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review 2018-05-17 13:28
Release Blitz - Level Up

 
TitleLEVEL UP
Series: loosely related to the #gaymers series, but stands alone
Author: Annabeth Albert
Publisher: Annabeth Albert
Release Date: May 17, 2018
Heat Level: 4 - Lots of Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 40,000 words
Genre: Romance, contemporary m/m romance, gay romance, geeks, nerds, friends-to-lovers, gamers, gaymers
 

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Synopsis:

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Landon can’t believe he’s let himself get roped into participating in a charity calendar, let alone one that features tastefully photographed nudes. The genius physicist is hardly model material and he’s dreading the nude part of the photoshoot. Amid his reluctance, the one bright spot is his emails back and forth with the photographer.
 
However, Bailey ends up being not quite what Landon expects, and their first meeting is decidedly awkward. Bailey’s persistent though, and gradually Landon warms to the burly photographer, and they discover they have a shared love of gamer culture.
 
A tentative friendship is born, but the road from friends to lovers isn’t easy. Landon’s battling past trauma and must decide how much of a risk he’s willing to take. A sexy connection may not be enough to keep them together unless both are willing to put their hearts on the line.
 
Approximately 40,000 words. Previously released as part of the EXPOSED anthology, and loosely linked to the #Gaymers universe, this friends-to-lovers, hurt/comfort story stands alone with a guaranteed happy ending. Contains a brief mention of a prior assault, but no on-screen violence or flashbacks.

 

 

Excerpt:

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LEVEL UP EXCERPT—This is their first kiss, because I absolutely love writing first kiss scenes!
 
***
 
Bailey was the type who moved a lot as he gamed, biceps flexing, knees wiggling, shoulders jostling. Landon always liked people who got so into gaming, but it was more than a little distracting. His body was quickly coming to associate that orange scent of Bailey’s with good things, and other parts of him apparently liked Bailey’s nearness, which was a novelty because instead of intimidated, as he would have expected, he was more than a little turned on.
 
“Oh man, that was a rush.” Bailey laughed as both of their health meters dipped to zero. “I’m almost wishing I’d gone into game art, not photography. Amazing how these graphics have held up over the years.”
 
“Totally. And speaking of art, let me find the Space Villager stuff.” Landon reluctantly stepped away from the game. He headed to the nearby kitchen, where he was pretty the papers were buried with a stack of mail. Paper control was not his strong suit. “You’ll go nuts at the latest screen shots and promo teasers.”
 
“Cool.” Rather than follow Landon, Bailey went to sit on the couch.
 
“You want a drink while I’m in here?” Landon called to him after he found the papers under a pile of pizza ads. “I’ve got four flavors of Snapple, soda, and water.”
 
“Surprise me with a Snapple flavor.” Bailey looked right at home on Landon’s couch, lounging back.
 
He really did not look at all like any photographer Landon had ever met, and curiosity had him asking, “So why photography? You said you could have done game design?”
 
“Yeah, I had plenty of friends at the art institute go that direction. But I’ve been in love with photography ever since I worked on our middle school yearbook. I figured out quickly that taking pictures of events and sports was far more fun than trying to do the sports myself, so I did yearbook all through high school, got a photography scholarship to the art institute in Portland.”
 
“So you don’t play a sport?” Landon had a hard time believing that. With Bailey’s height and breadth, he totally looked like he lived for weekend games of some type.
 
“Nope. Hopelessly uncoordinated.” Bailey shot him an endearing smile when Landon handed him the bottle of tea.
 
“Me too.” Landon clinked bottles with him, then held up the papers. “Found the codes. But can I show you some stuff on the TV screen while you have your drink?”
 
“Absolutely.” Bailey took a long swig of tea, and Landon had to look away before he got mesmerized by Bailey’s full mouth, how it looked when his tongue chased a stray drop of moisture, how pink it was in contrast to his paler skin and brown beard.
 
Landon queued up the pre-release trailer Josiah had sent him a link to. Bombastic music filled his small living room as on the screen, and a spaceship pulled in for a landing on a planet filled with ruins of a once-powerful civilization. The narrator had an iconic voice and detailed all the special features of the expansion pack. Landon had already watched this a half-dozen times, and it still gave him happy chills.
 
“Wow. I can’t wait.” Bailey looked suitably awed. “This is even cooler than when War Elf added the mystic raids.”
 
