Forbidden Fraternization in WHEELS UP-A Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cleaning Up a CHIEF’S MESS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a newly-published M/M romance from L.A. Witt. CHIEF’S MESS is the third book in her Anchor Point Navy-romance series, and features two men who’ve struggled to find love, and have some serious work necessary to make it possible now. I really liked JUST DRIVE and AFRAID TO FLY so I couldn’t wait to read this one.

About the book:
Anthony Talbot is in Anchor Point to visit family, but after two days of strife, he needs a break. A local gay bar is calling his name.

When Chief Noah Jackson sees that red head stroll into the club, he immediately wants him. They’re perfectly matched, and before long, they’re burning up the sheets. Noah can’t get enough. Anthony can’t stay in Oregon for long, but as soon as he leaves, he’s counting down the days until he can fly back for more. And between his increasingly frequent visits, there’s always phone sex, sexting, webcams . . . anything they can get.

But Noah’s got a carefully crafted façade, and Anthony can’t help noticing the slowly forming cracks. The scent of alcohol in the middle of the day. The extra drinks at dinner. The hint of red in his eyes. Anthony knows what it means. He doesn’t want to believe it, but he’s seen this before, and there’s no denying it. If Noah doesn’t get his downward spiral under control, he’s going to lose both his career and the first man he’s ever really loved.

My Review:
This is the second book in a series and is likely BEST enjoyed after reading AFRAID TO FLY (book 2), but can be enjoyed as a standalone.

Anthony only came to Anchor Point as moral support to his sister, who’s ex-husband wants to spend time with their children. Travis (from AtF) has been sober for three years, and is rebuilding his life with his new partner, Clint, but Anthony doesn’t trust Travis as far as her could toss him. Still, if Anthony’s sister is happy, then Anthony will accept her judgment. Even if he’s sure that Travis is still a lousy drunk…

Frustrated by the tension of the experience, he goes trolling for some prime Navy “seamen” at a bar in the small town. That’s where he meets Noah, and it’s a hawt time in the bunks. Noah hasn’t ever had a long term relationship, though he’s nearing forty, and Anthony’s captivated by him. Their tryst turns in to a weekend, and then travel between his home in Denver and Anchor Point. Each time Noah and Anthony get together it’s better than the last time, but there’s a situation developing between them:  Noah drinks. Anthony can’t fathom how much, because they only spend a few days together every few weeks, but it’s starting to creep into their phone calls and video chats.

Noah doesn’t believe he has a problem, but it’s becoming clearer each day that his heavy drinking affects his work and relationships. Especially when Anthony is (emotionally) hurt bad due to Noah’s own (drunken) negligence. The alcoholism issue between Anthony and Noah took a long time to develop, and that felt realistic. Lots of people can be functional alcoholics, especially in isolation. Noah’s few friends didn’t necessarily see his problems, and they worked with him daily. That said, Anthony reached out for help regarding his own prejudices with alcohol, and it helped bring healing for him, too. I liked how Travis and Clint proved to be great guys and important parts of both Noah and Anthony’s story, in the resolution. The story started out with dirty, dirty sexytimes, and I liked how this transitioned into a more tender romance. Anthony and Noah both showed a lot of vulnerability, and that really made them endearing, although Anthony came off as a jerk initially.

I’ve loved this series from the beginning, and I Look forward to more sexy Navy men, and all their military issues, finding love in the future.

Interested? You can find CHIEF’S MESS on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Lauren Gallagher is an abnormal romance writer who has recently been exiled from the glittering utopia of Omaha, Nebraska, to an undisclosed location in South America. Along with her husband, a harem of concubines, and a phosphorescent porcupine, she remains, as always, in hiding from the Polynesian Mafia. For the moment, she seems to have eluded her nemesis, M/M romance author L.A. Witt, but figures L.A. will eventually become bored with the wilds of Spain and come looking for her. And when that time comes, Lauren will be ready. Assuming L.A. doesn’t have her hands full keeping track of Lori A. Witt and Ann Gallagher, which she probably will.

Visit her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Battling for Truth With THE LEGEND: A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary military romance from Donna Grant. THE LEGEND is the third book in her Sons of Texas series, and likely best enjoyed after reading THE HERO and THE PROTECTOR. All of these books have a continuing storyline of the Loughman family, a deep-Texas family of military operatives, who have had their family ripped apart by violence and execution.

