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Blog Tour: Trust with a Chaser: Annabeth Albert

Trust with a Chaser (Rainbow Cove #1)
Annabeth Albert
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Released August 1, 2017
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One hot cop. One bar owner out for redemption. One smoking-hot summer fling destined to leave scorch marks…

Mason Hanks has returned to Rainbow Cove, Oregon with one goal in mind: turn the struggling coastal community into a thriving LGBTQ tourism destination. Step one is transforming an old bar and grill into a gay-friendly eatery. Step two? Don’t piss off Nash Flint, the very hot, very stern chief of police who’s not so sure he’s on board with Mason’s big plans.

Nash Flint just wants to keep his community safe and enjoy the occasional burger in peace. He’s not big on change nor is he a fan of Mason’s troublemaking family, especially his rowdy older brothers. But Mason slowly wins him over with fantastic cooking and the sort of friendship Nash has been starving for.

When their unlikely friendship takes a turn for the sexy, both men try to steer clear of trouble. Nash believes he’s too set in his ways for Mason, and Mason worries that his family’s reputation will ruin any future with Nash. Burning up the sheets in secret is a surefire way to crash and burn, and discovery forces a heart-wrenching decision—is love worth the risk of losing everything?

Trust with a Chaser is a 75,000 word stand-alone gay romance with a May/December theme, a hot law-enforcement hero, opposites attract, plenty of sexy times, and one hard-fought, guaranteed happy ending with no cliffhangers.


Annabeth Albert is one of my favorite authors in the genre because, regardless of the topic, her books always contain easily understandable and believable characters, just the right balance of sweetness and heat, and emotionally complex situations that rarely fail to generate the feels I love so much about romance novels. The first book in her new Rainbow Cove series, Trust with a Chaser, fits that characterization perfectly. In fact, upon completion, the first two things I thought were how I liked the book a great deal and how it was 100% “Annabeth-y.”

After several years away from his small hometown in coastal Oregon, Mason Hanks returned with the big dream of turning it into a LGBTQ-friendly tourism spot. To that end, he and two close friends converted the town’s old tavern into a hip and welcoming restaurant and bar. But his desire to be an upstanding citizen of Rainbow Cove is at odds with the prevailing impression the town has of his family’s reputation. And no one knows about the troublemakers in the Hanks family more than the town’s chief of police, Nash Flint, or “Sheriff Sexy” as Mason’s friends call him. Just like his father’s was before him, Nash’s single-minded focus is his job keeping the citizens safe, and that leaves him little time to worry about being single and gay in the small, conservative town. Since their families have always been at odds with one another, Mason certainly should not be piquing Nash’s interest, but when lunches at the tavern make it obvious the attraction goes both ways, and the resulting agreement for sex on the down low ultimately gets their hearts involved, family obligations and the small-town gossip mill suddenly force them to face the reality they’ve known all along, that their relationship can’t succeed unless they are willing to make the tough decision to fight for what they want most.

The overwhelming theme of the romantic arc in Trust with a Chaser is this knowledge that a real relationship between them cannot be. They are opposite in many ways: to name only a couple of things, Mason is in his twenties while Nash is nearly forty, and Mason is proudly out gay man while Nash keeps his sexuality hidden. But what makes the relationship doomed is the thing they have in common, the fact that they are each a product of their individual families, families that have a long-standing animosity for each other and would be completely vexed if they found out Mason and Nash were even buddies, let alone fuckbuddies or something more. Both of them know this, and they acknowledge it to each other, right from the start. It adds a delicious layer of sexual tension while the build lasts. It’s not quite a Romeo and Juliet story (because, yes, there is a happily ever after, and it’s one that’s more the “real life” sort in that they’ll still have challenges to come, though their surviving as a couple is not a question), but it has that palpable sense of foreboding pervading the entire middle of the novel, something that adds a great deal of intensity and feeling as they each start to realize that they wish they could have more.

To be honest, while this sense of foreboding was a necessary, and very welcome, dimension of the novel, by around the two-thirds mark, I started feeling the story was dragging because every time the two were together, one or both of the characters—the story is written in alternating first-person-past point of view, sometimes switching perspectives midchapter—have the thought (if not vocalizing it outright) about how they shouldn’t be doing this or something similar to that. While it didn’t take much longer for the inevitable, and somewhat predictable, scene where the shit hits the fan so that I quickly stopped feeling like the story was dragging, I think the constant reminders made the plot device a little less effective than it could have been. I wish, for example, that there had been at least one set of a few consecutive scenes where things are growing between them, giving one or both of them hope that maybe they could make it work until something that isn’t just in their thoughts happens, something real to set them back to the reality that it can’t work. As a whole, this is a minor issue that’s probably more a preferential thing on my part.

