His good friends Ryan and Josiah recommend a mutual friend, Pike, to stay and help. Pike had struggled to find a job out of grad school, and has accepted a visiting prof job at a community college in San Diego. He knows Zach’s a sexually-confused man, but he’s not really prepared to teach him the secrets of gay life–no matter how attracted he is to “Muscles,” er, Zach. No. See, Pike got burned falling for a guy who wouldn’t come out before, and he’s not interested in repeating the experience.

Thing is, the more Zach and Pike live together, the more these guys fill needs for the other. Zach cares for Pike’s deranged cats. Pike is the handiest math genius in (perhaps) seventeen states. They get along far better than they had expected. And, there’s sexytimes. Pike stands-in as gay Yoda to Zach, who’s a frustrated, self-loathing virgin. I liked how they progressed from roommates to more, because it happened over the course of weeks-to-months. Zach’s frustration with Cobb’s bullying is palpable and gut-wrenching. His realization that he needs to be a better partner to Pike, when he finally accepts that they are more-than-friends, is really sweet. This is a good man, who’s lived under very constrained personal relationships. His parents are very Southern, and very religious, and very disapproving.

Pike, on the other hand, does all he can to live his truth, without bringing any harm to Zach personally or professionally. He’s a rock and a sweetheart, and a man who volunteers his heart for breaking, because Zach needs him. I really liked these guys, especially when Zach opened up about all the crap he was struggling with, not only to Pike, but to Ryan, and eventually to senior officers. There was some quelling of the homophobic comments on the squad once one of Zach’s teammates suspected his sexuality, and the handling of the bullying seemed to fit the situation. In the end, we get Pike and Zach out as a super solid couple, and I’m expecting gorgeous Lt. Apollo to find new love in one of the coming books. #Swoon.

Interested? You can find OFF BASE on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iTunes.

****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

Christmas Got Them WRAPPED TOGETHER–Review and Giveaway

wrapped-blitz-bannerHi there! I’m super excited to share a review for a new contemporary M/M romance from Annabeth Albert. WRAPPED TOGETHER is a Christmas story in the Portland Heat series of novellas that features an odd couple friends-to-lovers love story. Expect some cameos from the boys of KNIT TIGHT, too!

Catch the excerpt, my review and get in on the $20 GC giveaway, below.

wrapped-together-coverAbout the book:
In the bustling restaurants, shops, and cafés of Portland, Oregon, things really heat up for the hard-working men behind the scenes when the holidays come into town . . .

For a stationery store owner, the holidays are great for business. But for Hollis Alcott, Christmas reminds him of the tragic events of three years past, and the last thing he wants to do is take part in Portland’s over-abundance of festive cheer. But Sawyer Murphy, a hunky gift shop owner whose brother is married to Hollis’s sister, has made it his mission to pluck Hollis out of his holiday blues. And his plan is beginning to work. Wrapped in the warm glow of newfound passion, the former business rivals hit up Portland’s finest holiday traditions—and Hollis’s icy attitude begins to melt like snowflakes on his tongue. But he isn’t sure he can trust anyone with the only gift he has—his heart—without breaking it like an antique ornament. Unless he can find the courage to take a leap with the one lover he never expected . . .

How about a little taste?

This excerpt comes from chapter one of WRAPPED TOGETHER, when Hollis and his long-time frenemy Sawyer engage in a friendly bet sure to put their holiday cheer to the test!

****

I took a sip of my now tepid, almost-gone tea. Ugh. The good barista was on duty, the one who went with Ev from the knitting store and who always happily made my tea with the same care he did the fancy coffee drinks. I left the group, happy to have the excuse of needing a refill, but as I stood in line, Mary Anne joined me.

“Hollis Alcott, we almost never see you at these things!” Her voice seemed to ring out above the din. “Will you be participating in the contest this year?”

“I doubt it. My fall display is already set.” I tried not to sound too dour—she always had the best houseplants and had custom-ordered the rare fern I’d wanted.

“Ah, well, that’s too bad. You let me know if you change your mind. I’d be happy to lend you some poinsettias or other decor. I know you could do a splendid, tasteful window.”

It was my turn to order, so I gave her a smile as a reply before handing Brady my stainless-steel tumbler for tea and ordering a scone to go. I had to wait down at the other end of the bar for my order, and as I was waiting, Sawyer came loping over, a smile on his boyish face. His wide shoulders stretched the hoodie in distracting ways.

“Hollis! Did I hear you say you’re not decorating?”

“You did.”

He frowned. “I know how much you hate the holidays, but I bet you’d get an uptick in sales if you decorated. I heard Mary Anne offer to help. I could, too. I’ve got gobs of lights.”

“Thank you but no.” Truth be told, I could use the increase in sales, but it wasn’t enough of a motivator to get me ready for the onslaught of red and green.

Sawyer’s head tilted, considering. Oh no. I knew that look too well. A Sawyer who was scheming was downright dangerous. “We should bet, you and I.”

“No,” I said firmly. I stepped away from the coffee bar to let Mary Anne and others wait for their orders, but Sawyer kept step with me, effectively pinning me in between two tables on my path to the door. I sighed and repeated my objection. “No. The last time we bet, I believe you cracked a wrist.”

Sawyer waved a hand, dismissing my concern. “We were fifteen. We’ve had other bets since then.”

We had, but there was one in particular I was determined not to remember right at that moment. This was the peril of having known someone for almost two decades. “How precisely would one even bet on this?”

I let my inner musings escape before I could rein them in, and Sawyer smiled. He knew he had me. Whatever nervousness and shyness captured my tongue around large groups did not, unfortunately, extend to Sawyer. “Well, I was thinking whichever of us makes it into the top three is the winner of our bet, and then the loser has to do whatever the winner wants for an evening.”

Oh, I did not like this. “Anything?”

“That wasn’t a no.” Sawyer’s grin showed the sort of charm that made him so darn popular. “And I wasn’t thinking of something kinky. Trust me here, Hols.”

“Don’t call me that.” And I most certainly did not trust him. I was pretty sure the always-affable Sawyer didn’t have a kinky bone in his body, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t up to something. “But I could get you to do any task of my choosing?”

See, the thing about me that Sawyer knew was that I have a very hard time resisting a bet. Always have, hence the aforementioned bet freshman year of high school about jumping over auditorium seats during drama class. I’m also notoriously cheap. And as it turned out, I did have a job for him.

He nodded. “Anything.”

“I have a bathroom I want painted at my store. Including the trim.”

Sawyer, to his credit, didn’t look remotely pained. “That’s fine. I’m good at painting.”

“And you? What would you want?” I had no idea why I was asking. I certainly wasn’t planning on agreeing to this ridiculous plan.

“A surprise.” He winked at me.

“I don’t like those.”

“I know. Which is why you need one. But if it makes you feel better, I’ll specify no sex or nudity involved.” Sawyer had mercifully dropped his deep, clear voice to softer tones. I still bristled at the thought of anyone overhearing this.

“Or humiliation, public or otherwise.”

“Oh, Hollis, you know me better than that.” He held up his hands. They were big, capable hands, and I had to blink to get my eyes to look away. “Now, come on. I dare you. Bet me.”

My Review:
4.5 stars for this sweet and spicy M/M Christmas friends-to-lovers, odd-couple romance. It’s a part of the Portland Heat series, and easily enjoyed on it’s own.

