Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Lieutenant Dustin Strauss is a reformed man. No longer a twentysomething hell-raiser, he’s his SEAL team’s new XO-and a man with a secret. Or seven. He’s kept his bisexual identity under wraps for years, along with his kinky side and a fondness for the military-themed semi-anonymous hookup website Joe4Joe. His latest chat buddy is more than a sexy online distraction-they’re taking their very not-safe-for-work relationship into real time.
Petty Officer Wes Lowe has a smart mouth, a take-charge attitude and an uncanny ability for making things go boom. The life of an enlisted man isn’t always enough to satisfy him, but one wild, no-questions-asked weekend with his online love comes close. When a transfer order comes in, Wes feels ready and centered. He’ll make a good impression on his new SEAL team and keep his growing feelings for Dustin on the down low.
But as they log more time online and some very real emotions surface, Dustin and Wes struggle to pretend they’re just a harmless fling. And when his commander introduces Dustin to his team’s newest member, they’re in for the shock of a lifetime…and a crushing disappointment: their difference in ranks means even a friendship without sexual contact could end their navy careers for good.
With their hearts on the line, Dustin and Wes may not survive their next mission, let alone find a way toward a future together.
Wheels Up is the fourth story in Annabeth Albert’s Out of Uniform series and it’s just outstanding. One of the things I look forward to in every story is a different window on Navy life, in particular the SEALs. Here the element is fraternization, something I hadn’t really given any thought to, why the military (all branches) would have such a rule in place and its impact on those who fall in love with the wrong rank. Of course it doesn’t start out that way. It all starts out in complete lovely ignorance and lust.
Lieutenant Dustin Strauss and Petty Officer Wes Lowe meet through an ap called Joe4Joe, a Grindr sort of hookup place and startup an “online” relationship, part lust/part growing friendship. They have no idea of their real names or jobs, just that they seem to get along and might be sliding into something real if they let it. Albert’s believable characters and wonderful dialog brings us wholly into Dusty and Wes’ lives, both together online and separately as a SEAL (Dusty) and a demolitions man (Wes).
We need the alternate perspectives because both men lead such full, stress-filled lives. For Wes, that includes a younger sister Sam, with a life threatening illness as well as being a ordinance or demolitions man, meaning explosives. For Dusty he’s now a XO, and as the oldest and “last straight” son of the family, the pressures from his father to be that family man is forcing him to hide the fact that he’s bisexual and he’s resenting the fact that out of all the other sons, he’s the one shouldering the burden. Two men, lives of unbelievable strain and responsibility and their outlet is each other via the internet and anonymity, a wall they no longer may want to hide behind.
The author makes their online “connection” hot, sexy and emotionally intimate. We can feel the bond that’s formed between them and the fear that rises when the moment comes to meet in RL.
Of course, nothing prepares either man for what happens afterward, after the “after meeting” and the coincidence of Wes ending up under Dusty’s command. And that’s where I think this story really takes flight. Because the fraternization policy is in place for a reason. To protect those of lower rank from being abused from their officers (something that does occur in the service). It’s a good rule and it should be enforced. But Albert looks at it from the flip side. What happens when a couple who loves each other also has to abide by the same law, there’s no addendums that apply. This storyline comes across as fresh and authentic. The pain each man feels is anguished and in the moment. Their need for each other immediate and unlawful. Plus you have to look at the impact it has on their teammates which Albert also covers in a frank manner.
We travel every hard step with each man, through the family drama, the military minefields, the emotional and mental roads they must traverse. There’s some kink, some bdsm as Dusty needs to let go and have someone else been in charge. It’s understandable and hot. Wes and Dusty together are an unforgettable pair.
The only thing that keeps this from an absolute 5 stars rating is that I wanted a look a little into their future I guess, not far, maybe months or a year. I guess I wasn’t ready to let them go yet. Maybe the author is listening and I’ll see them again soon. Here’s hoping. Until then, pick it up and begin your new Out of Uniform journey with Dustin Strauss and Wes Lowe, a hot, sexy, team in and out of the bed! I highly recommend them and this series.
Cover art is perfect for both men and this story. Loved it.
Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Expected publication: November 6th 2017 by Carina Press
Original TitleWheels Up
Series Out of Uniform