About the book:
A LONE STAR LOVER
Callie Reed doesn’t need a man to protect her. An expert sharpshooter and renegade hacker, this Texas-born spitfire’s got the skills and the courage to stand up to any danger―no matter how deadly. But when she becomes the target of a shadowy organization known as the Saints, Callie is forced to team up with the one man she can’t outshoot: the gorgeous, and infuriating, Lone Star legend named Wyatt Loughman…

A Delta Force Colonel with a rock-hard body and stone-cold heart, Wyatt has been teasing and tormenting Callie since they were playmates on his family’s ranch. Of course, he’s wildly attracted to the fiery, strong-willed Callie. But he’s always hidden his feelings behind a wall of Texas tough and military cool, even as he’s burning up with desire. Can Wyatt save Callie’s life―without putting her love in the line of fire?

My Review:
THE LEGEND is the third book in the Sons of Texas military romance that features the Loughman family, a father, Orrin, and his three adult sons, Wyatt, Owen and Cullen, who are all military operatives. Orrin was on a SEAL mission when his wife was executed nearly two decades prior, shattering their family. Wyatt uncovered his mother’s body, and has hasn’t recovered from the shock.

He’s now a solitary man, moving from mission to mission with the Delta Force, having loved only one woman in his life: Callie Reed. But Wyatt walked away at 18, and has hardly ever returned. Well, only returned to keep Callie’s criminal family from troubling her, and now because his aunt and uncle were executed and Orrin had been kidnapped. THE HERO and THE PROTECTOR both give important background regarding the mission Owen, Cullen and Wyatt are undertaking to find their father and protect the biological weapon Orrin had stolen from a Russian base.

This book features Wyatt and Callie, who works for Orrin as a tactician and computer hacker, trying to pinpoint Orrin’s location, and also learn more about the shadowy Saints organization which seems to have put the hit out on the Loughman family this time. It’s a complicated story, but at the heart of the intrigue is Wyatt and Callie reconnecting. Callie’s been frustrated in love by Wyatt as a teen, and the years apart haven’t brought her past the anger she harbors for him. Working closely with Orrin for all these years, she’s seen how he suffered watching his sons turn away from him and go their own way. Callie thinks of Orrin as her surrogate father as he’s a principled man who fights the good fight, unlike her grifter family, and she thinks Wyatt has been too hard on Orrin all these years.

In close quarters and under fire, Wyatt and Callie recognize their mutual attraction didn’t end in high school, and the dire straits they find themselves in could become their final moments. It leads to some sexytimes, but there’s more battle cry than booty call when the Saints crawl out from their hidey-holes. The book includes POV from Wyatt, Callie and Orrin, as they navigate the path to redemption and forgiveness. Expect a lot of dead bad guys, some double crosses and a love (or two!) to outlast the danger. I liked the story, and was a little surprised that the entire series didn’t conclude. I suppose a fourth book is in the works, this time with Orrin finding both love and revenge, as he and his sons, now reunited, look to destroy the Saints once and for all. Yee-haw!

Interested? You can find THE LEGEND on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, IndieBound, Kobo. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

donna_grant_newAbout the Author:
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Donna Grant has been praised for her “totally addictive” and “unique and sensual” stories. Her latest acclaimed series, Dark Kings, features a thrilling combination of dragons, Fae, and immortal Highlanders who are dark, dangerous, and irresistible. She lives with her two children and an assortment of animals in Texas.

Catch up with Donna on her website, Facebook, twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, Tumblr, Audible, and Tantor.

Friends to Lovers ON POINT–Review and Giveaway!

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

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

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

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

How about a little taste?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crack.

Whoosh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****GIVEAWAY****

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

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

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

Find Annabeth online on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook.
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Finding Love AT ATTENTION–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Wow, long time no see! Busy busy back to school, even when I had a break… Still, I really excited to share a review and giveaway for a new contemporary military M/M romance from Annabeth Albert. AT ATTENTION is the second book in her Out of Uniform series, and really enjoyed OFF BASE, so I couldn’t wait to read this one. It’s a new romance that pairs a younger man with the heartbroken widower he’d fallen for years before–when he comes to help out with childcare over the summer.

