Review: ‘Tight Quarters’ by Annabeth Albert

Published July 9th 201839675783
336 pages

Petty Officer Bacon, a navy SEAL and ace sharpshooter, has been on the front lines of more than his fair share of dangerous ops. Yet when a minor injury relegates him to the beta team, he’s tasked with what may be his riskiest assignment yet: the silver fox journalist he’s babysitting is the hottest, most charismatic man he’s ever encountered.

Award-winning journalist Spencer Bryant may have been named one of Pride magazine’s most eligible bachelors of the year, but he’s not looking to change his relationship status. He’s a consummate professional who won’t risk his ethics or impeccable reputation by getting involved with a source. Even a sexy-as-hell military man. But while Spencer can resist his physical attraction to Bacon, he has less control over his emotions—especially when the mission goes sideways and the two men are trapped alone.

Getting out of the jungle alive turns out to be easy compared to facing the truth about their feelings for one another back in the real world. And whether or not they can build a future is a different story altogether.

This series just keeps getting better and better. I don’t know how that’s even possible when every single book is a five-star read. I want to give this one 6 stars! If you haven’t read any of the previous books in the series, I urge you to do so. Not because it’s necessary to understand this book, it stands alone perfectly well, but because you’re missing out if you haven’t!

Annabeth’s writing is as flawless as always, and her characters are so easy to fall for. I was already loving Bacon from his brief appearances in past books, but given the space to flesh out his character in his own novel? That man is irresistible. Spencer isn’t the most obvious of partners for him, but damn they make some serious fireworks.

The situational drama is excellent in this instalment, it really does add so much depth to the story to see the characters out in the field and how they respond to life and death situations. It takes the book to a whole new level. There is, of course, relationship drama as well and it was refreshing to find myself understanding both characters’ points of view. Usually I’m shaking my Kindle and calling one of the MCs an idiot, but here I was torn between both sides. In the end it all comes down to believing in a partnership and wanting them to work it out. Needing them to. And there was no denying Bacon and Spencer were destined to make it.

Honestly, I just want to read this over and over again because I could never get enough of Bacon. He earned this book’s high rating all on his own. Now the countdown begins for the next book in this series, because I have no doubt that the trend of them getting better and better will continue.

5/5 stars

Review: ‘Believe’ by Garrett Leigh

40531547Published June 26th 2018
229 pages

Flight paramedic Rhys Foster is hooked on adrenaline. By day it’s blood and guts, by night it’s the thrill of the club. With a different face in his bed most nights, he doesn’t have time to be lonely…right?

Entertainer Jevon Campbell is a play therapist like no other—dancer, magician, acrobat, he brings it all to his global mission to help children in need laugh again. He’s on a rare home visit when he encounters enigmatic Rhys in a London bar.

Their connection is instant, but Rhys fast realises Jevon’s easy confidence doesn’t stretch as far as the bedroom. He has no idea how mesmerising he is—how beautiful—and Rhys resolves to show him.

They grow closer, but time isn’t on their side. Rhys seems unable to articulate how he feels, and with Jevon’s imminent departure from the UK hanging over them, their separate commitments could tear them apart forever.

As the days slip by, Rhys must learn to believe he’s worth the happiness Jevon is offering.

I cannot tell you how excited I was for this book. I mean, I’m always excited for anything by Garrett Leigh, but I fell in love with Rhys in ‘Dream’ and I couldn’t wait for his story. It wasn’t necessarily what I was expecting, but good lord I loved it.

I was a teeny bit apprehensive about this book when I realised it was the one that Garrett had described in her Facebook group back when she first started writing it as a paramedic falling in love with a virgin clown. Because clowns are my biggest phobia. I cannot deal with them at all. So I was scared that this would be the first book by Garrett I wouldn’t be able to read. Thankfully, Jevon isn’t *that* kind of clown!