Hollis Alcott and Sawyer Murphy have known each other since middle school. They are both halves of a twin, and Hollis’ sister Char was besties with Sawyer through high school–and she married Sawyer’s twin, Tucker, several years ago.

Hollis is a serious introvert, very uptight about his public and private life–even if he has none. Sawyer is out and proud, a braggart back in high school when he would casually relate all his exploits to Char, and Hollis, by default. He was too fearless, and too fanciful, for Hollis, even if Hollis couldn’t help being swept away by Sawyer’s gregarious nature. Still, too risky to even come out before he was on the other side of the US, gong to school on the east coast while his family lived in Portland, Oregon.

Three years ago Hollis and Char’s parents died in a skiing accident, and they have dealt with it in their own way. Char’s family lives in her childhood home, growing more offspring and engaging with life while Hollis runs his own carefully-curated craft paper, ink and pen shop. He’s a fussy man, wanting to project the perfect image of perfection, while inside he’s a neurotic wreck. He’s still very much attracted to Sawyer, who runs a card and gift shop in the same Main Street business area as Hollis and pals from KNIT TIGHT, Ev and Brady’s yarn and coffee shops. Hollis is a big fan of Ev’s knitted scarves, and those come in really handy when Sawyer gets his lips on Hollis’ very sensitive neck… #Hickeys!!

But first, the premise: Hollis is always down around the holidays, and their business association is running a window decorating contest to boost sales. Sawyer bets Hollis that his shop will come in top three, and if Hollis’ store wins, he’ll do some manual labor around the shop–but when Sawyer wins, it’s a date night.

Hollis can’t understand why Sawyer wants to play with him, but he’s much too fragile to hand his heart over to a man who’s been notorious for quitting everything. Sure, they’re rolling up on thirty now, but Sawyer’s still too brilliant a light for Hollis to look into often. He’s scared, having little-to-no experience in relationships, yet Sawyer is a patient, and persistent force. Plus, their familial and business connections continue to wrap them together, even when Hollis would rather run for the hills.

That said, Sawyer’s thrilled by the little bit of kink he susses out of Hollis’ reactions. It seems Hollis really likes a bit of dominance, and rope bondage. Oh, and some orgasm denial. Yes, our buttoned-up fusspot Hollis is dirty dirty boy, when he feels safe enough to let himself play with a partner. Their deep connection and the rekindling of their friendship allows Hollis to let go with Sawyer. Sawyer’s so grateful for this kinky peek into a man he’s wanted for years. They get it on for a bit–until Hollis’ complete paranoia regarding Sawyer’s motives finally kicks in.

This is a really sweet book. Lots of hurt/comfort for Hollis, and a heart-to-heart moment with his ghosts, to remember that he’s a good guy who deserves far better than the grief-shrouded, showplace home of a life he’s built for himself. Only when he opens his door to Sawyer’s big love and hearty plans does Hollis recognize that his memories don’t all have to be blanketed in sorrow, and that new experiences can be as lush as the life he once had.

It’s a quick read, with great guys–and nice cameos from Ev, mostly, of KNIT TIGHT. Expect a heartwarming read, with a solid HEA. Also, a nosy cat, and a couple moments that might require a tissue. (Pretty much universal for me and Christmas reads…)

Interested? You can find WRAPPED TOGETHER on Goodreads, Kensington Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble Kobo, iTunes and AllRomance. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

****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.

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

Mr. Right? Or, CONNECTION ERROR-Review and Giveaway!

Connection Error Blitz BannerHi there! I’m super excited to share a release day review and giveaway for a new contemporary M/M romance from Annabeth Albert. CONNECTION ERROR is the third book in her #gaymers series and features a new couple dealing with big changes in their lives. 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!

CEAbout the book:
It’s typical of video game programmer Josiah Simmons to be the last one on the plane on the way to the biggest meeting of his career. Though he’s (mostly) coping with his ADHD, he can’t handle another distraction. But he also can’t ignore his rugged seatmate—especially once he learns the military man’s a fan of his game.

Ryan Orson refuses to let his severe injuries pause his career as a navy SEAL. He’s got hours of grueling physical therapy ahead of him, and no time for anything that might get in the way of his return to active duty. But that doesn’t mean he’s above a little first-class flirtation with geeky-cute Josiah.

When a delay strands the pair in St. Louis, they agree to share a hotel room and a night of gaming. Neither expects their new connection to move to the next level in the light of day. Opposites may attract, but is this game over before it’s even begun?

How about a delicious taste?

Chapter 1

Somewhere between the third newsstand and the fourth moving sidewalk in LAX, Josiah regretted not joining his friend Ravi in training for a 10k charity race. Nothing like a flat-out sprint from the check-in counter to the slow-moving security lines and another dash from security all the way through gates to make him rethink his aversion to cardio. And the worst part was that for once in his life he’d made every effort to be on time, getting up before the alarm, starting coffee, making sure they were out of the house by o’dark thirty ready for his early morning flight to Germany via a stop in Washington, DC.

Passport? Check.

Carry-on with both laptops, tablet and assorted accessories? Check.

Suitcase with more shirts with buttons than he’d ever owned in his life? Check.

Double-checking that his ticket was booked under “Josiah” not “Joseph”? Total fail, but in his defense, it never occurred to him that the travel agency his employer used would give the wrong name. And the check-in attendant at the airline counter didn’t want to believe that there was a mistake. Thus, every careful endeavor he’d made to ensure that he was on time—early even—went up in a huff of waiting for a supervisor and then another supervisor.

And now finally he was sprinting to make sure he didn’t miss the plane. Forget being there in time to priority board, he was going to be lucky to make the plane period. His first time flying first class—thank you, Space Villager for being such a bestselling gameand it was off to an inelegant start thanks to a stupid mistake.

Finally, finally, he reached the last few gates of the terminal. The TV sets scattered throughout the waiting area were all taking about that huge freak snowstorm heading for the New York area and whether it might veer south enough to cause snow along the whole Eastern Seaboard. Josiah shook his head, trying to not get sucked in to the TV. As long as he got to Germany on time, it wasn’t going to affect him and he needed to stay focused on—

“Last call for Flight 324 nonstop service to Washington Dulles International,” the loudspeaker blared.

“I’m here, I’m here,” he panted as the gate attendant set the red phone back on its hook. He held out his ticket. The woman was around his mother’s age with very red lipstick and very short blond hair and a spectacular frown just for him.

“Ah. Mr. Simmons.” She looked up after scanning his tickets, decidedly less frosty once she saw his first-class seat number. “Come with me, I’m going to have to walk you down.” She spoke into a walkie-talkie as they headed down the walkway. “We’re going to need to gate check your bags. I’m so sorry, but the first-class overhead compartments are all full.”

“Crap.” She gave him a questioning look, and Josiah remembered that he was supposed to be Mr. Smooth and Sophisticated Project Manager, not some whiny kid. “Sorry. That’s fine. Just let me grab my laptop.” He grabbed the laptop with the longer battery life before the attendant put a pink gate-check tag on his two bags. “But…uh…fragile.”

She gave him a tight smile, but added a yellow Fragile tag to his laptop bag. “You’re in Seat 1A,” she said, handing him his ticket back. “You’ll get your bags back when we land, I promise. Enjoy your flight.”