Catch an excerpt below, and be sure to enter the $20 Amazon GC giveaway, too!
About the book:
Lieutenant Apollo Floros can ace tactical training missions, but being a single dad to his twin daughters is more than he can handle. He needs live-in help, and he’s lucky a friend’s younger brother needs a place to stay. He’s surprised to see Dylan all grown up with a college degree…and a college athlete’s body. Apollo’s widowed heart may still be broken, but Dylan has his blood heating up.

It’s been eight years since the teenage Dylan followed Apollo around like a lovesick puppy, and it’s time he showed Lieutenant Hard-to-Please that he’s all man now—an adult who’s fully capable of choosing responsibility over lust. He can handle Apollo’s muscular sex appeal, but Apollo the caring father? Dylan can’t afford to fall for that guy. He’s determined to hold out for someone who’s able to love him back, not someone who only sees him as a kid brother.

Apollo is shocked by the intensity of his attraction to Dylan. Maybe some no-strings summer fun will bring this former SEAL back to life. But the combination of scorching desire and warm affection is more than he’d expected, and the emotion between them scares him senseless. No fling lasts forever, and Apollo will need to decide what’s more important—his past or his future—if he wants to keep Dylan in his life.

How about a little taste?

Hamburger. Onions. Pickles. Ketchup. Buns. Buns.

Well, hello, there. Possibly the most perfect specimen Apollo had ever seen was bent over in the bakery aisle at Sprouts, looking at a rack of organic cookies. High. Tight. Round. Attached to muscular legs poking out of board shorts, the kind of legs that suggested a serious investment in a sport or fitness. He wasn’t going to do more than look, but even when he’d been with Neal, he hadn’t been blind, and it was nice to know perfection like this guy existed in the world.

It was like swimming by a perfect coral reef on a dive or the blue of a cloudless sky right before a jump—

Wink. Fuck. The guy straightened before Apollo could look away and caught Apollo staring, and instead of blushing or serving him with the angry glare he deserved, he gave Apollo a saucy wink. It was the sort of wink that a decade ago would have had Apollo crossing the shiny linoleum and getting the guy’s number, but those days were long gone.

Instead he grabbed the closest twelve pack of hamburger buns and one of hot dog buns and headed to the next aisle. Those were the only kind of buns he had any business letting himself be distracted by. He was a father for crying out loud, not some single guy out treating the natural grocery store like his own personal pickup joint. Reflexively, he rubbed his ring with the side of his pinky, making it spin on his ring finger. Yeah. No more looking.

“Apollo! How are you?” Bridget from down the street almost ran her cart into his as he navigated the aisles. Her red-haired toddler waved at him from the basket.

Hell. He knew he should have brought at least one of the girls shopping. Then Bridget could have focused on the kids, and not his least favorite question in the universe.

“Hanging in there.” Apollo gave her a practiced a smile. “Good” would be a lie and no one wanted to hear “same as yesterday,” which was closer to the truth. But what the Bridgets of the world all wanted to hear was that Apollo was moving on—like time was the magic cure for the hole in his heart. “Having some people over for a barbecue later. Apologies if anyone parks in front of your place.”

“Oh, no worries.” Bridget patted his arm. “Having friends is so important.”

“Yeah, it is,” Apollo agreed because Bridget was a nice person, but inwardly his teeth gnashed together. He was so tired of well-meaning people telling him what was good for him when not a damn one of their suggestions would bring Neal back. “I better get on with my list.”

“You do that. And be sure and let us know if you need anything.”

Apollo nodded. Two years. It had been two years of neighbors and friends stopping him like this, making kind offers, but none of them able to do the one thing he wanted more than anything.

Fuck. Snap out of it, Lieutenant. No one wants your mopey ass around on this sunny May weekend. And it was an absolutely gorgeous day, perfect for playing with the girls outside and kicking back a few beers with his friends. He wasn’t on duty and had three consecutive days off for the first time in a long time. No sense dwelling on sad shit. Time to get stuff done.

Find something else to focus on.

Like that perfect ass?

No. Absolutely not that. Like…pickles. Lots and lots of pickles.