Outside of this one issue, there was only one other thing I felt could have been improved in Trust with a Chaser. Since it involves the resolution of one of the side plots, I can’t go into detail other than to say I was surprised that it didn’t create a bigger reaction for Mason once the truth came out about it. But as a whole, these issues were only minor annoyances. The book’s smooth and comfortable flow made it a relatively quick read, even more so because it has the familiar tone that I’ve come to expect when reading a book by this author.

Whenever I have read more than a few books by an author—I’m up to ten now for Annabeth Albert—I’m often apprehensive when the author releases a book that starts a new series, primarily because I worry that I know the author’s storytelling too well to where the book will feel familiar instead of something new. But Trust with a Chaser lived up to my storytelling expectations while still hooking me with a fresh story that kept me turning pages and giving me all the right feels I crave when reading a romance. And this is why Annabeth Albert continues to be on my list of go-to authors in the genre.

The author generously provided me a complimentary copy of Trust with a Chaser in exchange for this fair and honest review.
This is the first book in a new series set in Rainbow Cove, Oregon. Three friends, Mason, Adam, and Logan have bought the town's old tavern and are determined to make it an outstanding restaurant and friendly LGBT tourist spot. For Mason he is returning to the town where his family name is tarnished due to their behavior, troubles, and scrapes with the law. It is not a good thing to be a "Hanks" in Rainbow Cove, but Mason wants to prove that he can be an upstanding member of the community and help drive business back into the dying town.

Nash Flint is the longtime Chief of Police just like his Dad before him. He lives and breathes his job. To the town he is a stoic, predictable, controlled, unemotional man of few words. But he has had a secret for years and is truly afraid of it getting out. Nash always ate at the tavern before so it was natural for him to give it a try, and it soon becomes a part of his new routine. But that also brings him in close proximity to Mason Hanks. Mason could be trouble for Nash...but not really because of who his family is...but more because of how attractive he is.

Both can appreciate the charisma of the other, but know they should be off limits. But as a tentative friendship forms and leads to some time together and more intimate moments, they realize things might be getting a bit out of hand. But powerless to stop how good it feels to have someone in their life, they can agree that maybe a sexy, summer fling will be enough.

They are opposites in some ways. There is an age difference, their backgrounds, and reputations in town are different. They don't want to want or need each other too much. Sneaking around, an undeniable need they cannot seem to stop, and building feelings make things even more challenging. There is also shame, guilt, and fear of discovery. Their lives are complicated by outside forces and are on a collision course. They can appreciate their time together in seclusion, but do not see any hope for a future.

Mason is always trying to prove himself worthy and handle his family's mess. And Nash is trying to deal with his own life choices and figuring out what is most important to him. But his decisions can easily have consequences on his career and relationships.

Bottom line is it will all come down to trust...trusting their own choices and the other in order to figure out if they are worth fighting for or if it is easier to just move on and avoid further complications.

This was a sweet, sexy, and complicated, opposites-attract love story. I liked both Mason and Nash, although I did want to kick Nash a few times and encourage him to move out of his comfort zone. Their story had a lot going on both internally and externally. They needed to deal with their own personal fears and insecurities, their relationship issues, and had outside influences affecting them and adding pressure. I enjoyed getting both of their points of view.

The side characters were interesting and fun. I am looking forward to more with Mason's friends Logan, Adam, and Brock and Nash's friend, Curtis. I think she set the scene and characters up well for continuing stories and further town development.

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

Chapter One

Mason


When Adam stepped inside the glorified closet I was using as an office, eyes all twitchy and hands wringing a bar towel, I knew I wasn’t going to like what came out of his mouth.

“Sheriff Sexy just walked in. He’s your problem.”

Fuck. I squeezed my eyes shut and took a deep breath. “Please don’t call Police Chief Flint that. He might hear, and I’m pretty sure he’d find a citation for you. And I am not bailing your ass out.”

“You’re just worried that one of these days you’re going to slip up and call him that.” Adam grinned at me. This was an old argument—he’d been calling Flint that stupid nickname since we were in high school. The hard-nosed cop wasn’t one to cut teen drivers any slack—especially if they were in any way associated with the name “Hanks.” “Anyway, you know he freaks me out. I’ve got no idea what he wants—all our permits are in order, right?”

“Of course.” Standing, I grabbed the folder with the permitting paperwork. I prided myself in the organization I was bringing to the bar and grill that I co-owned with Adam and our friend, Logan. Flint wouldn’t find anything to complain about, not with me in charge. “I’ll go deal with him. You go back to the bar in case we get a rush.”

Adam snorted. Despite it being opening weekend, traffic had been embarrassingly light. We’d worked for weeks transforming the old tavern—a Rainbow Cove institution for decades—into the newly renamed Rainbow Tavern. The gay-friendly bar and grill was our vision for pulling our sleepy little coastal town into the twenty-first century. Logan had crafted a new menu of upscale bar food ready to go, and Adam had innovative drinks specials at the ready. All we needed were customers. And to not run afoul of Nash Flint on our first day of operation.

