Review: Status Update: Annabeth Albert

Status Update (#gaymers #1)
Annabeth Albert
Released December 7, 2015
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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?
Graphics from author's Facebook page

In anticipation of the second release in Annabeth Albert’s #gaymers series, and because it came highly recommended to me by several members of a couple of M/M Facebook groups where I’m a member, I decided now was the right time to introduce myself to this author. I could use a variety of adjectives to describe my impression of Status Update, but to summarize it in one: adorkable!

Adrian Gottlieb is on the design team for the most successful crowd-funded projects of all time, the MMORPG called Space Villager, and he seems to have everything going his way. While traveling through the Rockies in an RV with his latest long-distance boyfriend on his way back to Denver for Thanksgiving and his sister’s wedding, his plans go awry after they get into a fight, and the guy takes off in the RV with all of Adrian’s belongings, leaving him and his dog stranded in the cold at an RV park in the middle of nowhere in Utah with only his cell phone. Noah Walters is a professor of archaeology at an ultraconservative Christian college in Texas, and he is on sabbatical for a semester to finish writing the book he needs to publish as a part of getting tenure. The little RV park has been the place he and his dog have always gone in order to get away for peace and quiet, so when the drama happens with Adrian in the parking spot next to his, it disturbs him, but he can’t just let the guy and his dog freeze to death.

Based on their personalities and backgrounds, this chance meeting should have been disastrously awkward, but it turns out that Noah is not only a gaming geek, he is one also of the supporters of Space Villager. This leads to a fast attraction, which Noah fights because he’s spent his entire life not only in the closet but entirely celibate as a result of his strict religious upbringing and the ethical code he signed for his job. And yet, Noah finds himself offering to take Adrian up to Denver… and I should probably stop now before I give something away, but suffice it to say it’s a whirlwind (or maybe I should say blizzard?) of a few days.

As the story progresses, we learn that both of these guys have significant family issues. Noah’s are mainly the result of his family’s religious views. Adrian, on the other hand, has always felt like a disappointment to his family because none of his decisions have been the sorts of things the rest of his family would have done. There’s also the little fact that his sister’s fiancé happens to be his ex-boyfriend, so that adds a little tension too.

Together, the family issues and the fact that their budding relationship is doomed to last just the short amount of time for the trip to Denver makes this story have a good bit of angst to balance out the cute and sweet interaction between the two. This does bring up a point about the book. I prefer romances to have a slow burn. This one definitely does not, but the way Adrian and Noah interact, the process of watching Noah come out of his shell and the way Adrian is so gentle about pushing Noah’s boundaries, eliminates the feel that often accompanies the fast-fall trope. Proximity and isolation give them the time to develop in a way that feels natural, and the whole thing just drips with honey sweetness. The deadline-for-separation trope always makes me get a little teary-eyed earlier I probably should be in a romance, though, so that put a little of a damper on reading some of the intimate scenes as the deadline approached, but that’s part of why I enjoy this type of story so much. Bittersweet makes me heart squeeze.

As far as the writing is concerned, the start of the book seemed a little choppy to me, but perhaps it was another case of an author trying to set a mental impression of the awkward geekiness of the characters before it became readily apparent through their interactions. I’m glad it didn’t continue this way, though, because whether or not it was intentional in this case, I always find that type of writing to be sort of a cop-out, so here I can give the author the benefit of the doubt. Once I got past the initial impression, I enjoyed it the rest of the way. It’s written in the third person from both character’s perspectives, and at no point did I feel confusion over what I was reading from the perspective standpoint.

Status Update is a quick and easy read, perfect for when you’re looking for something sweet and gooey, yet with the pain lurking in the background of wondering how their relationship could possibly work out beyond the limited time they have together. They do get their happily-ever-after, and the progression left a goofy smile on my face for much of the book. I look forward to reading the sequel, Beta Test, and will be adding others of this author’s works to my to-be-read list.
Beta Test  (#gaymers #2)
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Expected 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?

Connection Error  (#gaymers #3)

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Expected September 1, 2016
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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.


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