Squared Away by Annabeth Albert (Out of Uniform #5)
Released: April 16, 2018
Contemporary M/M Romance
Reviewed by Mandi
Guys – I’ve never read Annabeth Albert. What the heck, self??? I think a publicist reached out about this book asking for a guest post, and when I read the blurb I thought – ooooh, I’ll give this one a try. And I ended up really enjoying this author’s voice. She gives us Isaiah, biracial, and younger than Mark. And Mark, a Navy SEAL who working out his identity.
Mark, who has been deployed for many months gets the news that his sister, Danielle and brother-in-law, Cal have died in a car accident, he rushes home to care for his two nieces and nephew – but someone has already taken over. Isaiah, Cal’s cousin, has stepped in as temporary guardian of a five-year old, three-year-ish, and a baby under the age of one.
Isaiah and Mark know each other, and at Mark’s sister wedding, ten years ago, Isaiah, a fresh-faced eighteen year old, even tried to make out with Mark, who was already a SEAL at that point. Isaiah had the hots for Mark – big time. When he put the moves on Mark that night, Mark somewhat reluctantly pushed him away – and then got deployed and they lost touch.
Isaiah has had a little less direction in his life than Mark. Changing his majors, not sure the path he wanted to take, he recently got a landscaping certificate and has decided that is what he wants to do with his life. But then Danielle and Cal dies, and he steps in (as there is no local family) as a guardian, and while it’s exhausting, it has never felt more right. When Mark arrives home, he assumes Isaiah will flake out and want to go back to his partying, younger life. But Isaiah wants to be there for the kids, and as him and Mark work out custody (along with the courts) they cohabited, and start a romance.
First let me say, there are three kids in this book, as they are the catalyst for bringing Mark and Isaiah together. These kids are well written, thank the book gods (or maybe thank you Annabeth Albert). They are written age appropriate. The five-year old is not handing out relationship advice! And while the kids are in the book a lot, they didn’t annoy me one bit. (Although I do think the grief could have been examined a little more closely with the five-year old but I’m not here to judge! Maybe just a little!)
What also stands out in this story is that Mark admits to Isaiah, once he feels safe enough, about his sexuality:
“Like naked pictures don’t usually do it for me. I’m the only guy in the world for whom porn doesn’t work.”
“Hardly. I’ve known others. What does do it for you, though?”
“Words. Like someone’s voice. Or a glancing contact.” Mark thought about that morning, Isaiah’s long fingers on his waist. Or how Isaiah’s laugh just always worked for him on some deeper level. “Like I’ll know someone a long time, and then they’ll say something nice or do something for me, and all of a sudden I’ll realize I’m turned on. But I have to… I don’t know… feel a connection or something. It’s rare and never happens with strangers.”
“Words and voices can be fucking sexy.” Isaiah’s voice was reassuring. “All genders?”
“Gender doesn’t seem to really matter. It’s more how much I like someone, if that makes sense. More often it’s with guys, but I’ve felt it a few times with women too. My body’s just wired strange—”
“Quit saying that about yourself.” Isaiah punched him lightly on the arm. “It sounds like you’re ace, but maybe you’re more gray ace or demisexual, where you only get turned on after an emotional bond with people.”
Mark initially thinks this will be a point against him when it comes to Isaiah, who is known for his playboy and sleeping around habits. But Isaiah, who still holds that crush on Mark from all those years ago, is very open and patient and accepting of who Mark is. It’s so sweet and mature, and they have open and honest conversations about it – ongoing too! They just don’t talk about it once and it’s done. They talk bring it up as their relationship progresses and it made their relationship feel full and romantic. Mark still struggles with publicly admitting he is falling in love with a man, and that is addressed well too.
Conflict is brought in when the courts have to clear Mark and Isaiah for guardianship. There were two wills, and they conflicted a bit, and Mark, with his SEAL organization and precision, tries to take the reins and be in charge, inadvertently hurting Isaiah in the process. The communication surrounding this could have been handled better and it was a little predictable.
The grief over losing a sister and best friend are there, there is a slow-burning, sexy romance. Two really good guys, an interracial couple and lots of chest muscles.
And guys – most of all – the way Mark, Mr. Navy SEAL, mops a floor or cleans a bathroom – until they are absolutely spotless – had both Isaiah and myself swooning off our chairs.