After a brief conversation with the gate attendant, a male flight attendant shut the plane door behind Josiah. “Welcome aboard,” he said to Josiah in a tone that clearly meant, “thank you for pushing back our departure.” In fact, the plane was rolling away from the gate before Josiah almost tumbled into the empty aisle seat of the first row.

“You made it.” A warm chuckle eased past the pounding of Josiah’s heart.

“Wha—what?” he whipped his head over to the window seat—a farther distance than one might expect. The first-class seats were huge padded affairs and there was a thick console dividing the seats. And…hello, most gorgeous guy Josiah had ever seen.

Wide, mischievous smile. Sparkling hazel eyes. Unshaven jaw. Short dark brown hair. And holy hell, arm muscles for days. Bulging biceps with tats poking out of his T-shirt sleeves.

All of a sudden this flight started looking way up.

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to startle you. I just meant I was beginning to think I’d get the row all to myself.” The guy’s voice was possibly even more attractive than his model-worthy face, deep and soothing, with an undercurrent of the sort of confidence that never failed to make Josiah shiver.

And he was all Josiah’s for the next five hours.

Well, except for the part where he seemed ready to take a nap and tune Josiah out—the guy had a pillow behind his head and a blanket on his lap. He yawned, revealing gleaming teeth worthy of a toothpaste ad.

“You’re not a model, are you?” As usual, Josiah’s tongue leaped into action before his brain could restrain it.

“What? No, not a model.” The guy laughed, more of that smoky chuckle that did things to Josiah’s insides.

“TV star? Athlete? Because it seems like I should know you from somewhere, and I don’t want to get to DC and people be like, hey, you were next to that Laker the whole flight…” He trailed off because his friends were right that he had absolutely no filter, and that was triple true around Muppet-flail-worthy hot guys.

“Nope, not famous.” The guy studied Josiah for a long moment, considering, the sort of are-you-for-real expression on his face that Josiah was well used to. Seeming to come to some sort of decision, the guy stuck his right arm across the console. “Lieutenant Ryan Orson, US Navy.”

“Pleased to meet you.” Josiah accepted the handshake. Navy made sense given the Navy-emblazoned T-shirt stretched tight over the guy’s aircraft-carrier-wide chest. Holy crap, the guy was big. Josiah was a skinny 6’2” with big hands and feet that always got in the way. But this guy’s hand made Josiah’s feel downright dainty. “I’m Josiah, Josiah Simmons.”

“Well, Josiah, want to know a secret?” Ryan asked in a conspiratorial whisper.

“Sure.” Josiah was down with whatever secrets this guy wanted to share.

“Not only am I not famous, I’m not even supposed to be in first class.”

“You’re not?”

“Nope.” Ryan winked at Josiah. He had a very disarming wink, all good humor and twinkly eyes.

“The check-in clerk bumped me into first.”

“You got the nice clerk.” Josiah was still a bit grumbly over the name hassle.

“She lost a brother over in Afghanistan.” There was a subtle hint of “grow up” in Ryan’s tone. Josiah straightened, remembering again who he was supposed to be. And here was this impossibly attractive guy to practice on. Sure, he might be Josiah the clueless geek back home, but here he was Josiah the new project manager. This Josiah knew the right way to act and speak and could impress even tough audiences.

“That’s so sad for her.” Josiah tried for sophisticated empathy, something he knew he kind of sucked at.

“Yeah, it is.” Something indecipherable passed over Ryan’s face, his eyes getting darker and cloudier and that wide smile flagging a bit. “Anyway, guess she saw…the Navy connection and had a spare seat to bump me into.”

“What do you do? In the Navy I mean?”

The guy went silent, considering, and Josiah was afraid he’d been too nosy again, but right when he was about to apologize, Ryan finally spoke. “I’m a SEAL. I do a little bit of everything, but mainly I make things go boom. You?”

“Oh my God, you’re Special Forces. Do I ever have questions for you!” Josiah babbled again, only slowing down as Ryan’s easy smile morphed into grim line. “Sorry. I’m just excited because I’m a video game designer. And special ops is our new expansion pack.” And it happened to be the one Josiah was in charge of.

“You program games?” Ryan blinked, and Josiah wasn’t sure what he’d expected Josiah to do, but this clearly wasn’t it. “Anything I’ve heard of?”

Ah. That was it. He assumed Josiah was some sort of kid programming a dot matrix game in his basement. Josiah knew he looked too young for his job, because he was too young. At twenty-three, he was the youngest lead developer on the design team. Thus, he took no small amount of pride in saying, “Space Villager.”

“Oh wow, really?” There was a new note of respect in Ryan’s voice. “I love that game, especially the pod racer and first-person shooter expansion packs.” There was a hint of Texas or something else Southern in his voice, and Josiah could listen to him all day.

“Yeah? Well you’re going to love our special ops expansion pack even more.” Josiah projected far more confidence than he actually felt. He could make this project a success. He had to. The PR team had already hinted that the next expansion pack would revolve around special ops activities on a small war-torn planet, so Josiah didn’t worry too much about sharing this much with Ryan.

“I bet. My ex got me to back the crowdfunding drive, and I’ve been hooked ever since. My buddies were already teasing me about how much time I spent gaming, but there’s something particularly addictive about your game.”

Your game. Josiah liked the sound of that. He only knew a handful of women who played Space Villager, but the ones who did tended to be rabid fans. It was possible he might even know Ryan’s ex by her user handle, but Josiah had just enough self-control to not ask.

“Prepare for takeoff,” the pilot intoned over the PA. This was the part Josiah hated, the acceleration and stomach-dropping ascent. Today he hated it even more, knowing they might catch the edge of that storm. Focusing on turbulence that was probably hours away wasn’t logical, but then, Josiah’s brain seldom was.

“You always so antsy or are you a nervous flyer?” Ryan asked.

Oh crap. Guess he wasn’t doing such a bang-up job projecting the aura of a with-it project manager. He laughed nervously. “Both?”

“I promise we’re going to be okay.” Ryan gave him a quick friendly pat on the knee.

Oh. Josiah’s eyes went wide. Ryan was missing part of the pinky finger on his left hand and had some wicked scarring further up his forearm. Josiah tried not to stare, but knew he failed miserably.

“Mission gone wrong,” Ryan said gruffly. “Now back to flying, millions of people fly every day. It’s safer than car travel.” His tone made it clear further discussion of his hand was not on the table.

“I know flying’s safe. Knowing that’s not the same as believing it.”

Ryan’s answering laugh seemed to strip some of the tension from his face. “How well do I know that attitude. My ex got nervous before every flight, and his buddies used to razz him about it mercilessly.”

Man, two ex references in five minutes. Ryan must be totally hung up on his ex…wait. “His buddies”…What the hell?

“Your ex is a guy?”

“Yup.” Ryan’s smirk said he’d pegged Josiah ten minutes ago, probably when Josiah couldn’t peel his eyes away from those tasty biceps.

“Cool.” He was grinning, but he couldn’t make his facial muscles behave. Hot damn. Gorgeous, muscled, single, gamer, and gay. He ticked every last one of Josiah’s “perfect man” boxes. And if the gods were kind at all, Josiah could keep it together long enough to make a lasting impression.