He saw Mr. Perfect Butt again in the juice aisle, and it was damn hard to keep his resolution to stick to shopping. The guy was model cute—curly hair falling just so over his forehead, sparkling eyes, chiseled jaw, and a tight T-shirt advertising a British soccer team showing off a defined chest and tight stomach. The guy smiled at him again and looked like he might want to speak, so Apollo grabbed the juice boxes for the girls and got out of there like he’d just launched a flash bang in the guy’s direction.

At the checkout, Mr. Perfect Butt was ahead of him in the only line that seemed to be moving. Apollo very carefully did not look at his butt again and busied himself grabbing some gum and trying to give off “don’t talk to me” vibes.

But those vibes seemed to be an utter failure as the guy turned, offering another movie-star-worthy grin. “You want to go first?” His voice was husky, like every word was a secret.

“I’m good,” Apollo said.

The man nodded, shy smile teasing the edges of his mouth, making his blue eyes dance. “You know—”

“ID please.” The cashier interrupted whatever flirtation the guy had planned as his six pack of beer went across the scanner.

“Oh, yeah.” A faint red flush spread up the guy’s neck. Oh hell. He wasn’t just younger than Apollo. He was a kid. A kid who still got carded, and rightfully so with that baby face. What the hell had Apollo been thinking, admiring his body?

Apollo focused on unloading his own groceries, making neat rows for the cashier, and making sure the buns wouldn’t get squished.

Buns. Nope. Not going there. The kid hung around after paying for his groceries, mouth moving as if he were debating speaking, but Apollo kept his attention squarely on the cashier.

No more looking. Remember who—what—you are now. When he finally looked up, perfect butt guy was gone, and if Apollo felt a twinge of regret for being a bit on the rude side, he squashed it quickly. Wasn’t like he’d ever see the guy again anyway.

My Review:
Lt Apollo Floros lost his beloved husband Neal two years ago. He’s grieved terribly, while putting up a strong front for his young twin daughters, Chloe and Sophia. His mother lives in his home, and helps with the childcare, but she’s leaving for a two month trip to Greece with her sisters–a lifelong dream she’s saved for years to experience–and Apollo needs help.

His best friend, Dustin, has arranged to get a suitable person to care for Apollo’s girls: his younger brother, Dylan. Dylan’s just graduated college with a degree in childhood education, and wants to manage recreation classes for kids. He’s got a gig teaching at the summer camp Apollo’s girls are attending, and will be an excellent caregiver, if only he can remember not to fall for Apollo. Again. See, Dylan met Apollo years and years ago, when he came to visit Dustin during a leave, and Apollo was the center of all Dylan’s teenaged (and not so teenaged) sexual fantasies. He’s attracted to Apollo the SEAL, but Apollo the Broken-Hearted? Apollo the Loving Father? #GoneBabyGone

Apollo wallows in his burgeoning attraction to Dylan, quelling his lust by reminding himself that Dylan is Dustin’s baby brother–and twelve years younger than himself. Thing is, Dylan is a strong, assertive man who appreciates Apollo’s micromanaging schedules, and does his darnedest to make Apollo’s life easier. Plus he’s fabulous with Chloe and Sophia. Living in Apollo’s home puts Dylan right in the eye of the storm–he hadn’t realized Apollo spent his nights in the guest room where Dylan sleeps–until Apollo confesses how he’s hardly slept in his own bed in the two years since Neal died. It’s a heart wrenching experience, watching Apollo deal–poorly–with his grief, and deny himself any thoughts of finding love again, out of loyalty to the memory of Neal.

Dylan is a great young man. He’s a partner, and a lover, when Apollo needs one desperately. Still, he’s not getting his needs met, not while Apollo insists on keeping Dylan firmly in the role of ‘babysitter’, and Dylan’s smart enough to stand up for himself, especially when Apollo is way out of line.

I loved how tender this was, and how authentically the love story developed. This isn’t an easy love, but it has the possibility of being a great one. Knowing people who never remarried after losing a spouse, I really connected with Apollo’s grief, and I was relieved when he finally connected to it, as well. There’s a lot of healing in the book–some of it sexual healing–and there’s going to be a break up to make up, but it’s really well handled and felt true. Raising twin girls can’t be easy, but they didn’t take over the story.

I loved these guys, and I loved how they found love together.