Back in ‘Dream’, Rhys was this happy-go-lucky life-of-the-party kind of guy. He seemed confident and self-assured, this rock for Dylan and Angelo as they navigated their relationship. But in ‘Believe’, he’s not in the best place. He seems lost, isolating himself and not reaching out to anybody. I ached for him, I so desperately wanted him to find happiness. He deserved to be content and comfortable and loved. And then he meets Jevon.

Now, I went into this book being all about Rhys, but by the end it was Jevon that I’d fallen for. That man. I need one. I wasn’t sure I was going to like him given the whole clown thing, but it turns out he’s an angel. An absolute ray of sunshine. He’s kind and generous, so understanding. He’s a stunning soul. Honestly, I could go on about him for hours. He’s everything Rhys needs and deserves and the universe brings them together and it fills me with such joy.

And these boys have serious chemistry. Jevon may not have a lot of experience, but what he and Rhys have is perfect. I don’t know how Garrett does it, every single time, but she creates two people that are so completely made for each other, without ever falling into stereotypes and cliches. They’re always real people with raw passion, honest connections and good hearts.

Rhys and Jevon were so beautifully fulfilled by the end, coming out of the other side of the drama and trauma Garrett always likes to throw at them strong and steady, supporting each other in a wonderful partnership. This was my favourite book of the series and I cannot wait to see more of all the Skins boys in the future.

5/5 stars

Review: ‘Daniel’ by R. J. Scott

Published June 20th 2018
210 pages

Daniel worked hard at college, using coping strategies to shut himself off from any situation that might hurt. But, persistent nightmares and fears for his future drive him to revisit the past. Now Legacy might be the only place to give him a chance at peace.

After the tragic loss of his parents, Corey is head of the family now, and the welfare of his three younger sisters are what matters the most. Corey is desperate to find Daniel, tell him the truth and somehow convince him to keep secrets. Even if this leads to heartbreak. 

When the world crumbles around Corey, and Daniel is running scared, Legacy ranch is their only hope.

I read the whole Legacy Ranch trilogy in the lead up to this release, but I have yet to read R.J. Scott’s Texas series. It’s been on my TBR list for so long! And although the extra details on characters and events from that series may have given this trilogy a little more depth for me, it certainly stands alone quite comfortably as a series.

The subject matter of this book and its predecessors is a delicate one, definitely one to avoid if you’re triggered by talk of rape and abuse, but R.J. Scott handles everything with such care. It’s very much painful to read at times, every character has a journey to go on, but the rewards will warm you to your core.

What struck me the most about this book, and this series as a whole, is how the romance almost takes a back seat. The most important element of the story is how the man at the centre of it manages to move past their awful history and grow to open up and trust and love. It’s a powerful tale of healing, and the romance these characters find is a demonstration of that. R.J. Scott gives these men a really lovely depth, and unique as they are, the bond between them all is tightly woven.

Daniel’s history is perhaps the most painful of them all. Picked up on the street and forced into a world of disgusting abuse at only 14 years old, and having to live with the vivid memory of that torture years after it ended, he’s a young man in a bad place. He may be at college and trying to make a life for himself, but he’s alone and trapped in the terror of the past, being held back by its power. And when Corey first enters his life, he only makes things more difficult. Both of these men are dealing with trauma, Corey is battling devastating grief, and it takes a lot of time for them to begin to find comfort in each other. But when they do, the gentle passion between them is really quite special.

It follows the pattern of the previous two books, the prospect of love helping Daniel to heal and find a sense of peace. He’s able to put what happened to him to bed, and allow himself to find and accept the joy he deserves. A real heart-wrenching and heart-warming story, and a wonderful end to the series. I think everyone could do with a visit to Legacy Ranch.

4/5 stars

Review: ‘Whisper’ by Garrett Leigh

38482523Published May 1st 2018
258 pages

Lonely physiotherapist Harry Foster has the world at his feet. A full client list, a six figure Instagram following, and a publishing deal for a book he doesn’t have time to write until his agent offers him a break—a retreat to the wild south west coast.

