Casual Hero OUT OF CHARACTER–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M New Adult romance from Annabeth Albert. OUT OF CHARACTER is a sequel to the bestselling CONVENTIONALLY YOURS.  Here we have a gamer teaming up with a former friend to recover both lost cards and their broken friendship–and more. 

About the book:

Jasper Quigley is tired of being everyone’s favorite sidekick. He wants to become the hero of his own life, but that’s not going to happen if he agrees to help out his former best friend turned king of the jocks, Milo Lionetti. High school was miserable enough, thanks, and Jasper has no interest in dredging up painful memories of his old secret crush.

But Milo’s got nowhere else to go. His life is spiraling out of control and he’s looking to turn things back around. Step one? Replace the rare Odyssey cards he lost in an idiotic bet. Step two? Tell his ex-best-friend exactly how he feels—how he’s always felt.

Jasper may be reluctant to reopen old wounds, but he never could resist Milo. There’s a catch, though: if Milo wants his help, he’s going to have to pitch in to make the upcoming children’s hospital charity ball the best ever. But as the two don cosplay for the kids and hunt for rare cards, nostalgia for their lost friendship may turn into something even more lasting…

My Review:

Jasper Quigley is a gamer and cosplayer and all around humanitarian. He’s an out-gay college senior about to finish his degree and might be taking his first job working for Odyssey–his fave card game–as a game designer. He has an in with a gaming friend who currently works there. But it would mean moving away from his hometown in New Jersey, and his family. This wouldn’t normally seem an issue, but he’s devoted to his younger sister, April, who has a congenital immune deficiency that continues to send her into the hospital. It’s why Jasper and his cosplay pals, including April when she’s well enough, dress as Odyssey characters and visit the children’s ward at April’s hospital each week to cheer the kids and play the game with them. Right now, April is bummed that one of Jasper’s pals is on a study abroad mission, because the popular character of Prince Neptune is MIA for several months.

Milo Lionetti is a man in search of redemption, and rare Odyssey cards. He was Jasper’s best friend for years, until high school and the GSA-club made Milo shun him. Jasper had a loving and supportive family. Milo had an alcoholic, homophobic and abusive dad, a browbeaten mom and an older brother who escaped to the military. He may have felt the same as Jasper did about boys, but he certainly couldn’t own it. But, not only did he hide his feelings, he didn’t intervene when his colossal-idiot friends bullied Jasper for his brains and his sexuality. Well, it’s all water under a bridge someplace, right? At least, it’s been years since Milo saw Jasper–but now he needs his help. Because the game shop where Jasper works could sell him a set of rare Odyssey royalty cards to replace the ones he just lost to a scumbag cheater. The cards that were his brother’s, who’ll be returning home from his tour in a matter of weeks. The cards, Jasper has just informed him, that are worth thousands of dollars…and are also not “for sale”. One needs to win them, or find them in decks.

Milo is crushed, and Jasper isn’t one iota sorry. Well, okay, maybe a single iota. Because he did like Milo’s brother, and he does hate the dude that torched Milo and fleeced him of the valuable cards. But, well, Milo can just take a hike, right? Except he’s still so attractive, and being around him is rekindling a confusing mix of sadness and attraction, as Milo was Jasper’s first crush, the boy he’d loved in secret until Milo’s betrayals cut too deep. So, yeah! See ya later, Milo! And, by later, Jasper means in a week, because he agrees to help Milo with the impossible–score FOUR ultra rare Odyssey Royalty replacement cards–if he will join the hospital cosplay nights.

And this bargain between “enemies” leads to romance.

I loved this story from the start. We met Jasper in CONVENTIONALLY YOURS, as one of the players on the Gamer Grandpa vlog who had to drop out of the cross-country quest when April got hospitalized and he feared she might not make it. He seemed a sweet guy, willing to bend over backwards to help anyone–which is how Milo knows that asking for his help will actually yield results. Milo is restarting his life after a bad car wreck, and dashed college dreams. The dark shadow his dad loomed over him is now gone–having died a couple years back. He’s living with his old high school friends, who are just as vile as before, with the poetic justice of them being lowly custodians, while Milo is scrambling for steady work, and maybe art school? He’s been an avid doodler for years, though his dad discouraged it.

But now, seeing the vibrant lives of Jasper and his friends, well, Milo is more than willing to try some new things, including being honest with Jasper about his true feelings for him. I loved the “quest” these guys embark upon, and how they are easily able to fall back into camaraderie, building a mature friendship that includes forgiveness, and even kindles love. Both Milo and Jasper have some demons to lay to rest, if they are going to move forward into adulthood. Milo needs to love himself, and it’s Jasper’s support that gives him to courage to do so–and come out. In the meantime, Milo also needs to take responsibility for his actions, or INactions, something he didn’t do well as a kid. As a man, however, he’s making far better decisions, and that includes an HEA for himself, and for Jasper.

If you enjoyed Conventionally Yours you’ll probably love this one, too. 

Interested? You can find OUT OF CHARACTER on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and Kobo.

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

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

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

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!