Interested? You can find AT ATTENTION on Goodreads, Carina Press, 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.
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Living Past Being AFRAID TO FLY–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a newly-published M/M romance from L.A. Witt. AFRAID TO FLY is the second book in her Anchor Point Navy-romance series, and features two mature men who’ve had their fair share of hard knocks finding love. I really liked JUST DRIVE, so I couldn’t wait to read this one.

afraid-to-flyAbout the book:
Once a fearless fighter pilot, Commander Travis Wilson is now confined to a desk. It’s been eight years since the near-fatal crash that grounded him, and it still rules his life thanks to relentless back pain.

Lieutenant Commander Clint Fraser almost drowned in a bottle after a highly classified catastrophe while piloting a drone. His downward spiral cost him his marriage and kids, but he’s sober now and getting his life back on track. He’s traded drones for a desk, and he’s determined to reconcile with his kids and navigate the choppy waters of PTSD.

Clint has been on Travis’s radar ever since he transferred to Anchor Point. When Clint comes out to his colleagues, it’s a disaster, but there’s a silver lining: now that Travis knows Clint is into men, the chemistry between them explodes.

It’s all fun and games until emotions get involved. Clint’s never been in love with a man before. Travis has, and a decade later, that tragic ending still haunts him. Clint needs to coax him past his fear of crashing and burning again, or their love will be grounded before takeoff.

My Review:
Commander Travis Wilson pilots a desk instead of fighter jets, ever since the crash and ejection that rattled his spine and left his radio-operator confined to a wheelchair. It was excellent skill that kept them both alive, but Travis’ back and nerve damage takes a constant toll–one he doesn’t want to medicate, or he’ll be relieved of duty. Let’s not forget that Trav’s a proud man, too, and unwilling to relent his position or admit he should be on disability. He’s bisexual, but more attracted to men, than women–and the only person he ever loved was a fellow pilot who couldn’t out himself before he was tragically killed.

Lt. Commander Clint Fraser is rebuilding his life after suffering PTSD over a drone mission gone wrong. Unable to speak about the super-classified mission, he treated his nightmares with liquor until his wife left, and too the kids with her. Clint hasn’t had a drink in two years, but his “coming out” at the Navy Ball is all kinds of messed up when Clint’s date shows up roaring drunk. The up-side? Travis Wilson noticed that Clint’s bisexual.

Travis and Clint work in the same building, but aren’t in the same chain of command. When they recognize that spark building between them, they keep it mostly quiet, so they can see if it builds or fizzles. Trav’s sure it’ll fizzle, as he’s not fit for the kind of sexual activity most gay men enjoy. Clint’s not put-off though, because he likes the rapport they build, and he’s not picky regarding his sexual activity; if everyone is satisfied, it’s fine to keep it a little less physically-challenging.

I liked how Travis’ adult daughter plays a role in the book. She’s got PTSD from being a family member of an actively deployed airman, and I thought that was a unique perspective to experience. Clint’s family situation is a messed up, with Skype visits and supervised visitation, and that seemed excessive. I was glad that Clint started to stand up for himself by the end of the book. Travis and Clint claim to want to keep things light, but they keep reaching out for one another, emotionally and physically. I liked the way their relationship built. The sexytimes are nice and sensual, even if they aren’t filthy-raw, and the accommodations they make to keep Travis from experiencing heightened pain were clearly defined. It felt very realistic, and sweet. The deeper their bond grows, the more Travis begins to freak out. It was good he got some sense smacked into him by his daughter, friends and Clint–who isn’t willing to take a brush-off. The end is an HEA.

Interested? You can find AFRAID TO FLY on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Lauren Gallagher is an abnormal romance writer who has recently been exiled from the glittering utopia of Omaha, Nebraska, to an undisclosed location in South America. Along with her husband, a harem of concubines, and a phosphorescent porcupine, she remains, as always, in hiding from the Polynesian Mafia. For the moment, she seems to have eluded her nemesis, M/M romance author L.A. Witt, but figures L.A. will eventually become bored with the wilds of Spain and come looking for her. And when that time comes, Lauren will be ready. Assuming L.A. doesn’t have her hands full keeping track of Lori A. Witt and Ann Gallagher, which she probably will.

Visit her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

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.
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