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.
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.
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.