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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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

Review: ‘Tender With A Twist’ by Annabeth Albert

35913152Published October 2nd 2017
264 pages

Curtis Hunt has made a name for himself as a chainsaw wood carver, winning national competitions and operating a small business in Rainbow Cove, Oregon. As winter whittles away his tourist traffic, his goal is just to survive the season and try to not get lost in grief for his dead lover. It’s been two years, but he’s sure he’ll never be over the love of a lifetime. However, his body has a certain restlessness that he doesn’t quite know how to calm.

Logan Rosner knows a thing or two about restlessness. It’s what drove him to Rainbow Cove to be a chef at a bar and grill run by his friends. And it’s what drives him to a single sizzling encounter with the local legendary lumberjack. Both men get far more than they expected and learn that first impressions aren’t always accurate…

But when Logan proposes a series of sexy lessons, Curtis must decide how much he’s willing to risk. He knows he can’t afford to get attached to Logan’s good cooking, his easy smiles, or his caretaking, but he keeps going back for more, even as deeper emotions become involved. Soon, Curtis must decide whether to risk his heart again or risk losing Logan for good.

Annabeth Albert pretty much nails it every time for me, and this was no exception. Straight into the story, sexual tension from the get-go. A bit of kink, a bit of grief, a bit of self-discovery, an inevitable romance; a total winner.

The BDSM kink was prevalent throughout the whole book, but it was totally manageable. I can be a bit hit and miss with anything overly kinky, but this was the perfect level for me. It suited both of the MCs and felt really natural for them to connect the way they did. The whole thing was really was steamy, sex was a huge part of the story and a huge part of the way Logan and Curtis communicated with one another, but no scenes ever felt unnecessary.

Curtis is a prickly guy, standoffish for most of the book, I was constantly frustrated and wanting to drag him and Logan together. But his resistance was completely understandable. He’s had to endure the worst kind of heartbreak in having his husband suddenly taken from him, and constantly feels like he’s never to have any sunshine in his life again. He can’t allow himself to get close, because it could all be torn away again.

But Logan is a gem of a character in the way he’s always pushing for more from Curtis, not backing down and scurrying away and hopelessly waiting for him to change his mind. It was a refreshing outlook, something I feel like I don’t read enough of. I loved Logan’s tenacity, his drive, his courage in trying to be the person he’s always wanted to be. His parents drove me up the wall, and it felt like everyone apart from Curtis was forever underestimating him. So it was great to see him free himself from the limitations his family had tried to place on him.

Logan and Curtis’ relationship was healing for the both of them, and they really worked for each other, fought against themselves to get their happy ending. The moment where Curtis looks at Logan and knows that his husband would have liked him warmed my soul and broke my heart all at once. And it pretty much sums up my experience with this book. That hurt for Curtis being soothed by the universe handing him his second chance at love.

4.5/5 stars