Review Blitz and Giveaway: On Point: Annabeth Albert

Annabeth Albert
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Released June 5, 2017
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Never fall for your best friend…

Pushing thirty, with his reenlistment looming, decorated navy sniper Maddox Horvat is taking a long look at what he really wants in life. And what he wants is Ben Tovey. It isn’t smart, falling for his best friend and fellow SEAL, but ten years with Ben has forged a bond so intimate Maddox can’t ignore it. He needs Ben by his side forever—heart and soul.

Ben admits he likes what he’s seen—his friend’s full lower lip and the perfect muscles of his ass have proved distracting more than once. But Ben's still reeling from a relationship gone to hell, and he's not about to screw up his friendship with Maddox, too.

Until their next mission throws Ben and Maddox closer together than ever before, with only each other to depend on.

Now, in the lonely, desperate hours awaiting rescue, the real challenge—confronting themselves, their future and their desires—begins. Man to man, friend to friend, lover to lover.

After taking a month off from reading and reviewing, I decided Annabeth Albert and Navy SEALs would be a good way to get back into the swing, even though I had a couple of books that I should have read first because they are being released earlier. On Point turned out to be a good choice, though, because it rewarded me with a character that’s wired almost eerily close to how I am, a pairing that I mostly enjoyed, and a great hook that tugged me in and kept me going even when I wasn’t entirely convinced with the other character’s motivation. The result is a story that I still loved, even if that one (big) little thing kept it from being perfect for me.

On Point is Maddox Horvat and Ben Tovey’s story, two characters that were introduced in the first book of the series and have appeared several times so far. After being side-by-side for almost their entire decade-plus-long Navy careers, leaning on and supporting each other every step of the way both as SEALs and as best friends, Maddox is finally ready to focus on the other goals he has for his life. He can’t imagine, though, what life would be like without having Ben at his side all the time, what leaving the military might do to the bond they share. Both of them being gay is part of their bond too, but circumstances haven’t allowed them to be more than just best friends, and why would they want to risk screwing that up anyway, especially after a bitter break-up between Ben and his husband two years ago resulted in Maddox offering to let Ben move in, a “temporary” arrangement that works well for both of them. But proximity and the fact that they are finally both single at the same time makes the war between inconvenient attraction and not wanting to mess up the friendship all the worse. Too bad a bad decision one night six months ago suddenly turned everything weird between them, something that makes Maddox more worried about how his choice to leave the Navy would affect their friendship.

Best-friends-to-lovers has always been one of my favorite tropes, simply because it’s so easy to relate to the conflict of not wanting to ruin what’s already there while wondering whether there could be more, and it often leads to great sexual tension between the characters. Here, though, the tension is caused by events that happen prior to the start of the book. Though these events are told as flashbacks fairly early in the novel, they aren’t what yanked me in as deeply as I was. 

Their mission goes wrong and the two of them must wait with life-threatening injuries for rescue in a hostile environment, with both of them desperately wanting to fix the weird between them and scared that time might run out and make that wish impossible. Honestly, few other books have made feel so much for the two main characters as quickly as this one did, and it did so in a way that didn’t feel like a cheesy B-movie plot. Put all of this together and a third of the way through On Point, I was really excited about the potential for this book to be one I’d remember for a long time.

Of course, that distinction ultimately depends on how things go in the rest of the story. It’s a romance, so I’m not spoiling anything by saying they both live and they eventually get past the weird by deciding to take a shot on being an “us.” The big complication is that while both Maddox and Ben have family issues, Ben’s divorce reinforced his belief that relationships can’t work because he’s convinced that no matter how strong his feelings are, people are just going to leave him anyway. Maddox knows this about Ben too, which makes the thought of telling Ben about wanting to leave the military a repeated source of angst.

Without getting into specifics, no matter how often this was brought up in the book, I never quite made it to the point where I could be sympathetic to Ben’s reaction once the news came out. Perhaps a big chunk of this, though, is the fact that reading Maddox felt like looking into a mirror. I honestly can’t recall another character I’ve read that was more like me than Maddox (aside from the physical, of course…I certainly do not have the body of a SEAL *smirk*), so when it came time for the big fight, my own reaction was certainly one-sided. I probably shouldn’t blame it on the storytelling, but at the same time, whatever it was that kept me from sympathizing with both ultimately kept me from getting to that place I truly love in my favorite romances. That being said, the lovely feels of the final chapter (which really could have been called an epilogue) almost got me there.