Cornish horseman Joe Carter is lonely too. Rescuing horses and managing Whisper Farm takes up most of his days, and by night he plays chicken with the farm’s perilous bank accounts.

At his sister’s unwelcome suggestion, he rents his only bedroom to a bloke from the city, and when Harry arrives, he’s everything Joe isn’t—calm, patient, and gorgeous enough to be exactly the kind of distraction Joe doesn’t need.

Harry doesn’t have time for distractions either—even shirtless farmers riding bareback past his bedroom window—but his moody host proves impossible to ignore.

On paper, they have nothing in common, but Joe is beautiful…glorious, and when an accident puts his life in Harry’s healing hands, the whisper of true love is inevitable. If the trouble that put the farm on its knees in the first place doesn’t get in the way.

Goddammit, Garrett Leigh. Is there anything this woman can’t do? She kills me every single time. Whisper was packed with everything I’ve come to adore from Garrett, tortured souls finding healing when they discover that person who they were meant to be with. Plenty of angst and darkness, but always remedied with peace and strength and love.

I am a sucker for a story where rescuing animals involved, so this being set on a horse sanctuary is a huge bonus for me. Characters working with animals gets me weak in the knees, and it gave me a real connection to Joe. The strength of that man is unbelievable. He’s battling so many forces working against him and he doesn’t even realise how selflessly he deals with it all. Everything he does is for the farm and for his family. He’s no golden boy, he hasn’t always made the best decisions, but he’s a truly good man. Even if not everybody can see it.

It was Harry that I completely fell for. The kind of man who looks like he could take down an army but he actually wouldn’t hurt a fly. He appears polished and put together, but underneath all of that he carries so many anxieties and insecurities. But he’s this pillar of safety, I just wanted to seek shelter in his arms. No, on the surface he may not seem to have a lot in common with Joe, but they are both inherently good. They love hard, care endlessly, and always put others before themselves. They needed each other, and the universe found a way to bring them together.

This is the kind of book that helps you heal along with the characters. My heart felt so full by the end. It didn’t hurt seeing Dex from Heart, knowing he and Seb are still going strong all these years later. Knowing his horses are still going. There was so much joy to be found in this story, I can’t wait to read it again and again.

5/5 stars

Review: ‘Medley’ by Layla Reyne

39684953Published April 30th 2018
207 pages

Sebastian Stewart was never Mr. Dependable; he was more the good-time guy who only wanted to swim, party, and ink tattoos. Until he cost his team the Olympic gold four years ago. Bas is determined to do right this time around—by his medley relay team and his rookie mentee.

Jacob Burrows is in over his head. The Olympic experience—from the hazing, to the endless practices, to the unrelenting media—makes the shy nineteen-year-old’s head spin. He’s trying to be everything to everyone while trying not to fall for his gorgeous tattooed teammate who just gets him—gets his need to fix things, his dorky pirate quips, and his bisexuality.

When Jacob falters under the stress, threatening his individual races and the medley relay gold, he needs Bas’s help to escape from drowning. Bas, however, fearing a repeat of his mistakes four years ago, pushes Jacob away, sure he’ll only let Jacob down. But the only path to salvaging gold is for Jacob to finally ask for what he needs—the heart of the man he loves—and for Bas to become the dependable one.

The follow up to ‘Relay‘ is here! I was waiting for this one. Although Alex and Dane’s relationship was wrapped up nicely in the last book, there was so much story left to tell when it came to the team heading to the Olympics. And, of course, we’d been given a tease of something happening between Bas and Jacob, and I needed to know where that ended up.

So here we are. The team are deep into Olympic training and thankfully dealing with a little bit less drama this time. Although only marginally less. Bas and Jacob, mentor and mentee, are dancing around each other. Hopelessly attracted but each burned by past events that keep them from even trying to be together.

