Happily Ever After Book Nerd Recommendation
Squared Away by Annabeth Albert
Out of Uniform #5
LGBTQ+ Contemporary Romance
Navy SEAL Mark Whitley is shocked to learn his sister and brother-in-law have been killed in a car accident, leaving behind their three young children. Rushing home from a mission, Mark discovers that the kids are being watched by their father’s cousin, Isaiah James, the same man who propositioned Mark six years ago. Isaiah has come a long way from the cocky 18 year old he used to be, but he’s never forgotten the crush he once had on Mark. But he won’t let that distract him from his goal of getting custody of the kids and keeping what’s left of his family together.
Once again Annabeth Albert writes a fantastic book and I’m loving this series more and more with each new addition! I’m a huge fan of deeply emotional, character driven reads and I always find that with Albert’s books. Squared Away in particular was giving me all the feels; between the grief over losing Cal and Dani, to Isaiah’s worry over keeping custody of the kids, to Mark’s self discovery it was overflowing with emotions. I was sucked in from the very beginning and desperate to find out more as I went on this journey with Mark and Isaiah. The pace in the beginning was a bit slower but I think it fit the overall somber feel of that part of the story. But even with such a heavy topic weighing in, I never felt overwhelmed by the character’s grief, which I appreciated. Albert’s skill with writing allowed the reader to see everyone’s pain and oftentimes anger without totally derailing the more happy and hopeful parts.
“I can see us together, here if possible, raising the kids. I can see us after they grow up too. You’re just…my person.”
The characters are always a strong suit of these books, and I loved Isaiah from start to finish! He’s wonderfully confident and compassionate and he’s never afraid to go after what he wants. Isaiah never backs down on his fight to take care of the kids and he was truly a wonderful “parent” for them. I loved seeing him in the prologue and then getting to see how much he’s grown up once we see him with the kids. He’s also incredibly understanding of Mark as he works to sort out his sexuality and accept himself for who he is. Mark was a tougher cookie to crack in the beginning and he comes across a bit standoffish and snobby. He has no confidence in Isaiah’s ability to be a stable parent but he soon sees just how much Isaiah has changed. I really grew to love Mark as well and most of that comes from how much introspection and acceptance he goes through in his journey.
I always love a book that can teach me something new so I really appreciated Albert’s representation of a character who was grey ace or demisexual. Mark has pretty much given up on relationships and the idea of love because he’s rarely interested in other people or sex. He’s been attracted to men before but he doesn’t really consider himself gay or even bi. Mark goes through a lot of self-discovery in this book and watching him learn to understand his orientation and what’s happening in his mind, body, and heart was really great. Mark and Isaiah have such amazing chemistry in a really sweet way. But make no mistake, these two are hot together; but they also share the quieter moments like cuddling during a movie and kissing for endless amounts of time. Of course Marks’s newly found self is hard at times for him to accept and this causes friction between Mark and Isaiah. The inevitable clash was heartbreaking to read and I felt so much for both men who are just trying to find happiness after so much loss.
I loved Squared Away from start to finish and I can’t wait for the next book in the series!
ARC provided by NetGalley for honest review
5 out of 5 stars
Death of side characters which leads to guardianship
In the wake of tragedy, SEAL Mark Whitley rushed stateside to act as guardian to his sister’s three young children. But a conflicting will could give custody to someone else—someone Mark remembers as a too young, too hot, wild party boy. Even after six years, Mark can’t shake the memory of his close encounter with Isaiah James, or face up to what it says about his own sexuality.
Isaiah’s totally over the crush that made him proposition Mark all those years ago. In fact, he’s done with crushing on the wrong men altogether. For now, he’s throwing himself into proving he’s the best person to care for his cousin’s kids. But there’s no denying there’s something sexy about a big, tough military man with a baby in his arms.
As the legal details get sorted out, their long-buried attraction resurfaces, leading to intimate evenings after the kids are tucked in. A forever future is within reach for all of them, if only Mark can find the courage he needs to trust Isaiah with his secrets—and his heart.
Published by Carina Press on April 16, 2018
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