Review: ‘Arctic Wild’ by Annabeth Albert

43263021Published June 3rd 2019

Hotshot attorney Reuben Graham has finally agreed to take a vacation, when his plane suddenly plunges into the Alaskan wilderness.

Just his luck.

But his frustrations have only begun as he finds himself stranded with the injured, and superhot, pilot, a man who’s endearingly sociable—and much too young for Reuben to be wanting him this badly.

As the sole provider for his sisters and ailing father, Tobias Kooly is devastated to learn his injuries will prevent him from working or even making it back home. So when Reuben insists on giving him a place to recover, not even Toby’s pride can make him refuse. He’s never been tempted by a silver fox before, but something about Reuben is impossible to resist.

Recuperating in Reuben’s care is the last thing Toby expected, yet the closer they become, the more incredibly right it feels, prompting workaholic Reuben to question the life he’s been living. But when the pressure Toby’s under starts closing in, both men will have to decide if there’s room in their hearts for a love they never saw coming.

As always, it was a joy to read Annabeth Albert’s latest offering. Arctic Wild is the second in the series after Arctic Sun, and where Arctic Sun had a lot of moments that were hard to read, that really hollowed you out and hurt you, Arctic Wild wasn’t quite so intense but still just as beautiful.

Reuben is a real silver fox (or silver bear as Toby likes to call him), smooth and sophisticated, his career has hardened him to a point where “fun” isn’t really on his radar. He’s got stresses and pressures and he ends up on a holiday on his own just to prove a point. He’s hardly thrilled to be there. Which isn’t Toby’s favourite kind of customer.

Toby has stresses and pressures of his own, supporting his younger sisters through education and his father through his failing body. He’s relied on for so much, so he has to put up with the grumpy, slick lawyer for the sake of his pay-cheque. Then suddenly the one thing he can count on, his ability to fly and provide for his family, is stripped away from him as he and Reuben fall from the sky.

He and Reuben have to save each other in more ways than one, surviving the crash is only the beginning. Toby shows Reuben that work isn’t everything, happiness doesn’t have to come from wealth and success, it can come from spending quality time with your family and appreciating the beauty of the world around you. Reuben shows Toby that he doesn’t have to shoulder every burden, it’s ok to share the weight and let go of some of the control, to let yourself have some freedom.

Reuben may be older than Toby, but Toby’s had to live a lot of life in fewer years – together they find a way to recapture the youth they’ve both lost along the way. This is a gorgeous story of two men learning from each other and finding out that “home” means more than they ever knew.

4.5/5 stars

Review: ‘Arctic Sun’ by Annabeth Albert

42354665Published April 1st 2019
384 pages

Ex-military mountain man Griffin Barrett likes his solitude. It keeps him from falling back into old habits. Bad habits. He’s fought too hard for his sobriety to lose control now. However, his gig as a wildlife guide presents a new kind of temptation in super hot supermodel River Vale. Nothing the Alaskan wilderness has to offer has ever called to Griffin so badly. And that can only lead to trouble…

River has his own methods for coping. Chasing adventure means always moving forward. Nobody’s ever made him want to stand still—until Griffin. The rugged bush pilot is the very best kind of distraction, but the emotions he stirs up in River feel anything but casual, and he’s in no position to stay put.

With temptation lurking in close quarters, keeping even a shred of distance is a challenge neither’s willing to meet. And the closer Griffin gets to River, the easier it is to ignore every last reason he should run.

Oh man. This book. I’ve got so many damn feelings about this book. I will read every word Annabeth Albert ever writes, and that is impossibly even more true after reading Arctic Sun. This felt like a slightly new direction for her. It was as beautifully written as ever, but there was something more intense about this book that I feel like I haven’t read from her before.

The whole story, but especially the first half of the book is very gently paced. Two men meet in the gorgeous surroundings the Alaskan wilderness, and it’s definitely on the slow-burn side of things when it comes to their romance. There’s chemistry from the start, but that goes along with a lot of avoidance and frustration and denial, and it feels like a very natural journey for these two very different people to take.

They’ve both got their demons, rather dark ones that infiltrate their minds quite a lot, and there’s a few parts of this story that I found really difficult to read. Mostly figuratively as all the emotions beat me up from every angle, but also literally at times as I could barely see my Kindle screen through the tears pouring down my face!

Both Griffin and River have weights on their shoulders, and the way they think about themselves is a tough thing to digest when from an outsider’s perspective it’s easy to see all the good in their hearts. But as rough a journey as it was for them, Annabeth guides them gracefully to a place where they can help build each other up and find somewhere safe to grow together.

This book went to new places I’ve never been with Annabeth Albert before, but I’d trust her to take me anywhere she wants to go. Her writing will always be right up there with my favourites, and I just know that this new series is going to be an adventure.

4.5/5 stars

Review: ‘Rough Terrain’ by Annabeth Albert

41121276Published January 14th
368 pages

Navy SEAL Renzo Bianchi has a soft spot for Canaan Finley, and not only because the man makes a mean smoothie. He’s the first guy to get Renzo’s motor revving in a long time. But when he agrees to Canaan’s insane charade—one all-access fake boyfriend, coming right up—he never expects more than a fling.