My Review:

Josiah and Ryan meet in the first class cabin on a flight from LA to Washington DC. They hit it off, and Josiah is thrilled to meet such a sexy, gay man, who also loves gaming. Ryan is a Navy SEAL on his way to get fitted for his new legs so he can re-take his life in active duty as an instructor–or so he hopes. Josiah is a fun and flirty seat-mate, but Ryan’s frustrated that young, cute Josiah didn’t even notice that he’s a double amputee. Or, so he thinks.

When the flight gets diverted due to a blizzard, Ryan offers Josiah a bed in his hotel room. Turns out that’s the only bed. And, while that’s totally cool, it’s not really romantic. Not for Ryan, who feels awkward about his stumps and still suffers acute phantom limb pain. But Josiah’s a sweet guy, and they make a little magic happen. While Ryan’s ready to walk away the next morning, even after their late-night gaming camaraderie, he realizes that Josiah–headed for a big meeting in Germany–left one of his laptops behind. Thus begins a sweet connection between Josiah and Ryan. Over the three week separation, they game together, they message each other, and they build a rapport neither expected.

Josiah hoped, of course, but he’s a young, flighty guy on a cocktail of meds for his ADHD. What would a serious, muscular, sexy Navy SEAL see in him? Still, he’s being challenged at work to run his own team, and it’s stressful. Being able to confide in Ryan is therapeutic, and Ryan feels the same. He can’t talk to his fellow amputees or therapists about his struggles to adapt to life on prosthetic legs because he still hopes to remain in active duty. And, his family is still overwrought with grief over his injuries to be helpful. Ryan is determined to never be a burden, and this makes it hard for him to fully engage with anyone, especially Josiah.

They meet again, a few weeks later, when Josiah stops over in DC to collect his computer and spends a few days visiting with Ryan. Their time together is sweet, and a little sexy. They make plans for another visit when Ryan returns to LA for a family party. Meanwhile, they keep in touch through phone calls and messaging. And, by little fits and starts, their romance blossoms. Josiah learns to take charge of his life, his work and his relationships, and Ryan learns being vulnerable allows a deeper connection to be made. Each man struggles–Josiah emotionally, Ryan physically and emotionally–but the end result is a tender love. They have some sweet and spicy sexytimes when all is said and done, and it’s definitely an HEA for this gamer and his SEAL.

Interested? You can find CONNECTION ERROR on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon (US and UK) Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and Google Play. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

****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.

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

Working Out the Kinks–BETA TEST–Review & Giveaway!

Beta Test Blog Tour BannerHi there! I’m so excited to share a review for a fantastic new contemporary M/M romance from Annabeth Albert. I absolutely loved STATUS UPDATE, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on BETA TEST. Though it’s the second book in the #Gaymers series, it’s fully enjoyable on its own. I just love me some interracial romance, and this one has both heart and hearth–meaning serious amounts of family drama.

Catch a First Kiss excerpt and enter to win a $20 GC in the giveaway below!

Beta Test by Annabeth AlbertAbout the book:
Player vs. Player. Fight!
Brilliant graphic designer Ravi Tandel is ahead of the game—he’s just been asked to present a top secret project at a huge conference in Seattle. All systems are go…until he learns his buttoned-up office nemesis is coming along for the ride.

Tristan Jones isn’t really the gamer type, but he knows the back end of the video game business inside out. Together, he and Ravi will give an awesome presentation. If they survive the cross-country trip first.

Tossed together in close quarters, Ravi’s shocked to see Tristan’s sexy, softer side emerge from such a conservative shell. He’s less shocked to learn his handsome colleague’s prominent family would never support an out-and-proud son. But Ravi didn’t struggle through his own coming out to hide who he is now. To be together, Tristan will have to push past his fear and ultimately decide: Does he want a future with Ravi? Or is it game over before they’ve even begun?

How about a little taste?

Knock. Knock. A knock came from the connecting door, startling Ravi into hopping off the bed.

“Tristan?” he called before unlocking the door.

“Yeah,” came the muffled reply.

“What’s up?” As he opened the door, he realized that he didn’t even have a shirt on. After his shower, he’d pulled on a pair of Star Wars lounge pants that Avani had given him on his last birthday. He wasn’t a modest guy, but this was a bit…exposed for a late-night encounter.

“Um. Not much.” Tristan stood there in ridiculous blue plaid pajamas and bare feet, hair still damp and sticking up at weird angles. The overall effect should have been one of Tristan escaping from whatever retirement compound Elmer called home, but instead Ravi found it endearing.

You’re so screwed, man.

“Not much?” Ravi raised an eyebrow. “But you knocked?”

“Um. Yeah.” Tristan scratched his neck and shuffled one foot. “My room stinks.”

“Your room stinks?” Ravi had to stop himself from laughing. As far as pretexts went, that was pretty darn lame, high-school-campout-worthy stuff.

“It really does.” Tristan gestured, and Ravi followed him in and took a deep sniff. Yeah, the room did smell pretty funky.

“O-kay.” Ravi drew the word out. “Why don’t you call the front desk? This is a pretty big place, and it’s the middle of the week. I’m sure they can find you a different room.”

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to bother you.” Tristan did the shuffle thing with his foot again. “Never mind.”

“Tris.” Ravi grabbed Tristan’s shoulders when he tried to turn away, forced him to look at him. “What’s really up?”

“Nothing. I was thinking we could watch a movie in your room, but you’re right, I should call for a new room.”

“That’s what you want? To hang out with me?” Ravi took a step forward, not dropping his hands from Tristan’s shoulders. He could feel his warmth even through the soft blue cotton. Their bodies were mere inches apart now. Tristan’s gaze went straight to Ravi’s mouth before he licked his own lips.

Oh fuck. Killing me, Tris, you really are.

“I’ve got a movie on,” Ravi said softly, making no move toward his room or to step away from Tristan. There were a thousand reasons why he needed to step away, get Tristan to call for a new room, and stop the energy arcing between them, yet he couldn’t seem to find the one that would get his feet to move.

“Yeah.” Tristan’s exhale ghosted across Ravi’s face. His eyes continued to look as though they had a tractor beam on Ravi’s mouth. “That’s good.”

“I’ve got no clue what the movie is.” Ravi laughed shakily.

“That’s okay.” Tristan moved, subtly leaning forward before retreating a millimeter, like he wasn’t quite sure how to close the gap between them.

Ravi knew, but there were a whole host of reasons why he should retreat and lock the door behind him, put a hotel’s worth of distance between himself and temptation. But he didn’t move back, instead doing what Tristan was shuffling toward and closed the distance between them, claiming Tristan’s mouth like he’d been obsessing about for two days now.

Okay, okay, perhaps a bit longer than that, if he were honest with himself. Tristan was fussy and prissy and so not Ravi’s type, except he was cute and endearing and eager to please and…

Oh fuck it. They were so doing this thing.

Ravi’s lips slid softly over Tristan’s, hands coming up to cup Tristan’s face. His skin was smooth and slightly slippery, as if he’d shaved earlier. Tristan gave a little sigh as their lips collided, a happy noise that went straight to Ravi’s dick. Tristan tasted like a minty memory from Ravi’s teen years, a simple, classic taste that totally fit with the rest of Tristan’s persona.

And the way they fit together felt like a different kind of memory—like they’d done this before and yet never before in the same instant. Brand-new and achingly familiar. And far, far too sweet for Ravi’s blood.

