Release Review: Beta Test: Annabeth Albert

Beta Test (#gaymers #2)
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Released May 30, 2016
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Player vs. Player. Fight!

Brilliant graphic designer Ravi Tandel is ahead of the game—he's just been asked to present a top secret project at a huge conference in Seattle. All systems are go…until he learns his buttoned-up office nemesis is coming along for the ride.

Tristan Jones isn't really the gamer type, but he knows the back end of the video game business inside out. Together, he and Ravi will give an awesome presentation. If they survive the cross-country trip first.

Tossed together in close quarters, Ravi's shocked to see Tristan's sexy, softer side emerge from such a conservative shell. He's less shocked to learn his handsome colleague's prominent family would never support an out-and-proud son. But Ravi didn't struggle through his own coming out to hide who he is now. To be together, Tristan will have to push past his fear and ultimately decide: Does he want a future with Ravi? Or is it game over before they've even begun?
Graphics from Author's Facebook Page

Right off the bat, I can tell you that if you liked the first novel in Annabeth Albert’s #gaymers series, Status Update, you will like Beta Test as well. There’s another helping of the cute, sweet, and lovable; some family drama on both sides; and yeah, a road trip, though sans dogs this time. In fact, once the characters are introduced and the story is set up, there’s so much in common in the progression of their plots that I found myself thinking a couple of times “oh, I know what happens next.” Fortunately, there was enough different to keep me reading, because even though I liked both of these stories—I actually liked this one a little more—I wish I had read something in between them in an effort to make the similarities less noticeable.

Ravi Tandel and Tristan Jones are both new employees at the company that makes Space Villager, one of the most successful and popular MMORPGs of the day. They start work the very same day, but that’s where the similarities seem to end. Ravi is a talented graphic designer, outgoing and flamboyant, right down to his wardrobe and hairstyle. Everything about him is colorful and charming. Tristan, on the other hand, works on the business side of the company, introverted and perfectionistic, with lists and spreadsheets for everything covering every possible contingency. The only thing colorful about him is the highlighting scheme he uses in his organizational tools. And because of these differences, they clash. They clash badly enough that they would rather not work together, even though they are both assigned to the same project, leading up to a big reveal at a gaming convention in Seattle. So when a company party results in food poisoning that leaves only Ravi and Tristan healthy enough to drive the game’s exhibit up from California, both are filled with dread and expect sparks to fly, and neither is prepared when those sparks turn out to be of the attraction sort.

As the story progresses, they discover they have something in common: unsupportive families. Ravi grew up in a traditional Hindu home in New Jersey, so except for one of his sisters, his family does not approve of his lifestyle. Ravi refuses to be anyone other than who he is, out and proud, and he can never imagine himself in a relationship with someone that must remain hidden. Tristan was raised by parents with very conservative views, with his mother in a public role as a judge and darling among conservative political leaders. Their version of “toleration” only happens with conditions: they demand that Tristan keep his proclivities discreet, especially now that his mother is considering a gubernatorial candidacy. He abides this only because he is their sole remaining child after his older brother died in a car crash. Their disapproval of Tristan stretches across all the major decisions he has made in his life.

The spark that ignites during the trip up to and their time in Seattle is intense and sizzling. Both realize how badly their want for the other grows, but both have reasons to tamp it down. Tristan’s come from his parental issues. Ravi’s, though, stem from a very bad experience dating a coworker at a previous job. Nonetheless, they cannot stop themselves from succumbing to their desires. The best they can do is agree that once the trip to Seattle is over, whatever it is between them must stop. They can be no more than friends.

So there you have it: just like in the last book, there is a short period of time where they fall fast for each other (though this time it’s after several months of barely being able to work together) complete with a deadline that will end the romantic relationship that forms. And just like last time, one of the characters (Ravi) gently and supportively coaxes the other (Tristan) out of his sexual shell with bountiful sweetness. And again, just like in the previous novel, the pairing and the development of the relationship worked beautifully and felt natural in spite of the rather quick timeline. Oh, and yeah, again, the sex is scorching, probably even more so than in the last book. It’s a good formula, I guess. But thankfully, even though the plot in the last third of the book also vaguely compares to its predecessor’s, the characters and my love for them kept it from becoming redundant.

Beta Test is another quick and gooey sweet read that’s easy to follow, doesn’t fall into any of the traps of confused perspective, and doesn’t suffer from a choppy start. Its lovely story and wonderful characters carry the plot through to its satisfying conclusion. I’m not surprised that the author is getting better at her craft, at least if I can use these two stories as a guideline. That being said, I hope the third entry in the series shakes up the plot structure a little bit, because even though she’s got this recipe figured out, unfortunately, so do I as the reader.

The author generously provided me a complimentary copy of Beta Test in exchange for this fair and honest review.
Status Update (#gaymers #1)
Annabeth Albert
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Adrian Gottlieb is winning at life. He's a successful video game designer with everything a man could ask for, including a warm comfy ride to Denver and a date for his sister's wedding. But he finds himself in need of a total reboot when he's left stranded at a snowy campground in Utah. Holiday plans? Epic fail.

That is until Noah Walters offers him shelter for the night and a reluctant cross-country ride. Nothing about the ultraconservative geoarchaeologist should attract Adrian, but once he discovers Noah's hidden love for video games, the two connect on a new level. Soon, a quiet but undeniable chemistry sparks.

Something doesn't add up, though. As the miles accumulate and time runs out, Noah must face the most difficult choice of his life. Meanwhile, Adrian must decide whether he's ready to level up. Is their relationship status worth fighting for, or has this game ended before it's even begun?

Connection Error  (#gaymers #3)
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Expected September 1, 2016

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 toddlers.

Represented by Saritza Hernandez of the Corvisiero Literary Agency


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