Rating: 5 stars out of 5
This story has moved up to my favorite of the series, and in fact, it’s going on my Best of 2018 list. Annabeth Albert took several tough-to-get-right topics, among them grief and sexuality, and put them into a poignant story of two young men who struggle to meet the emotional and physical needs of young children who are suddenly orphaned. The men, Navy SEAL Mark Whitley, aka “Wizard,” the best medic in the field, and Isaiah, aka Ike, a young man who’s crushed on Mark for years, step up to take over the child care when Mark’s sister and Isaiah’s cousin are killed in an auto accident. Unfortunately, Mark’s sister’s will is five years old and though it names him as the child’s guardian, there are now two more children. On the other hand, her husband’s recent will names Isaiah as guardian of all the children and states that she agrees. However, without a signature, Isaiah is facing a long battle to get permanent guardianship.
As with all of this author’s books that feature military characters, the setting and the circumstances are accurate and intriguing. Wizard is on deployment when he learns of his sister’s death and is sent home on emergency leave where he finds that Isaiah has been on-scene since the accident, caring for the kids and holding off the memorial service for his return. Originally attracted to the young man six years before, he aborted an intriguing sexual offer from Isaiah who was then much too young for Mark. But in the meantime, he’s heard stories of Isaiah’s promiscuousness, even with Mark’s buddies, including Ben Tovey (On Point) and aside from the fact that sex doesn’t really interest Mark anyway, sex with Isaiah is most definitely off the books now.
Days have passed since I finished this story and the characters and plot are still strong and clear in my memory. That alone is a tribute to how much I loved the book. I’ve been procrastinating about writing the review because I can’t find the words to fully express my appreciation of this author’s talent, her research into not only military life, but the intricacies of determining where one falls on the sexuality spectrum. The sensitivity and concern for accuracy that she shows in the way the topic is presented comes through loud and clear.
And thankfully, there are no tropes related to nasty relatives, and the children are precious without being overly precocious. The support Mark receives from his unit and that Isaiah receives from his friends and aunts is wonderful but not overdone. And the emotional changes in Isaiah’s relationship with his father don’t happen overnight either; they, too, take time to develop and are a welcome outcome of good communication.
There really aren’t any negatives here for me. And one other positive of note that needs to be included is the kissing! Ahhh, so satisfying. So sweet. These two have a very special bond, and for once, I can enjoy a story without the bedroom becoming the most used room in the house. Just sayin’. It’s nice to have a romance between two MCs that doesn’t start with a hot and heavy sex encounter.
I very highly recommend this book. It can be read as a standalone, though readers should consider the whole series simply due to how outstanding it is. If your interest is in learning more about Navy SEAL training, child custody issues, demisexuality and asexuality, including gray ace, this story would be perfect for you. And if you are simply looking for an outstanding MM romance, look no further.
Cover art: is hot, relevant and wonderful.
Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Expected publication: April 16th 2018 by Carina Press
Original TitleSquared Away
SeriesOut of Uniform #5