One of the reasons I took a month off from reviewing was to attend the RT Booklovers Convention in Atlanta, and while there I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to many wonderful authors, including Annabeth Albert. I also learned that her plan for the Out of Uniform series is to make it seven books in total. That makes me happy, because if On Point is any indication, I have several good books to look forward to.

The author generously provided me with a complimentary copy of On Point in exchange for this fair and honest review.

This is Maddox and Ben's story. They have been best friends for over a decade and have become room mates for the last couple of years. They have always been there for each other but in recent months things have been more awkward due to sexual tension and unresolved feelings.

Maddox is the dependable, optimistic, in control, Navy sniper. He is serious about life and relationships. He is looking for a real partner. Ben has always been a confidence booster for him, but Maddox has never revealed his true feelings for his best friend. He has other interests besides the Navy and he is not sure if he wants to re-enlist again.

Ben had a bad relationship that turned him against them. He is bitter, angry, broody, and only parties and hooks up now. He relies on Maddox to have his back, and is dedicated to the Navy. He feels unworthy and not good enough at times. 

This story throws Maddox and Ben into challenging situations physically and emotionally. We see them fighting for their lives on a mission and in need of rescue. We see flashbacks of the situations that caused awkwardness in their friendship and was causing them to drift apart. We also see them try to figure out their issues and explore more options together.

There is danger and suspense, tender moments, sexy times, and emotional turmoil. These two are so bonded together, but that also gives them baggage. They both have fears, insecurities, trust and communication issues, Both are afraid to trust and believe that they could have more that could last. They have differing experiences and ideas about relationships and their future careers. Their family dynamics have shaped them in various ways and reinforced some personal feelings. It is easier for them to avoid the touchy subjects at times adding more problems.  But the biggest issue is fear of losing the other.

This was suspenseful, emotional, angsty, sexy best-friends-to-lovers-story. I was drawn in with the perilous military action in the beginning, but was distracted a bit by the time jumps and flashbacks providing more of the background to their issues. But this story can almost be divided up into sections with one focusing more on a mission, one the after effects, then the trial with attempting to progress their relationship. Of course there is drama, angst, and growing pains. These guys are so emotionally tied, but struggling to figure out how to deal with changes and not hurting the other or getting hurt themselves.  They are opposites in a lot of ways, but also could balance each other. But there were times I wanted to shake both of them, especially Ben. The characters were well developed and their fears and flaws were quite fleshed out. I was expecting the drama to occur, but I am not sure I completely bought into how some of it played out. But that was the only small issue I had and I got over it by the end.

It will all come down to believing in themselves and the other and deciding if they can take a leap of faith. They have always trusted each other with their lives, but it is more difficult with their hearts. These two definitely had a lot of changes to navigate, and it was an engaging and dynamic story. I enjoyed getting more with the other couples from the series: Pike and Zack and Apollo and Dylan. I was so glad to get an epilogue.

I am looking forward to Dustin in Wheel's Up.

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review.
The rain pelted down as he made his way up the ridge, thick sheets that obscured his vision and made the terrain slippery and treacherous. Overhead, a large black bird with a colorful beak swooped in, almost sending Ben skidding into a ravine.