Jacob is adorable, he’s young and sweet, but he carries a lot on his shoulders. He idolises Bas, he wants him badly, but he won’t ever ask him for more because he’s been left before and he can’t go through that again. Bas is jaded and tortured with guilt, and won’t let himself have Jacob no matter how much he wants him, because he doesn’t want to end up hurting him. (Bas is also absolutely bloody gorgeous, all tall and built and tattooed with his blonde dreads. I am all about that man.) They’re an unlikely pair in the best kind of way. I loved their connection and their chemistry, every interaction was always simmering with potential.

There is so much build up with these two. For the majority of the book there’s not even a hint of them getting together. To the point that I feel like I didn’t actually get the best idea of what they’re actually like as a couple. There was a lot of pining, and almost giving in to temptation. Their friendship was a wonderful thing, but it was always tinged with longing and holding back.

But the story kept on moving, with excitement and competition and a villain in the form of Bas’ ex, so there was still always something happening. I got the closure plot-wise I wanted, and the MCs found their way to each other in the end when they broke through the wall they’d built between them. I genuinely really enjoyed this book, probably more than the first one because I connected with these characters a lot more. I think I just wanted a little bit more romance between them.

4/5 stars

Review: ‘Squared Away’ by Annabeth Albert

37544729Published April 16th 2018
336 pages

In the wake of tragedy, SEAL Mark Whitley rushed stateside to act as guardian to his sister’s three young children. But a conflicting will could give custody to someone else—someone Mark remembers as a too young, too hot, wild party boy. Even after six years, Mark can’t shake the memory of his close encounter with Isaiah James, or face up to what it says about his own sexuality.

Isaiah’s totally over the crush that made him proposition Mark all those years ago. In fact, he’s done with crushing on the wrong men altogether. For now, he’s throwing himself into proving he’s the best person to care for his cousin’s kids. But there’s no denying there’s something sexy about a big, tough military man with a baby in his arms.

As the legal details get sorted out, their long-buried attraction resurfaces, leading to intimate evenings after the kids are tucked in. A forever future is within reach for all of them, if only Mark can find the courage he needs to trust Isaiah with his secrets—and his heart.

THIS SERIES, YOU GUYS. Every single book in Annabeth Albert’s Out of Uniform series has blown me away, and this is no exception. Annabeth’s writing is flawless as far as I’m concerned, and every story always leaves me feeling warm and cosy and fulfilled. And the characters, especially in this series, are gorgeous. This is book number 5, and although it stands just fine on its own, I highly recommend reading the rest of the series simply because it’s all stunning.

As for this book in particular, it completely lived up to the rest of the series. The characters are charming and vulnerable, and their relationship is a real journey. It’s quite emotionally heavy, dealing with loss and grief, family and sexuality, but everything is handled so wonderfully. Delicate without avoiding the hard truths.

A lot of the relationship development revolves around Mark discovering and learning about his demisexuality, Isaiah helping him explore the attraction between them that Mark hasn’t ever really felt before. The trust and intimacy of it was beautiful. They’re both obviously head over heels for each other, but they won’t say it in fear of the other not feeling the same. Waiting for the other one to move on. And there’s always various tensions getting between them with all of the family drama around them. They do really have to work to get their happy ending, because there’s not just the two of them to think about.

There was definitely moments where I found the miscommunications overly frustrating, in a way that I was rushing through chapters trying to find the resolution, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book too much. Everything else about it was just so lovely. There was, of course, a wonderful cast of extra characters visiting from previous books that were a joy to see again, and only added to the story. And now I can’t wait for Bacon’s book to come along in July…

4.5/5 stars

Review: ‘Soul to Keep’ by Garrett Leigh

39590738

Published April 2nd 2018
239 pages

Recovering addict Jamie Yorke has returned to England from California. With no home or family to speak of, he sticks a pin in a map and finds a small town in the Derbyshire Peak District. Matlock Bath is a quiet place—he just needs to get there, keep his head down, and stay clean. Simple, right? Until a chance meeting on the flight home alters the course of his so-called life forever.