My Review:
This is the second book in a series that’s fully enjoyable on its own.

Tristan is the son of a very conservative judge and lawyer, and survived the loss of his adored elder brother to a drunk driving accident nearly a decade before. He came out years ago, but his parents have asked him to keep his sexuality on the super-down-low so as not to interfere with his mother’s keen political aspirations. So, while he’s “out” he’s mostly closeted. It’s a total frustration when he’s hired at a completely gay-friendly videogaming company–because he’s super jealous of all his co-workers who live out-and-proud. Ravi, in particular, rubs Tristan all the wrong ways because he’s absolutely stunning, and far too flamboyant to be deemed acceptable partner material in his parents’ circle.

Ravi is an out-gay Indian man whose mother and grandmother have vociferously denounced his homosexuality and continually seek to link him with women. He’s been invited home for his younger sister’s wedding and has been delaying accepting the invite because he cannot bear the pressure and scrutiny. He loves his job as a graphic designer, even if he believes his task-master–Tristan–is a shrill homophobe. It’s even more frustrating that he finds Tristan attractive, as Ravi will never get into another workplace romance; not after his previous debacle…

Working on the latest top secret project for roll-out at ComicCon Seattle, Tristan is more and more aggravated by Ravi’s inability to meet deadlines. They get into a fight, in the middle of a company party, and both end up leaving the party early–so neither of them consume the tainted food that sends all the higher-ups to the hospital. And that means Ravi and Tristan are the only two people on the ComicCon project who are able to drive the display up to Seattle.

Two men in a truck. That’s the name of a local moving company here, and boy howdy do Ravi and Tristan move. They spend hours in traffic and share, and overshare, and break down (literally, regarding the truck) and come together (literally, regarding the sex). It becomes a case of: “what happens on the way to Seattle stays…” scenario, and it’s transcendent for both men. Tristan is truly out, and rather proud, not just of the experience of being with a free-spirit like Ravi, he’s also darned proud of his hard work and the accolades the company’s booth is receiving. Ravi’s aware that everything with Tristan is too much to contain within the confines of several days and nights, and they decide to go into stealth mode back in California. Oh, but it’s not easy…

I loved how these guys were so up-front about their troubles and pain, how they deal with the pressures of family. Tristan is ashamed to even mention his mother, knowing that her brand of politics will likely turn off any of the new friendships he’s building–and might cost him Ravi. And, yet, when he does confide he finds some level of security. Tristan has always carried the burden of his brother’s death, and Ravi has carried the burden of his family’s shame, but each man is able to reach beyond that, as they build a more secure relationship. Even as Ravi continues to maintain this is a FWB-situation, he’s more and more captivated by Tristan, and spends all his off times at Tristan’s house. I liked how Tristan used his new-found strength, security with both Ravi and his job, to stand up against his parents and their strong-arm tactics. And I liked how Ravi, with the love and support of Tristan, was able to push back against the issues in his own family, and build better, and stronger, relationships with his siblings. The whole book is a feels-generator, with two guys who want love finding it when they least anticipate, and growing into their adulthood in new and unexpected ways.

Interested? You can find BETA TEST on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Kobo.

Be sure to check out the first book in this series, STATUS UPDATE, and I look forward to telling you all about CONNECTION ERROR due out this fall.

Gaymer Series Collage

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $20 gift card!
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.
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Their Lives Became KNIT TIGHT–Review and Giveaway!

Knit Tight Blog Tour BannerHi there! Today I’m so excited to share a review for a brand new book in the Portland Heat contemporary M/M romance series from Annabeth Albert. I’ve really enjoyed other books in the series, including SERVED HOT, BAKED FRESH and DELIVERED FAST, so I jumped at the chance to review this one. KNIT TIGHT features an overburdened bisexual barista and the fussy knitter from whom he can’t tear himself away.

Check out the excerpt and be sure to enter the giveaway for a $20 gift card below.

Knit TightAbout the book:
It’s no secret that Portland, Oregon, has some of best restaurants, shops, and cafés in the country. But it’s the hard-working men who serve it all up that keep us coming back for more…

One of Portland’s hottest young baristas, Brady is famous for his java-topping flair, turning a regular cup of joe into a work of art. Every Wednesday—aka “Knit Night”—hordes of women and their needles descend on the coffeehouse, and Brady’s feeling the heat. Into the fray walks a tall, dark, and distractingly handsome stranger from New York. His name is Evren, and he’s the sexy nephew of Brady’s sweetest customer, the owner of the yarn shop down the street. He’s also got a killer smile, confident air, and masculine charm that’s tying Brady’s stomach in knots.

The smitten barista can’t wait to see him at the next week’s gathering. But when he tries to ask Evren out, his plans unravel faster than an unfinished edge. If Brady hopes to warm up more than Evren’s coffee, he’ll have to find a way to untangle their feelings, get out of the friend zone, and form a close-knit bond that’s bound to last a lifetime…

How about a delicious taste?

The People’s Cup wasn’t huge by any means, and Knit Night tended to fill the joint up. The space was longer than it was wide, with couches in front of the plateglass window, the coffee bar running along one wall, tables in the middle of the room, and a long wooden farmhouse bench and table for communal seating in the back of the room. The Knit Night ladies liked to turn the couches around and group the center tables together, creating a setup conducive to conversation but a tripping hazard for the rest of the patrons. And the arrangement resulted in an unholy din really, especially on nights when their ranks swelled to thirty or more.

“Remember to keep the aisle clear,” I said to Violet and her minions. I’d warned them about creating tripping hazards with their knitting gear, but it was as futile as telling the twins and Jonas to keep their Legos in one area. Like my siblings, the ladies loved to spread out their projects.

“What’ll it be?” I swung back to the register, no closer to having the right banter for the stranger, but no longer in a position to care. However, he’d stepped aside for Violet and her herbal tea order.

“I’ll be back when the line clears,” he said with a wink. He had a leather messenger bag, the sort meant to look like something Indiana Jones would haul around, for which one paid for every crinkle in the distressed finish. He’d probably come in wanting a quiet place to work.

He had the look and accent of a displaced New Yorker—working some cushy freelance job, no doubt. I liked thinking up little stories about my customers, but I didn’t bother coming up with a lengthy one for him. He wouldn’t be back once he saw how loud Knit Night got. And the ladies were likely to pester him about his intricately knit scarf with its pattern of interwoven cables. One time, I’d made the mistake of wearing a wool beanie I’d found for a buck at the thrift store. Every single knitter needed to remark on its construction. Dude was so going to be beating feet once Knit Night got underway.

My Review:
This is the fourth book in the Portland Heat series and can be enjoyed as a standalone.

Brady is a bisexual barista who’s working hard to support his four younger siblings in the wake of the death of his mother and step-father. He’s stressed and barely coping when the Knit Night crowd arrives at his cafe in Portland. A beautiful man, Evren, shows up. Turns out Evren’s the nephew of Mira–the knitting store owner, and he’s gay. And he’s got a bi prejudice. His last two boyfriends were either cheaters or left him for a woman.

Brady’s frustrated, but still intrigued as Evren shows up every week, caring for Mira who’s dying of pancreatic cancer. They begin a friendship, which ends up leading to more, but a highly regualted more as Evren’s got some astounding hangups about messy, penetrative sex.

