Review: ‘Wheels Up’ by Annabeth Albert

35176579Published November 7th 2017
320 pages

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.

Annabeth Albert, you’ve done it again, you wonderful woman. This was great. This whole series is great. I adored it, just like every other Annabeth book I’ve ever read. The ‘Out of Uniform’ series might just be my favourite of hers, because who doesn’t love military men falling in love?

Both MCs, Dustin and Wes, are gorgeous. Inside and out. Dustin is the older brother of Dylan from ‘At Attention’, Mr Big Stoic SEAL, but he’s battling a lot of insecurity about who he is and what he wants from a relationship. He’s pretty much accepted that he’s bisexual, but he doesn’t know how to reconcile that with the person everyone else expects him to be. He needs guidance, to relinquish control, to give it all up and hand someone else the reins. And that’s where Wes comes in.

Unbeknownst to Dustin, Wes is also a SEAL. The safest pair of hands when it comes to explosives, as well Dustin’s body. They meet online for some kinky cybersex, which turns into kinky in-person sex, Dustin’s first physical sexual experience with a man, and damn. It suits him. They’ve got that D/S thing going on, fulfilling everything they’ve each wanted from a partner, like they were made for each other. And then the military goes and royally screws it all up by transferring Wes onto Dustin’s team, turning their relationship into something that could ruin them both. Goddammit.

Aaaaand then comes the angst. So much angst. As with a lot of military romances, the bulk of the story is the emotional torment of wanting each other so much but not being able to have each other. Not that these two are very good at staying away from temptation. Somehow they just keep ending up in bed together, and I can’t even blame them cause it’s seriously hot. But it’s not just sex. As much as they’re trying to avoid it turning into a deeper connection, it simply can’t be avoided. The emotional support they give each other, the way they can read each other and know when the other one needs lifted up. The frustration was real for me in this one because they were just so damn perfect for one another!

There’s mention early on of Dustin’s friend who works in private security, and how it’s Dustin’s ideal job, so it’s not exactly this huge secret that that’s where he’s going to end up eventually. I was so torn, desperate for him to pack it all in and leave so he could be with Wes, but at the same time it felt like too big a step for a relationship that hadn’t been around for all that long. I could understand why he’d hesitate; the Navy gave him an identity, he didn’t know who he’d be without it.

There’s added family drama in this book with Wes’ sister being really ill, and him struggling being transferred so far away from her, feeling so helpless. He needs to protect her and he can’t, and it’s a huge loss of control for him. But it’s something Dustin helps him with, helping him regain that balance thrown off by so much uncertainty. Wes can always be sure of Dustin. He can be raw and vulnerable, and still have command over Dustin, settling the storm inside himself. Ugh, these guys. I loved them so much.

The way everything began to get resolved wasn’t a huge surprise, but it didn’t feel trite and contrived, it made perfect sense for these two men. The way they felt about it, the way they connected over it, especially physically. Their connection got so deep they practically became parts of each other. And I loved how realistic it felt. Everything wasn’t magically sunshine and roses . They still had to tread carefully and keep secrets, but they did it for their future, and you could really feel just how much they loved each other. It was bloody gorgeous.

I really hope we get to see a glimpse of these men somewhere down the road, in their perfect future where they don’t have to hide anymore. Where they get to fulfil the promises they’ve made. Because they really deserve it.

4.5/5 stars

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