Ex-Army medic Marc Ramsey is recovering from life-changing combat injuries while pulling nights as a trauma specialist at the local hospital. Keeping busy is a habit he can’t quit, but when Jamie—so wild and beautiful—bursts into his life, working himself into the ground isn’t as compelling as it used to be.

Marc falls hard, but chaos lurks behind Jamie’s fragile facade. He’s winning his battle against addiction, but another old foe is slowly consuming him. Both men have weathered many storms, but the path to the peace they deserve might prove the roughest ride yet.

It’s a Garrett Leigh release! *throws confetti around* I actually got my hands on this a few months ago and I’m so excited that it’s finally out in the world and I get to talk about it. I’ve even read it twice, it’s a truly special book. It does work just fine as a standalone, but I know I really felt the benefit of re-reading Rented Heart (where we first meet Jamie) and Between Ghosts (where we first meet Marc) first. And both of those books are utterly gorgeous too so I’d highly recommend those in any case.

Jamie was a troublesome one in Rented Heart. He made it very difficult to fall in love with him. He was in the dark depths of addiction and he didn’t want to climb out of them, so it was always quite painful to read about him. When we meet him again in Soul To Keep, he’s heading back to the UK from California where he’s been clean and sober for a year. But even though he’s not using, he’s still carrying the heavy burden of his addiction on his shoulders so his head isn’t a happy place to be.

Marc has quite literally been through the wars since we’ve seen him last (aside from his very brief cameo in Dream), so he’s still trying to navigate civilian life whilst adjusting to his new physical limitations. He’s got his own burdens to bear. But when he meets Jamie, it’s like fate. The universe thrusting them together, the stars aligning and all that stuff. There’s no denying the pull between these two.

At first, a lot of their budding relationship is based in Marc’s inherent need to mother people. He wants to look after Jamie, make him feel safe and cared for and appreciated like everyone else in his life. But Jamie is so resistant to being helped, not wanting to inflict himself on anybody. He’s forever running from the good things in his life before he can ruin them, convinced that he’s poison. It’s painful to watch him recognise the strength in everybody else, what they’ve been through and overcome, but not see it about himself. It was always going to be a battle for these two to make it together, but I never doubted that they would.

Jamie is fighting himself constantly, warring with the way his brain works. It’s so heartbreaking. Everything about him is so raw, so tortured. Garrett really does write these broken souls so powerfully. But she also always manages to give them the person they really need the most, and Marc is just that for Jamie. He’s this fortress of strength and safety that Jamie can take shelter in, so kind and gentle it soothed my soul. He was a balm for my own anxieties, never mind Jamie’s.

I really loved how brutally honest Marc and Jamie were when they talked to each other. Their communication wasn’t perfect, they didn’t open up every time, but when they did they didn’t hold back. They were always so open to the way each other thought. It was so satisfying to read, I never found myself frustrated with them or willing them to have a certain conversation. They always managed to work through things themselves and I absolutely adored that about them.

As always with a Garrett Leigh book, there was a good ol’ dramatic twist that has your heart in your throat, and this one damn near killed me. But what I liked about it was seeing how Jamie handled things, showing just how far he’d come. I was so bloody proud of him I could have cried. But seriously Garrett, don’t ever scare me like that again.

It seriously warmed my heart to get to visit Nat and Connor from Between Ghosts and see them still going strong. Nat is as surly as ever and Connor just as sharp. I really like the potential of Connor and Jamie’s friendship, they’re both such intelligent minds and have such intense feelings for their military men, they’re more alike than they first appear. It comforts me that Jamie will get to have that kind of friend in his life.

This book is right up there with my favourites from Garrett. It’s powerful and emotional and watching the characters grow together and heal has helped heal a part of me too. Marc and Jamie have had to weather so many storms, but they find what they truly deserve in each other. Yet another stunning book from an absolutely wonderful author.

5/5 stars