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: ‘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