The book spans a few months time, during which Evren and Brady come to lean on each other in their mutual grief. Brady’s chaotic life is further frustrated by his adult sister who doesn’t want to be a surrogate mom, while Mira’s truly dying and Evren can’t cope.

I liked the tiny vignettes from Evren’s knitting blog. It showed the vulnerability that he didn’t want to reveal to Brady. I loved Brady. He’s a selfless guy who doesn’t know how to ask for help. The meshing of their families was really special, for me. Plus, I’m a bit of a sucker for handicrafts and Evren lavishes Brady with plenty of knit socks to keep his feet toasty. (Wondering if Evren’s next book will feature ball cozies…)

There are a little bit of sexytimes with some low-level dominance kink at play. I liked how Brady stood up for his needs, as Evren’s kind of aloof, and he also didn’t let Evren discount him for his bisexuality. The book has some serious down moments, due to Evren’s struggle with Mira and her illness, who is the mother he got when his own family disowned him as a teen. They are a special family, and addition of Brady’s motley crew was rather charming to me. I like when characters have real life issues that impair their ability to connect, and do so anyway.

interested? You can find KNIT TIGHT on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo and Google Play. I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $20 gift card to Amazon or Starbucks (winner’s choice!)
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.

Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two children. Represented by Saritza Hernandez of the Corvisiero Literary Agency.

Find Annabeth online on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook.
1e96c-enchantress2bdesign2b25262bpromo2btour2bbanner

Gotta LOVE ME TENOR–Review & Giveaway!

LMT-BannerTemplateHi there! I’m so excited to share a review for a brand-spanking-new contemporary M/M romance from Annabeth Albert. LOVE ME TENOR is the second book in the Perfect Harmony series, and you know I adored TREBLE MAKER so I jumped at the chance to read this one.

Drop down to check out my review, an extended excerpt and get in on the $20 Amazon GC giveaway!

LovemeTenorAbout the book:
Trevor Daniels is feeling aimless. A recent college grad, he’s not sure what to do with his useless degree, and his family all but abandoned him after he revealed the truth about himself. But a friend’s suggestion that he take his chances on a reality show aimed at finding the next big boy band strikes a chord with him—until the show’s producers convince him to act like he’s in a relationship with a guy who’s not at all his type. It isn’t exactly love at first sight for Jalen Smith either—but lust just might push them in an unexpected direction. If only their secrets weren’t even more twisted than their sheets, threatening to cost them the win—and each other…

How about a taste?

“You brought your luggage?” The receptionist looked at Trevor like he’d brought a snake to the movie studio offices instead of a rolling suitcase and a backpack.

“My flight was late. And then customs—”

“Fine.” She held up a hand, shimmery with the sort of nail art Trevor’s sisters weren’t allowed to wear. “You can have a seat.” She motioned to a seating area with square leather and chrome chairs and a metallic-looking shag rug.

“Wait. Is my group here yet? Stand Out!?”

“Let me check.” She glanced at a pink sheet on a clipboard. “No.” She made a shooing motion back in the direction of the waiting area.

“Thanks.”

The receptionist disappeared back down a hallway, teetering on shoes that put her a good six inches taller than Trevor. The building was kind of a letdown. The whole complex was a series of gigantic gray warehouses, but the inside of this one was like any other office building in America. Or Canada. He’d only been in Vancouver a couple of hours and kept forgetting he wasn’t in the States anymore.

His bag made a loud clickety-clack sound as he dragged it across the tile floor to the seating area, but the only occupant in the chairs didn’t even glance up. The guy was about Trevor’s age, maybe a bit younger. His eyes were half-closed, like waiting for producers to call his name was just so boring. He had that jock sprawl, maximizing every inch of the low chair. Trevor took a seat with a good view of the guy. Indifferent eye candy was his favorite kind.

He had this thing for straight guys, particularly jocks. Jocks were his personal kryptonite; they made his knees turn into magnets, headed straight for the floor. And the guy across from him was the deadly, heart-stopping red kryptonite brand of jock. His build was perfect—not too tall, because Trevor was picky about that—but jacked like a Chevy with a lift kit. Hell, even the dude’s neck was ripped. Jock’s foot moved back and forth in motion with the music pumping in his ears from pricey Beats headphones.

Because dude’s eyes were shut, Trevor felt free to continue his inventory of hotness. Baggy shorts. T-shirt for a wrestling team. Wrestling. Trevor had to shift around on the slick leather couch before continuing his appraisal. Cheap white socks, but black shoes that probably cost more than Trevor’s bike. Rich elitist jock? Yes, please.

The outfit was notable because Trevor would have figured most guys coming to a TV studio would want to dress up a little. He had, but of course now his pressed khakis and dress shirt seemed horribly overdressed compared to jock boy and the receptionist wearing a cutoff denim skirt and a tank top that seemed to be made out of nothing more than knotted rope.

Maybe dude wasn’t there to be on TV. Or if he was, maybe he was there for a different show from the music reality show Trevor was on. He certainly didn’t look like the boy band type. Dude looked ready for an MMA-fighter type show, or maybe working as a stunt double. But if he wasn’t on Trevor’s show, that meant—

“You done checking me out or you need me to turn to the other side?” Jock’s eyes snapped open. They were a startling shade of hazel, almost amber. And at the moment, they were filled with undisguised irritation.

Oh, crap. Trevor gulped hard. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He dug out his phone, giving himself something to look down at. He’d been caught before and it almost never ended well. With any luck, Dawn would show up soon and he would never have to see jock boy again.

“Oh, don’t be shy.” Jock boy had a killer whisper: husky with a hint of command to it. He said it with the air of someone who knew exactly how hot he was. And now he was going to make Trevor pay for noticing.

Trevor didn’t look up from his phone, but inside he was squirming in his chair. In a different situation, he’d be more than happy to let this play out until he was on his knees in the restroom with jock boy berating him, but he’d sworn to turn over a new leaf. Plus there was always the risk that jock wanted all the verbal abuse and none of the fun. No more gambling.

“Yeah. That’s what I figured.” The other guy snorted.

“Trevor! You made it!” Dawn came barreling across the lobby, red hair streaming behind her. She was flanked by two nearly identical blond giants—one wore a blue polo shirt and khaki pants, the other a brown polo and blue pants. Both had the same bored smirk on their faces.

“What are you doing with your luggage?” Dawn’s smile was replaced by a frown, like Trevor was some clueless kid making her day more difficult. “Why didn’t you give it to the receptionist? They’re sending all the contestants’ stuff over to the house while we tape the intro segments.”

“Here. I’ll take it.” Blond giant number one grabbed Trevor’s bags, tossing them like they were a set of hand weights.

“Jalen!” Dawn stepped around Trevor to hug jock boy, who stood up to greet her. “It’s about time. I was starting to freak!”

Just his luck. Dawn hung on Jalen the jock like they were old friends, tugging his headphones down to his neck and rubbing his closely cropped black hair. Oh, geez. Jalen looked a bit young to be Dawn’s boy toy; she had to be in her late twenties. But no matter what Jalen was to Dawn, he was now a giant pain in the neck to Trevor. A sick feeling gathered in his gut and his hands tightened.

“Did you meet Jalen already, Trevor?” she asked.