“I know, right? Now look at the in-game screen shots.” He brought up another video, body relaxing more and more despite Bailey’s nearness. It was just so awesome to have someone new to share this with. He’d been hyped about this all week, but Pike was distracted by his boyfriend Zack’s deployment, Savannah didn’t game much, and the rest of his regular crew seemed to have other things occupying their attention.
 
Somehow, as he shared more video clips, he drifted closer to Bailey, so that their knees were almost rubbing. It wasn’t a giant couch, so there wasn’t a ton of room to move back, but even so, Landon wasn’t looking for an escape. He was aware of Bailey, very much so, but not nearly as freaked out as he’d been a few hours ago. Instead, his senses seemed to soak up Bailey’s scent and nearness, and it wasn’t until the fourth or fifth video that he realized that he was aroused.
 
Clink. Somehow Landon’s left hand, holding his drink, and Bailey’s right hand tangled.
 
“Oops.” He tried to extricate himself without spilling both beverages. Bending to put his on the floor, he hadn’t realized that Bailey had also leaned down until their heads collided.
 
“Ow,” they said simultaneously.
 
“Oh my gosh. I’m so sorry.” Bailey reached out, feeling around on Landon’s head. “Did you see stars? Break the skin?”
 
“I’m fine.” Landon didn’t pull away. Bailey’s hand felt damn nice. Gentle. Soothing more than just the bump on his head. Their eyes met, and he really needed to move back, break this spell, but he didn’t, instead leaning into to the touch. Bailey’s eyes darkened, and he stroked down Landon’s jaw. God, that felt so good, like an extra blanket on a chilly night, warmth he hadn’t realized he was missing. How long had it been since he’d been touched like this? Hugged, sure. He’d hugged Savannah goodnight, and hugged and wrestled around with his best friend Pike at the last LAN party, but neither of those things was touch like this. Caring. Sweet. Arousing.
 
Bailey leaned in again, way slower this time, all the time in the world for Landon to stop him. But he didn’t. Bailey’s beard tickled an instant before their lips met, a soft slide of mouths. Not aggressive at all, not the on-a-tight-schedule rush of a hookup, Bailey kissed like they had a sleepy Sunday afternoon to kill, like each reaction of Landon’s mattered, like he was trying to memorize something important and was going to take his time learning the lesson.
 
Landon was the first one to take things further, mouth opening on a sigh, welcoming Bailey’s agile tongue. He tasted sweet, like tea, and minty like the gum he’d popped after the pizza, familiar yet new at the same time. How had he managed to forget how awesome kissing could be? A laugh bubbled up in his chest, but quickly transformed to a groan of pleasure as Bailey nipped at his lower lip.
 
Not content to let Bailey be the one exploring, Landon sent his own tongue on a quest, tracing Bailey’s full lower lip, delving inside to rub tongues, retreating playfully to earn another nip. Fuck. This was nice. The video switched over to something random, and he barely registered it. He couldn’t say how long they kissed, just that he didn’t want it to ever end.

 

Purchase at Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Level UpLevel Up by Annabeth Albert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Landon absolutely did not want to do this calendar shoot. If the photographer had not known how to coax him out of his shell, it could have been a disaster. Afterwards, he realizes he is attracted to the quiet photographer and wants to spend more time with him.

Bailey is immediately attracted to Landon. He appreciated the qualities that make him the shy almost recluse of a professor that he is. After spending time gaming together - they realize this could be worth a shot. Now if they can just put past pain and hurt behind them.

I felt like these characters were a great mix. I loved the reference to the amazing Gaymers series also! This story unfolds at a rather steady pace. The heat is obvious, but the solution is not. As always, this author brings us a book that makes us smile. Even after the storm.



***This ARC copy was given in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

 

 

 

Meet the Author:

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Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer. The #OutOfUniform series joins her critically acclaimed and fan-favorite LGBTQ romance #Gaymers, #PortlandHeat and #PerfectHarmony series. To find out what she’s working on next and other fun extras, check out her website: www.annabethalbert.com or connect with Annabeth on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Spotify! Also, be sure to sign up for her newsletter for free ficlets, bonus reads, and contests. The fan group, Annabeth’s Angels, on Facebook is also a great place for bonus content and exclusive contests.
 
Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two active children.

 

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Annabeth's Newsletter | Annabeth's Angels

 

 

Giveaway:

 

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review 2018-05-07 10:15
Squared Away (Out of Uniform #5) by Annabeth Albert
Squared Away (Out of Uniform #5) - Annabeth Albert

Squared Away is the fifth book in the Out of Uniform series, but can be read as a standalone, as I did. However, I must say that now I have found out what an exceptional writer Annabeth Albert is, it won't be the last book of hers I read!

