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Blog Tour and Giveaway: Off Base: Annabeth Albert

Off Base (Out of Uniform #1)
Annabeth Albert
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Released January 9, 2017
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After trading the barracks for a fixer-upper rental, navy SEAL Zack Nelson wants peace, not a roommate—especially not Pike, who sees things about Zack he most wants to hide. Pike's flirting puts virgin Zack on edge. And the questions Pike's arrival would spark from Zack's teammates about his own sexuality? Nope. Not going there. But Zack can't refuse.

Pike Reynolds knows there won't be a warm welcome in his new home. What can he say? He's an acquired taste. But he needs this chance to get his life together. Also, teasing the uptight SEAL will be hella fun. Still, Pike has to tread carefully; he's had his fill of tourists in the past, and he can't risk his heart on another, not even one as hot, as built—and, okay, yeah, as adorable—as Zack.

Living with Pike crumbles Zack's restraint and fuels his curiosity. He discovers how well they fit together in bed…in the shower…in the hallway… He needs Pike more than he could have imagined, yet he doesn't know how to be the man Pike deserves.
“What do you mean they’re not coming?” Zack tried hard to sound like the badass navy SEAL he was now. He’d passed all sorts of interrogation training—there was no reason he couldn’t hide that he didn’t particularly like this guy. Or this fancy bar where he and his nontrendy clothes and military haircut were out of place. He’d agreed to go out for drinks with a group. His friend Ryan had promised him a drink for finishing his SEAL qualification training and getting his trident, and Zack had figured dealing with the rest of Ryan’s crowd wouldn’t be horrible. But tolerable was a far cry from being stranded alone with Pike freaking Reynolds without Ryan as a buffer.

“They blew two tires getting out of Santa Monica and are waiting on a repair truck now. Ryan said to have fun without them.” Pike looked harmless enough—shorter than Zack with a lean build and bright red hair and freckles that made him look too young to drink—but Zack knew from experience he was anything but benign. Pike was the type of guy who would flirt with wallpaper, but he seemed to have singled Zack out for special attention ever since their first meeting at a LAN party.

Which was all well and good, but unlike a lot of Ryan’s crowd, Zack wasn’t openly gay. And what Zack hated was that Pike seemed to see through all his “no, really I’m straight” protests and see things Zack refused to even think about. And a whole night with Pike? Torture. And that was coming from someone who’d been tossed into frigid water with his arms and legs bound. Repeatedly.

But he’d happily endure another round of drownproof training if it meant an easy out of this situation.

“Is Landon coming?” Please say it’s not just us. Surely, Pike’s omnipresent sidekick would be there to bail Zack out.

“Nope. He’s doing research at the Hadron Collider for the next few months. Just us, I think.” Pike grinned at him. “Alone at last, right?”

Zack guessed that the Hadron was one of those supersmart things Pike’s crowd just assumed everyone else knew about. He certainly wasn’t about to appear dumb and ask. “You don’t have to stick around on my account,” he said instead.

“Dude.” Pike smacked him on the shoulder. “I’ve had a shit week. Another three interviews for jobs for the fall, another three fuckups on my part. Don’t make me drink alone.”

“I guess I could do a beer.”

“On me, right? We’re all super stoked that you passed SQT.” Pike gave him another of those disarming smiles.

Ba-deep-deep. Zack’s phone chimed. Sure enough, there was a message from Ryan apologizing for bailing. Have fun with Pike, Ryan ended. But whatever you do, don’t let him talk you into shots. He looks scrawny, but he can drink you under the table. Trust me.

Zack shoved his phone away. Nope, no way was he doing shots with Pike. Last thing he needed was to get drunk and forget himself around the guy.

“So what’ll it be? They have a whole selection of craft beers here.” Pike offered him one of the little bar menus artfully strewn around on the huge antique wood bar.