“No,” Trevor said carefully. The tension in his muscles climbed to trampoline spring tight—any second now Jalen was going to call him out for creeping on him.

“We’re acquainted,” Jalen drawled at the same time.

“Um. Okay.” Dawn frowned but luckily kept talking before Jalen could reveal way more than Trevor wanted. “So this is Carter. And over there is Carson.”

Twins. They had to be twins right? Trevor was already in too much shit for gaping and didn’t want to stare hard enough to figure it out.

“So, are we ready to become the next boy band?” Carter spoke like some dude on an infomercial, each word carefully articulated for maximum impact. “I am so ready to win this thing.”

The riot in Trevor’s stomach grew worse. Win? With Jalen the jock? As in Trevor was now in the same group as jock boy? And the blond giants? For the next six weeks?

“Yeah. Let’s do this.” Carson came back over. Like Carter, he had a macho, commanding voice, probably a baritone when he sang. Heck. Trevor really didn’t want to be the only tenor on a team of One Direction wannabes.

“Okay Stand Out!, let’s go film your intro.” Dawn motioned for them to follow her down the hall.

Oh, hell. He was really going to be on camera, in a boy band, right freaking now.

My Review:
This is the second book in a series, and fully enjoyable on its own.

Trevor hails from a conservative Christian family which has rejected him due to his sexuality. He’s weeks from graduating college and his whole life already seems a bust. He’s cut off from his family and his planned job as music director in his father’s church. He has no prospects, no home and less than $100 in his bank account when he gets a call to take part in a “boy band” reality show. Trevor was part of an acapella group in college, and even participated in a previous reality show with that group the summer before–one of this new show’s producers is the one calling him back, and well, he has the choice between homelessness and six weeks of room and board in the reality show house. Plus, if the group he’s with wins…well!

Okay, it’s not gonna be easy, especially when Trevor learns that he’s part of a “gay” band. And, not just part…he’s the “other half” of a couple, to a guy he has never met.

Jalen is doing this show as a favor to his foster sister, and he doesn’t mind singing so much, but he hasn’t had any formal training, and he’s not sure what to make of Trevor, his “boo.” Jalen’s a beefcake mix of Black-Hispanic-Hawaiian genes, and though he isn’t tall, he dwarfs 5′ 5″ Trevor. They are pressed into sharing a room in the house, and that’s not all they share. Okay, well, that is all they share at first, but the pressure cooker of the competition soon draws them close.

Trevor has such a negative view of himself, it’s upsetting. He’s never been good enough for his family, his music group, his instructors, etc. He’s also so very hard on himself for looking too femme, with a high vocal range that also makes him feel femme. He has NO desire to be femme, but it’s kinda default, on account of his stature, and his self-loathing really affects him, holds him back from being the best he can be. Jalen is such a nurturer. As Jalen gets a glimpse into Trevor’s world, all he wants is to keep Trevor safe. It’s not easy, due to a developing medical problem that worsens as the story winds on. The big crisis comes just when it looks like Jalen and Trevor and their group are poised to win the whole thing.

There are some spectacular feels in this book. Trevor’s capacity for self-loathing seems deep and wide, but Jalen’s steadfast affection, and eventual love, is able to slowly draw Trevor into a positive mindset. There is some rather deep shame kink here–some I hadn’t read before–and I liked the way it was handled. The whole “different strokes” take was interesting and kept me engaged, as I hoped that Trevor would work past it. The playful banter was so spot on, and the insight from both Trevor and Jalen’s POVs were compelling. The competition didn’t play such a role in this book, as very little of the story takes place before an audience and there are no weekly eliminations, so the bulk of the narrative was focused on the characters and their love story, and how it developed.

There are good secondary characters, too. Carter and Carson–the other half of the “band” are not pleasant at first, but we get a good look in on them when the going gets rough. I liked how Trevor and Carter interacted when it looked like the whole plan was going up in smoke. Jalen’s sister is a good gal, despite the prickly situation of being a boss in the show.

I totally loved this one, and am not nearly ready to wait goodness knows how long for the NEXT book in this series now that I broke my rule and read the (included) first chapter of book three… ARRGH!

Interested? You can find LOVE ME TENOR on Goodreads, Amazon, Kensington Books, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Google Play, and Kobo. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.

Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two children. Represented by Saritza Hernandez of the Corvisiero Literary Agency.

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

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An All New STATUS UPDATE–Review & Giveaway

BannerTemplate(2)Hi there! I’m so excited to share my review for a new contemporary M/M romance OUT TODAY from Annabeth Albert. You know I loved TREBLE MAKER and the Portland Heat  series, so I jumped to get this Christmas romance.  STATUS UPDATE is a heartwarming tale of two men finding themselves in a very uncomfortable position–and it turning out so, so good!

Status Update (#gaymers, #1)About the book:
Adrian Gottlieb is winning at life. He’s a successful video game designer with everything a man could ask for, including a warm comfy ride to Denver and a date for his sister’s wedding. But he finds himself in need of a total reboot when he’s left stranded at a snowy campground in Utah. Holiday plans? Epic fail.

That is until Noah Walters offers him shelter for the night and a reluctant cross-country ride. Nothing about the ultraconservative geoarchaeologist should attract Adrian, but once he discovers Noah’s hidden love for video games, the two connect on a new level. Soon, a quiet but undeniable chemistry sparks.

Something doesn’t add up, though. As the miles accumulate and time runs out, Noah must face the most difficult choice of his life. Meanwhile, Adrian must decide whether he’s ready to level up. Is their relationship status worth fighting for, or has this game ended before it’s even begun?
Book 1 of the #gaymers series

How about a little taste?

Noah knew the dog was trouble as soon as he and Ulysses entered the campground’s off-leash dog area. The little guy—some sort of Chihuahua/mini-pin mix in a yellow-and-green checked coat—stood in the center of the scrubby grass, barking his fool head off. The only human in the dog area sat at the picnic table on the far side, completely absorbed in his shiny phone, oblivious to his dog strutting around like all eight pounds of him would be enough to keep potential threats out.

Ulysses gave Noah a look, like “you really expect me to ignore that?” Noah tightened his hold on the tennis ball chucker. Ulysses never did well competing with smaller dogs for his toys. He unclipped Ulysses with a stern look.

“Be good.”

Still yapping, the little dog rushed over to inspect his new enemy. Predictably, Ulysses wandered away to do his business. He was too old for these sorts of games.

Noah gave a halfhearted wave in the direction of the owner, but the guy didn’t look up from his phone. The young guy was a typical hipster tourist—thick tortoise-framed glasses, artfully messed-up dark hair, with a thick purple streak, falling over his forehead. Slim build, but his wide shoulders stretched his too-thin jacket, making the shiny fabric ripple with his motions. He wasn’t any more prepared for November in Utah than his designer dog. Still, he was a cute guy, if one was the type to notice things like that, which Noah was not.

Noah looked away, studying the sheer cliffs that surrounded the Capitol Reef National Park. Didn’t matter how much time he spent in Southern Utah, he never got tired of the view. Phone guy was missing the light shifting into one of those perfect late fall sunsets that made the early dusk worth the loss of daylight. Pink streaks mingled with gray sky to cast a rosy glow over the scrubby grass and low fence of the dog area.