Creating a hot Italian SEAL boyfriend to save face seemed like a good idea…until his friends called Canaan’s bluff. Now he’s setting off into the woods with the very man who inspired his deception, and Canaan is not the outdoorsy type. The sparks are already flying when a flash flood separates them from their group, leaving Renzo and Canaan very much trapped…very much alone in the wilderness.

Working together to come up with a plan for survival is sexier than either of them expects. But back in the real world, being a couple is bringing its own set of hazards…

It’s a bittersweet thing writing this review, as this book is the last in Annabeth Albert’s Out of Uniform series, and I really don’t want it to be over. Seven books plus various little accompanying ficlets is a very generous series, but when the writing and the characters are this good? I could happily continue to read them forever.

I’ll admit it took me a little longer than normal to warm up to this one, I think I just couldn’t connect to Canaan and Renzo at first. They hadn’t given off hugely endearing impressions when they’d briefly appeared in previous books in the series, and I couldn’t picture how they’d work together. But once they started getting closer, once I got a better glimpse into their lives and their thoughts, it was easy to see how all the pieces were going to fall into place.

Canaan is stuck on the outside of a life he had to leave behind to help look after his grandparents, and now he’s pursuing a new career in geriatric nursing and working in a smoothie place to pay the bills. There’s a lot more depth to him than there initially seems. And he’s a lucky boy, because the smoothie place is a regular stop for all the post-training SEALs and there is some serious eye-candy that comes through the door (including my ultimate fave from this series, the wonderful Bacon himself!).

One of those dishy customers is Rooster, a nickname he’d really like to lose, who has appeared in the series before and has always seemed to be a little too cocky and narcissistic to me. Oh, how wrong I was! There’s a determination and a vulnerability under that well-groomed exterior, and a very big heart. Renzo feels a connection to Canaan from the start, but both of them hold back, assuming it can’t go anywhere. But they were just as wrong as I was about Renzo.

There’s unsavoury exes, SEAL heroics, the weight of family expectations and a whole bundle of emotional to-ing and fro-ing. It’s a real journey for these two, summing up the ups and downs of the entire series, and Canaan and Renzo’s happy ending is a wonderful way to end things. I’ll miss these characters and all the ones that have proceeded them, but I can’t wait for what other things Annabeth Albert has up her sleeve. I’ll no doubt love them just as much.

4.5/5 stars

Review: ‘Better Not Pout’ by Annabeth Albert

40242604Published November 12th 2018
288 pages

One hard-nosed military police officer.
One overly enthusiastic elf.
One poorly timed snowstorm.
Is it a recipe for disaster? Or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for holiday romance?

Teddy MacNally loves Christmas and everything that goes along with it. When he plays an elf for his charity’s events, he never expects to be paired with a Scrooge masquerading as Santa Claus. His new mission: make the holiday-hating soldier believe he was born to say ho-ho-ho.

Sergeant Major Nicholas Nowicki doesn’t do Santa, but he’s army to his blood. When his CO asks an unusual favor, Nick of course obliges. The elf to his Kris Kringle? Tempting. Too tempting—Nick’s only in town for another month, and Teddy’s too young, too cheerful and too nice for a one-night stand.

The slow, sexy make-out sessions while Teddy and Nick are alone and snowbound, though, feel like anything but a quick hookup. As a stress-free holiday fling turns into Christmas all year round, Teddy can’t imagine his life without Nick. And Nick’s days on the base may be coming to a close, but he doesn’t plan on leaving anything, or anyone, behind.

The time is here! Christmas romances are upon us and I am so bloody excited. And I wouldn’t have wanted to start the season with anything other than a holiday romance from Annabeth Albert. Annabeth is one of my favourite authors of all time, I swear the woman doesn’t know how to write a bad or even mediocre book. She blows me away every time.

And she’s done just the same thing with Better Not Pout. The way she brings characters and communities to life captures me with every story, she’s one of the best at cocooning me in the world she’s created and making it so I never want to leave. Throw in a festive setting with a couple of my favourite tropes and you’ve got yourself a winner. This book brings you age-gap, a bit of military, a grumpy MC with a perky one, and last but not least (one of my absolute favourites) stuck in together during a snowstorm!

Teddy and Nick are one of those polar opposite couples who are convinced they aren’t what the other needs, when the exact opposite is true. They fit each other perfectly, balancing each other out. Nick is reaching the very end of his service time in the military, the only real home he’s ever known, and he feels like he doesn’t have a purpose anymore. He’s lost, feeling completely unnecessary, when this bright star in the form of Teddy comes along and becomes his anchor without him even noticing. Giving him direction and a place to put down roots.

This story ticks all of my boxes. It’s so wonderfully heart-warming and reassuring. Truly romantic. I genuinely didn’t want the book to end. The most superb beginning to what I hope will be splendid season of holiday romance.

4.5/5 stars

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: ‘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

Best of 2017!

bestof

I managed to hit the 300 book mark this year, which is a little bit crazy. A lengthy commute to and from work every day has helped me out in that regard. And reading that many romance novels has made it a struggle to narrow it down into a handy little list, so this isn’t all that short, but that can only be a good thing! This post will be about 2017 releases, I’ll try and get a post up about the pre-2017 releases that I read this year soon, because there’s some seriously incredible books that need a mention. So let’s get into it!

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