Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: April 16, 2018
Received From: A Novel Take PR
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.
SEXUALITY: asexual, homosexual
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: biromantic/panromantic, homoromantic
TROPES: (slight) age gap, single parenthood, class disparity, second chance romance, found family, forced proximity
TAGS: adult, contemporary, romance, queer romance, queer characters, black characters, POC characters, biracial characters, interracial romance, military personnel
WARNINGS: physical injury, mention of medical procedures, mention of drunk driving, ableism, mental illness (panic attack), misogyny, alcoholism, mention of racism, anti-queer/queerphobia/queermisia, grief, parental death, mention of death
This is yet another amazing installment of this series! I fall in love with the characters more and more with every book, and that did not change with SQUARED AWAY.
Both Isaiah and Mark (also known as Wizard) are characters carried over from previous books in the series. Characters who you get brief glimpses of and can’t help but be intrigued by, so I was so excited to see this book was about them. And that they had a kind of past together! Both characters are so strong and stubborn, and it was so great to watch them butt heads and then ultimately work together to make a better life for the kids (and themselves!). I adored the fact that their romance involved so much insight into their domestic lives, since the kids were a large part of the overall plot and, I would say, the romance as well. We got to see into their daily lives separately, but my favorite scenes were the ones with Isaiah and Mark working together, and seeing them interact with all of the kids. It was so moving, as well, to see how the two of them completely flipped around their lives to take care of the children they suddenly had guardianship over.
One thing I really loved about this book was the asexual rep. I loved the fact that Mark knew from the beginning that he’s ace and that he was generally comfortable with it, even if he was sometimes down about the fact that people often aren’t accepting or understanding of asexuality. Also, I liked that, while this wasn’t a discovery narrative where Mark realizes he’s ace, he’s shown with a bit of questioning. He’s not sure if he’s ace, grey-ace, demi, or something else, but he does know he’s on the ace spectrum and that’s what matters. Also, I loved the fact that Isaiah understood him and never pressured Mark into something he didn’t want. He always let Mark take the lead, initiating the kind of sexual activity he was comfortable with, and never made Mark feel like he had to change in order to please Isaiah. Additionally, I really enjoyed the way Albert showed intimacy in ways that doesn’t involve sex. Sometimes they kissed and just cuddled; sometimes they gave each other massages; sometimes it was a shower; sometimes it was just working together with the kids; sometimes it was a glance or a smile. But there were so many instances of non-sexual intimacy and I loved it.
The only thing that I had a few moments of pause on was the POC rep. This may be on me for not reading closely enough, but to be completely honest, I didn’t realize Isaiah is Black until I saw the cover for this novel. I don’t remember his skin tone being mentioned in AT ATTENTION or ON POINT during the scenes he’s in, and it’s not really mentioned all that much in SQUARED AWAY either. There’s brief mention of him being Black and biracial after he and two of the kids–all three of whom are biracial as well–are faced with a moment of off page racism. So while I don’t necessarily think the rep was bad, I’m not sure it was that great either since he could’ve easily been white with very little change to the overall plot. It’s something for Albert to work on, and I will be watching for reviews by Black and biracial readers.
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.
Now, check out a short excerpt and then enter the giveaway!
“I take it that’s a yes?”
“It’s always going to be a yes for more kissing.” Isaiah scooted closer. They’d done the massage and goodnight kiss routine a few more times, but he was careful to not press for it, to let it be Mark’s idea.
Mark gave him a fast but still electric kiss. “I was thinking about this when I was helping you outside earlier. It’s crazy how much I like touching and kissing you.”
“I love touching you too.” Isaiah trailed his fingers down Mark’s cheek. “You haven’t had that before?”
“Not really. I’ve had a lot of kisses that felt like getting my earlobe chewed by a cat or trying to kiss a salmon. Not awful but not ‘can’t wait to do it again’ either. Had some kisses I liked, but right as I was getting comfortable, the other person would try to take it to the next level. And that was always a disaster.”
“Even with your friend? The other medic?”
Mark shrugged and looked away. “He got huffy when I didn’t want to get naked after a few kisses. Called me a closet case.”
“I’m sorry.” Isaiah patted his leg, not sure what else to say. “You’re a great guy. You deserve all the good kisses—no fish or earlobe chewing allowed. And you deserve to go at your own pace. Always.”
“I feel guilty. Like I should be doing something more for you…”
“Hey now. I’m getting amazing kisses from a hot-as-fuck guy who also likes to massage me until I’m a pile of limp lettuce. Trust me. I’m not getting a shabby deal here. At all.” If anything, Isaiah felt guilty for how very much he was enjoying all this. “And add in yard work help and cleaning? Man, you’d be a lot of people’s idea of a dream date.”
“Good.” Mark leaned in for another, softer kiss. “Because I really like doing this.”
“Me too.” Isaiah tried to calm the thumping of his heart. Careful, he warned himself even as his long-comatose hope monster hefted itself up and did a dance. He couldn’t afford to go falling for Mark again, yet with each kiss, each tentative touch, he could feel his grip on his resolve weakening.