Rowwwr. Ulysses flopped at Noah’s feet, a deep beseeching whine rattling out of his barrel chest. He was eighty pounds of unhappy. He’d waited patiently all afternoon while Noah worked, and now he was missing out on his ball time thanks to the teacup gatekeeper.

“Okay, but play nice.” Noah threw the ball hard with the chucker toy, going for enough distance to outstrip the tiny dog’s ability to keep up with Ulysses. Not surprisingly, the little guy was tenacious, cutting off Ulysses’s path to the ball. Ulysses gave a warning woof, and Noah broke into a run, heading after the dogs.

“Down,” he called out. Ulysses wouldn’t attack the smaller dog, but he wasn’t above a major tantrum. And despite the smaller dog acting as instigator, people would see the huge black dog and toss out the “aggressor” label. Noah preferred to exercise him late in the day—Ulysses simply didn’t enjoy playing with other dogs, and Noah wasn’t one to force his dog into uncomfortable situations.

The little dog stood over the ball, yapping up a storm while Ulysses barked and growled, ignoring Noah’s command to sit.

Finally, the owner hefted himself off the picnic bench.

“Pixel, baby, what are you doing?” the owner called in a melodic voice that didn’t inspire Noah’s confidence in the man’s ability to control his dog. “Did the big doggie scare you?”

Hah. Typical. Noah snorted. “Can you grab the ball?” He didn’t trust those little dog breeds—too quick to snap. He’d nearly been bitten trying to retrieve a ball more than once.

“Oh sure.” The guy reached under Pixel—typical cutesy name for an annoying dog—and delicately plucked the ball free, but instead of handing it to Noah, he gave it a toss, sending both dogs running.

Oh great. Noah let out a slow breath, little puffs of vapor in the crisp evening air that did nothing to defuse his tension.

“It’ll be okay.” The way-too-handsy guy patted the sleeve of Noah’s parka. “They just need to work it out. Pixel loves to play.”

Noah took a step to the side. Who did that? Touched complete strangers? But the guy kept up his friendly grin, not unlike his dog, who kept gamely chasing Ulysses. Ulysses won the race to the ball this time and hightailed it back to Noah. Not releasing his prize, he whined softly.

“Hey, boy. You got a toy?” The guy knelt to dog level and extended a hand, but instead of sniffing, Ulysses shook his head.

“Sorry. He’s not much on new people.” Neither am I. Noah’s voice sounded rough to his own ears—too many days with only Ulysses to talk to.

“It’s okay.” The guy straightened, then extended a hand to Noah. “I’m Adrian Gottlieb. You been at Capitol Reef long?”

“Couple of weeks.” He returned Adrian’s handshake, hating it when a little buzz shot up his arm. Unlike his own gloved hand, Adrian’s hand was bare, a hint of a tattoo playing peekaboo with his cuff, his grip strong and firm. And Noah had absolutely no business noticing anything more than the guy’s relentless friendliness.

Adrian smiled expectantly as he released Noah’s hand.

“Oh, I’m Noah. And that’s Ulysses,” he added, because dog people always wanted to know all about the dog. No doubt the guy was bursting to tell Pixel’s life story.

“Add-dreeee-an,” a heavily accented voice called from the gate. A beefy guy close to Noah’s age leaned on the fence, bald head gleaming in the setting sun. “I’m lonely. When are you coming back?”

“Coming,” Adrian shouted, then gave Noah a shrug with a “what can you do?” expression on his face. He grabbed Pixel and jogged across the field.

Noah nodded like he knew anything about handling demanding friends. Adrian greeted the mammoth dude with a quick peck. Okay then. Not a friend. He should have guessed, but he was a bit slow about relationship stuff. The country was changing, even way out here, but no one would dare try even that much PDA in his tiny West Texas college town. His stomach gave a weird flip—not quite discomfort, but something else he refused to name. Time to return his attention to Ulysses. He hurled the tennis ball as hard as he could.

My Review:
This book is filled with awkward, Aww!, and awesome.

First off, Noah is a dedicated archeology professor seeking tenure in his ultra-right wing west Texas Christian university. He’s a reclusive, closeted, 35 y/o man, sharing company only with his dog, Ulysses, for years now. The pressures of publishing are weighing on Noah, who’s taken a sabbatical term to write a research book. At a desolate RV campground just outside of some of his dig sites, Noah’s quiet is disturbed when the RV parked beside his erupts in turmoil, leaving a flamboyant young man and his sweater-clad Chihuahua-mix, Pixel, standing in his stocking-clad feet watching his newest boyfriend depart with their rented RV and all of his belongings.

Talk about awkward.

Noah takes pity on Adrian, offering him temporary shelter in the event that Trent returns. Yeah, not so much. Adrian is despondent, not just because this is yet another failed long-distance relationship, but because he and Trent were supposed to bond on the drive to Denver to attend his sister’s wedding. Adrian just cannot show up alone, because reasons (which are valid!) and he doesn’t know what to do.

Noah’s not inclined to give up his precious writing time–with a serious deadline looming–but he can’t get over how drawn he feels to Adrian. Yeah. That kinda drawn. Attraction, something that Noah has squelched in all its insidious forms for years now, is burning him inside out and twisting him around. Hearing all of Adrian’s sob story he’s just, well, he’s just going to drive him to Denver, dang it!

Thing is, along the way, Adrian discovers some very real truths about the good professor. 1. He’s gay 2. He’s closeted 3. He’s sexy 4. He’s celibate

Adrian would LOVE to erase number four from the list, but only if Noah’s a willing participant. While they endure bad traffic, blizzard conditions and a budding mismatched dog friendship, Adrian and Noah become very, very close. Noah has been able to stifle his sexual desires, but the experience of companionship that he feels–for the first time–with Adrian is hard to get over. So, why shouldn’t he try? After all, Noah’s on sabbatical. His contract’s morality clause is ironclad, but what harm is there in enjoying Adrian in his RV home, relishing tea made to order and soothing neck rubs? If he takes these few days, Noah thinks, and even a few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, to share his life with a kind and compassionate man, he could build up memories that would sustain him in his life as a celibate man. (PS–this troubles Noah more because he feels as if he’s taking advantage of Adrian’s good nature, not because he feels sex is necessarily sinful…)

I seriously laughed out loud (and nearly choked on my dinner!) experiencing an epic “I volunteer as tribute” moment. In the meantime, Adrian and Noah bond over their mutual love of videogames–Adrian is a coder for a crowdfunded MMORPG that Noah has supported. They really connect, sharing other interests like bad 80s sci-fi and gay fiction.

Adrian is so supportive of Noah’s sheltered life, never condescending over the reasoning behind Noah’s reluctance to “come out.” The tenderness was an 11, for real. And the sexytimes are hawt. Appreciative and timid Noah is a great match for Adrian, who’s been criticized by partners for being too aggressive, and too picky in his bedplay. The way they work it out together is spicy and sweet, pour on the heat. Yum.

Expect some big changes for the good professor, and all for the best. Expect Adrian to stand up for himself, and Noah, and vice versa. Great emotional depth, and positive supporting characters, are present, too. This is the beginning of the #gaymers series, and I think we got a hint about the MC of the next book near the end of this one.

Interested? You can find STATUS UPDATE on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and Google Play.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.

Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter.  In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two children. Represented by Saritza Hernandez of the Corvisiero Literary Agency.

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

pride