 

Isaiah is a bit of a 'flirt', and at eighteen he decides he is going to lose his V-card to a SEAL at his brother's wedding. However Mark, the SEAL, isn't interested in just being 'someone' to sleep with, and so tells Isaiah he isn't gay or interested. He then manages to avoid Isaiah for the next five years, although he still hears about Isaiah's exploits. Trust me, he is no longer a card-carrying member! These two get thrown together by tragedy, and are both left in charge of three children. This story revolves around the decisions they make, and how they learn to love and live together, whilst loving three mini-humans who demand so much time.

 

Squared Away is a complex love story that goes so slow it is completely and utterly scintillating. I wondered how it would work with Isaiah's reputation, but it was simply amazing. Yes, his reputation bites him in the ass, but with Mark, he goes slow - and it is beautiful. There are reasons for this as Mark is demisexual. We find out exactly what this means for Mark, and the struggles he has, both with it and with being scared to want more with Isaiah. Oh man, this is so good. I mean, seriously! The chemistry between these two melted my kindle, and I loved every word. It is heart-breaking, it is beautiful.

 

With no editing or grammatical errors that I noticed, Squared Away is an exceptional story, told by a brilliant author. Her style of writing is realistic, with plenty of complex emotions and situations. Life doesn't always go smoothly, but it can be worth the effort you put in to a difficult situation. Absolutely amazing, and I am now putting more books by this author on my T-B-R list! You'd be a fool not to read this one.

 

* A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and my comments here are my honest opinion. *

 

Merissa
Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!

Source: archaeolibrarian.wixsite.com/website/single-post/2018/05/03/Squared-Away-Out-of-Uniform-5-by-Annabeth-Albert
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review 2018-05-06 04:07
Trust
Level UP - Annabeth Albert

Landon absolutely did not want to do this calendar shoot.  If the photographer had not known how to coax him out of his shell, it could have been a disaster.  Afterwards, he realizes he is attracted to the quiet photographer and wants to spend more time with him.

 

Bailey is immediately attracted to Landon.  He appreciated the qualities that make him the shy almost recluse of a professor that he is.  After spending time gaming together - they realize this could be worth a shot.  Now if they can just put past pain and hurt behind them.

 

I felt like these characters were a great mix.  I loved the reference to the amazing Gaymers series also!  This story unfolds at a rather steady pace.  The heat is obvious, but the solution is not.  As always, this author brings us a book that makes us smile.  Even after the storm.  I give this story a 3/5 Kitty's Paws UP!

 

 

***This ARC copy was given in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2018-04-03 06:30
Complicated
Squared Away (Out of Uniform #5) - Annabeth Albert

This is book #5, in the Out Of Uniform series.  This book can be read as a standalone novel.  For reader understanding, and to avoid spoilers, I recommend reading these in order.

 

Mark is a SEAL and not much shakes him up, usually.  With tragic news, he rushes to home to find Isaiah has things in hand.  The very man he has been avoiding since his sister's wedding six years ago.  Now they must find a compromise for the future.

 

Isaiah has been doing just fine with the kids in his care.  Mark coming home is not going to change that.  With a little luck, and maybe a miracle, they can come together for the kids and make is better.

 

Sizzle and pop are what you hear when these men look at one another.  This great addition to an already stellar series, brings back some series favorites with cameos too.  I loved the very real feelings that were between the characters.  I also loved that the pace was not rushed.  I give this book a 4/5 Kitty's Paws UP!

 

 

***This ARC was given by Netgalley and its publishers, in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2018-01-08 17:37
Wheels Up (Out of Uniform #4) by Annabeth Albert Review
Wheels Up (Out of Uniform) - Annabeth Albert

heir love is forbidden, but their hearts aren’t listening to rules and regulations…

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.

 

Review

 

I like Annabetb Albert a great deal and I love this series. I didn't love this book and struggled to finish it. 

I adored the opening with Dustin and Wes meeting in San Diego but once that got to San Diego the book went south for me. 

Partly, I never really got over Dustin not being more honest and open with his brother (a hero from a previous book in the series). I am also not a huge fan of forbidden romance but good writing (and Albert is a very good writer) can move me past that. However, I just never adjusted the the angst and the lack of couple time in this book.

Not for me. 

I was given this book for my honest review. So, there you have it.

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