Flint was a Rainbow Cove institution himself—born and raised here, same as Adam and me, but unlike me, he’d never left, sliding into his father’s shoes as police chief and apparently fitting the role as easily as a pair of broken-in jeans. He’d been Officer Flint last time I’d seen him, almost ten years prior.

Guess I could have seen him had I come down for Freddy’s trial, something I still felt niggles of guilt over, and I told myself that was why my stomach fluttered on my way out to the tavern’s dining room. Unlike Adam, I’d never found Flint particularly…

Sexy. All my thoughts fled as I took in the man sitting in front of the plate-glass window. He dwarfed the small wooden chair, one of dozens that Adam and I had painted bright colors. Broad shoulders stretched the confines of his uniform shirt, biceps bulging under the short sleeves. His cut-glass jaw was firm as ever, as were those hard hazel eyes. But what had been frankly terrifying to my teenaged self made my twenty-seven-year-old libido sit up and take serious notice.

Flint blinked as I approached, head tilting to one side. I’d been getting a lot of that since I’d been back in town. “Mason…Hanks?”

“The one and only.” I stuck out my hand. “What can I do for you, Chief Flint?”

He returned my handshake with a sure grip, only a moment’s hesitation. I guessed he wasn’t all that used to shaking hands with a Hanks. Oh well. I was out to prove to the whole damn town that I wasn’t like my father and brothers, and if I had to start with Flint, so be it.

“Nice place you’ve got here.” His eyes swept around the renovated room—restored antique bar on the far wall where Adam wasn’t bothering to conceal his nosiness, dance floor beyond that, colorful tables and chairs in the front of the bar, only a handful occupied despite the dinner hour.

“Thanks. Our permits are all in order.” I held out my folder. “Liquor license is on top.”

He waved the folder off. “Not worried about that.”

No? Then why the heck was Flint in my establishment? “Good. We’re on the up-and-up. You won’t have trouble from us—”

“Glad to hear it,” he said levelly, eyes skeptical, reminding me that I was, after all, nothing more than a Hanks. “Cheeseburger?”

“Pardon?”

“That Ringer kid didn’t see fit to give me a menu, but I’m trusting you all offer something approximating a burger? Salad, no fries, and an iced tea.”

“You want to order?” I was still struggling to keep up with him.

“This is a food establishment, right?” He shook his head as if he hadn’t expected more from me, and that rankled.

“Of course.” I crossed the room in long strides, grabbed an order pad from the bar, ignoring Adam’s gaping. As soon as I returned to Flint’s table, I added, “Anything you want. On the house.”

“None of that.” He sighed like my very existence was tiring. “Got my meals from the old tavern for years. They kept a tab open for me.”

“We can do the same—”

“Let’s see if you can cook first,” he said, voice drier than yesterday’s toast. “I thought I’d come by, check the place out.”

“Appreciated,” I said and meant it. Business, any business, was good, but people in Rainbow Cove trusted Flint. If he gave us the seal of approval, more locals might give us a try, make us less dependent on the tourist trade that we were going after. Tourism took a while to build, and our grand plans of making Rainbow Cove an LGBTQ travel destination weren’t going to happen overnight. We needed every customer we could get, Flint included, even if he was the unlikeliest of allies.

“You still haven’t brought me a menu.” He shook his head. “But whatever you’ve got passing for a burger is fine. Nothing vegan though.”

“We’ve got local grass-fed beef, third-pound patty on a brioche bun with a pesto mayo and local gouda. Or—”

“I reckon that will do fine.” Flint always had a bit more country than coastal in his voice. Not Southern, but you could tell he was rural Oregon through and through, and I liked the slow, deep rumble of his words. What I didn’t like, however, was the implication in his tone that he wasn’t expecting much from us.

“Sure you don’t want fries? We have hand-cut sweet potato as an option with a chipotle dipping sauce. As far as salads, I’ve got side, Caesar, spring berry and pecan—”

“I’m on duty here. Kind of pressed for time. The burger and a side salad are fine. I don’t need anything fancy.”

Yeah, well, maybe I want to give it to you. I quashed that thought, same as I had the one about how hot he looked in his uniform. Wanting to impress Nash Flint wasn’t going to get me anywhere.

“I’ll put a rush on it.” I made a note on the order pad, not that it was really needed since Logan hardly had a packed house to worry about.

As I walked over to the window to put in Flint’s order, I noticed more than one table giving him curious glances. Hell, maybe I was wrong about any business being good business. Last thing I needed was Flint scaring away what few customers we had. Not that he was known as a gossip or anything like that, but he was awfully…old school. Traditional. The last kind of guy you’d expect to find at a gay bar, that was for sure, and even though we were attempting to attract a mixed clientele, he stood out.

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.

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