He whistled low, a deliberate pattern, one of the team’s signals. He repeated the sound as he approached where Maddox was supposed to be. An answering signal came from a dense thicket of green vegetation.
“It’s me. Hold your fire,” Ben called as he slipped into the mass of trees and roots. The plants here were nothing like the ones back home—giant heart-shaped leaves and bright rubbery flowers that almost looked bird- or insect-like. The trees had massive, visible roots covered with moss, and were connected by thick vines that could easily be mistaken for a deadly snake.
Below him, he could see the encampment, SEALs scurrying around. The injured hostage and Issacson, their wounded radio man, were carried out, which had to mean the chopper was close. Time to haul ass. “Maddox?”
“Here.” Maddox slid out of the shadows, rifle at the ready, just as Ben had expected. “Com’s down for you guys too?”
“Yup. Chopper’s coming in. LT sent me to bring you in. No time to waste. Issacson took a bullet, but he’s stable, and one of the hostages is in bad shape. Possible hostiles escaped, but Rogers and company are hunting them down.”
“Got it. Lead the way.” Maddox let Ben take point as they made their way down the ridge. They had to skirt the edge of a steep drop, every muddy step cautious even as they needed to make haste.
Two things happened at the same instant—gunfire broke out above them and a chopper approached, engine noise making it hard to track the source of the shots. But Maddox was already on it, crouching low, rifle ready. Another shot whistled over their heads and Maddox returned fire. They both left the trail and headed into the brush, intent on finding the hostiles.
The chopper circled low, then went back up. Fuck. The chopper was struggling to land in the encampment clearing, which meant the next pass was critical. Still staying low and gun ready, he inched forward. No more gunfire had followed Maddox’s, but that didn’t mean he could let his guard down for a second.
The chopper circled again, but the terrain had shifted and Ben could no longer see the encampment beneath them.
“Fuck.” Maddox never cursed, so Ben whipped his head around just in time to see Maddox slipping off the poor excuse for a trail.
Ben scrambled on his stomach, stretching out an arm, trying to catch Maddox. “Grab on.”
“No. Don’t—” Maddox didn’t get the sentence out before they were both tumbling down the muddy incline, heading straight for the ravine that lay between them and the encampment. Ben tried to slow their descent but his attempt to grab at some vines only resulted in the foliage following them down.
Maddox screamed, a legitimate yell that chilled Ben to his boots because Maddox never lost composure. Ever. Ben had once watched Wizard put sutures in Maddox’s scalp while Maddox hummed, never dropping his tune.
Ben grabbed for him again and— Pop. Ben’s arm pulled at an unnatural angle, caught up in a tree root and not Maddox’s strong grip as he’d intended. He wrenched loose but the damage was already done, and still he slid, mud carrying him faster, rocks and vegetation raining down after them.
“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.” Ben’s arm and shoulder were on fire and he was still moving, sliding, nothing working—
Boom. The bottom of the ravine arrived without warning, a muddy bog that sucked him down, but it was hardly a soft landing, rocks and plants poking at him. His arm had him cursing, eyes watering. He’d seen Rogers dislocate a shoulder last year in the grinder obstacle course, and at the time he’d rolled his eyes at how Rogers had carried on. He had a sick feeling that he’d done the same or worse to his shoulder, and he got the urge to cry and howl.
“Oh fuck.” His stomach heaved and he barely made it to his side before he threw up from the pain. He turned his head and almost lost his guts again. Maddox lay a few feet from him, leg at an unnatural angle, blood dripping from his head, helmet nowhere to be seen. Not talking or cursing.
Clawing at the rocks with his good arm, Ben pulled himself closer, looking for the telltale rise and fall of Maddox’s chest—and not seeing it.
“You are not fucking with me,” Ben growled. “Mad? Come on, man.”
Still nothing, not even a ghost of movement across Maddox’s pale lips. Terror, nothing Ben had ever known before, froze his veins, made him lightheaded from more than just the fall. He refused, utterly refused to live in a world where Maddox wasn’t okay.
“Maddox. Horvat.” He shook his shoulder, cursing under his breath. No, no, no.
Whoosh. A chopper—the chopper—flew overhead, much too far to spot them down this ravine, and heading away from them.
Sputter. Maddox let out a mighty cough. It might have been the most beautiful sound Ben had ever heard, because it meant Maddox was here, that he was fighting, and Ben started to laugh with relief until Maddox spoke. “Heck. They’re leaving us.” 
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Released January 9, 2017

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.

At Attention (Out of Uniform #2)
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Release Date April 10, 2017
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Lieutenant Apollo Floros can ace tactical training missions, but being a single dad to his twin daughters is more than he can handle. He needs live-in help, and he's lucky a friend's younger brother needs a place to stay. He's surprised to see Dylan all grown up with a college degree…and a college athlete's body. Apollo's widowed heart may still be broken, but Dylan has his blood heating up. 

It's been eight years since the teenage Dylan followed Apollo around like a lovesick puppy, and it's time he showed Lieutenant Hard-to-Please that he's all man now—an adult who's fully capable of choosing responsibility over lust. He can handle Apollo's muscular sex appeal, but Apollo the caring father? Dylan can't afford to fall for that guy. He's determined to hold out for someone who's able to love him back, not someone who only sees him as a kid brother.

Apollo is shocked by the intensity of his attraction to Dylan. Maybe some no-strings summer fun will bring this former SEAL back to life. But the combination of scorching desire and warm affection is more than he'd expected, and the emotion between them scares him senseless. No fling lasts forever, and Apollo will need to decide what's more important—his past or his future—if he wants to keep Dylan in his life. 

More coming soon!
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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