“A Bud’s fine,” Zack said. He’d never developed a taste for the fancy stuff. This whole place was fancier than he was used to, what with the exposed hardwoods everywhere, the prettified bar food emerging from the kitchen, and the painted inspirational quotes behind the bar. Even the name, Mellow, was a far cry from the hole-in-the-wall places he’d drunk at in college or even Big Ted’s, the little sports bar right off base that his fellow SEALs favored.

Pike signaled the burly bartender, who frowned at them after Pike gave their order for a Bud and some fancy-ass beer Zack had never heard of. “Hand stamps, please. Both of you.”

Zack stuck his hand out, showing that the bouncer had indeed checked his ID. Pike put his arm right next to Zack’s—way too close for comfort. “See, look at us, finding things in common.”

“Getting carded is hardly something to be proud of,” Zack mumbled as he pulled his arm away. Back in San Diego, when he went to the bars with his friends, they never got carded anymore. And he liked that—he was twenty-three now, for crying out loud.

“Of course it’s not for you, Muscles.” Pike did that whole standing-too-close thing again, moving over so others could get to the bar.

Zack really shouldn’t like that Pike noticed what the past few months of training had done for his physique. He’d always been lean, but days of log- and boat-carry drills had carved out muscles he hadn’t even been aware he had. Zack accepted his beer from the bartender, then followed Pike to one of the little high-top tables ringing the bar area.

“Seriously, you are jacked now.” Pike winked at him, giving him the sort of once-over Zack’s buddies gave girls in bikinis. “Look at those shoulders. It even makes you look taller.”

Flattery was not going to work on Zack. Not even a bit. Besides, Pike was the short one, probably five seven or so. But Zack was a perfectly respectable five ten. In your boots.

“Truth, man. I just call it like I see it.” Pike shrugged. And that right there was the whole problem with Pike—he had absolutely no filter and a way too keen sense of observation.

Zack and Pike appeared in Connection Error (#Gaymers#3) as they are friends with Ryan and Josiah.

Zack Nelson is a young Navy SEAL who has not really explored his sexual identity or had any relationships. He is closed off, anxious, fearful, and terrified of anyone finding out his secret. He is already in a hostile environment at work with his team members.  His family is strict and religious, and have put pressure on him to be the perfect son. He is closeted to the point of self denial.

But Pike Reynolds seems to be able to see right through him. He is unfiltered, observant, intelligent, and seen as a bit immature and impulsive. He is also gay and out. They are thrust together one night that opens up Zack's eyes a bit. But then they end up rooming together and that opens up a whole new world... a game of resistance, companionship, attraction, exploration, and feelings. They get closer behind closed doors and learn to trust. They fall into a friends with benefits arrangement, but it is bound to get more complicated. 

Pike is living in San Diego now because he has taken on a teaching job that he is not quite sure about. Zack is dealing with significant homophobia on his SEAL team and from his parents. It makes him afraid to give into the real feelings he has for Pike. Zack is lost between who he wants to be and who he feels he has to be. And Pike is not sure if he will ever fit into Zack's life and if he should explore more of his own career opportunities.

Pike struggles with his value and if Zack feels he is worth the risk, but he was pretty patient about letting Zack go at a slower pace.  But this is really Zack's story of self awareness and growth. The only way they have a chance is if Zack is willing to stand up for himself, take a risk, and fight for them. But doing so will have consequences in every aspect of Zack's life. It is about self worth, priorities, respect, and finding a home. 

This deals with significant homophobic slurs and behavior, so it could be a trigger for some. There are some people that I wanted to smack and situations that made me so angry. But unfortunately, they are also realistic. But there are also a lot of good people and side characters as well. I loved the Senior Chief, Professor Hu, and the hot widower, Apollo (please let him get a book in this series!). I enjoyed getting more with Ryan and Josiah from Connection Error  and how this spins off from that series, but is more into the world of Navy SEALs. I am looking forward to more in this series.

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review. 


When I heard Annabeth Albert’s new series is a spinoff from her #gaymers series AND it is military-themed, I fully admit that the fanboy in me let out a happy squee. After reading the first book, Off Base, though, I didn’t have quite as good an impression as I did of the other books of hers I’ve read, because it took me a bit to get into the story and characters. Once I got there, though, it was an enjoyable read that finished strongly.

