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