After new Navy SEAL Zack Nelson has some problems with other members of his team in San Diego, he takes advantage of an offer to move into a rental unit off base. Isolation is just the thing he wants, and the price is right too, since he’s helping with some remodeling projects on the place. Or he’s trying to, anyway. Pike Reynolds thought he was on the fast track after completing his dissertation, but he wasn’t able to land his dream job. So when an opportunity to teach in San Diego comes up, he feels like he needs to take it. And that puts him back into contact with Zack, a “straight” guy he knows he has chemistry with, but he also knows he has no interest in being a guinea pig for curiosity again, even though Zack hits all his buttons. When they move in together, Zack’s resistance crumbles and he lets himself be the thing he’s always tried to hide, both from the outside world and himself. There’s no way he can ever step out of the shell he’s confined himself to, but he’ll need to if he’s going to keep Pike.

Zack is your classic closet case, and he has a lot of good reasons for it. He grew up in a strict religious family that constantly railed against homosexuality, and even though he knows gays are allowed in the military (and he personally knows a fellow SEAL who is gay), hostility from his teammates makes that impossible. It’s just safer all around if he denies his thoughts and urges, even to himself. And to do that, he really closes himself off to people as a whole. He knows Pike through the gay SEAL (and we met both Zack and Pike in book three of the #gaymers series, Connection Error, because of this fact), and Pike seems to be able to see through all his barriers. But even after Zack starts letting his guard down within the bubble that is their rental house, Pike is torn between being the out-and-proud gay man he’s always been and keeping things comfortable for Zack. It’s a conflict in Pike that Zack is fully aware of, but it’s not easy for someone like Zack to take such a big risk.

The story line is fine in Off Base, but I had a lot of difficulty getting into it because things are very choppy in the first quarter of the book. I can’t put my finger on exactly what caused it, but it was a struggle. Once they moved in together, things picked up and this wasn’t a problem for me anymore. It’s not just that the sex was hot either (and it was.) These two worked together as a couple, and the struggles they went through felt very real. And outside the relationship, their problems had much in common with one another, even though neither could really help the other with them. Put all of this together and I felt sympathetic to their plights, and when things got rough for them, I understood why, even though I didn’t like it. But that often makes these final dramatic sequences much better in the long run.

As a whole, Annabeth Albert’s Off Base is a decent read once you get past the first chunk of the book. That surprised me in retrospect, because I’ve not had that issue with any of the other books of hers that I’ve read. That being said, I do recommend this title, and I really look forward to the next one, because I think there’s a hot military widower that’s going to be the main character. There’s no way I could pass that up.

The author generously provided me a complimentary copy of Off Base in exchange for this fair and honest review.


AT ATTENTION (#2)
 April 2017 



ON POINT(#3)

June 2017


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This book from her #gaymers series is a transitional book to the Out of Uniform series and some of these characters were introduced.

Connection Error (#gaymers #3)
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Released September 5, 2016
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Our 4 star reviews

It's typical of video game programmer Josiah Simmons to be the last one on the plane on the way to the biggest meeting of his career. Though he's (mostly) coping with his ADHD, he can't handle another distraction. But he also can't ignore his rugged seatmate—especially once he learns the military man's a fan of his game.

Ryan Orson refuses to let his severe injuries pause his career as a navy SEAL. He's got hours of grueling physical therapy ahead of him, and no time for anything that might get in the way of his return to active duty. But that doesn't mean he's above a little first-class flirtation with geeky-cute Josiah.

When a delay strands the pair in St. Louis, they agree to share a hotel room and a night of gaming. Neither expects their new connection to move to the next level in the light of day. Opposites may attract, but is this game over before it's even begun?
Annabeth Albert 
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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.

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 children.

Represented by Saritza Hernandez of the Corvisiero Literary Agency


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