Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Landon can’t believe he’s let himself get roped into participating in a charity calendar, let alone one that features tastefully photographed nudes. The genius physicist is hardly model material, and he’s dreading the nude part of the photoshoot. Amid his reluctance, the one bright spot is his emails back and forth with the photographer.
However, Bailey turns out to be not exactly what Landon expects, and their first meeting is decidedly awkward. Bailey’s persistent though, and gradually Landon warms to the burly photographer, and they discover they have a shared love of gamer culture.
A tentative friendship is born, but the road from friends to lovers isn’t easy. Landon’s battling past trauma and must decide how much of a risk he’s willing to take. A sexy connection may not be enough to keep them together unless both are willing to put their hearts on the line.
Through series after series, Out of Uniform, Portland Heart, Rainbow Cove, and of course #gaymers in which this story is situated, I have followed, read, and loved every story that Annabeth Albert has written. Why? Because she writes real people caught up in situations and relationships we can relate to and believe in. Our involvement with their lives is usually immediate, our concerns for their happiness and future fraught with emotions, and, whether we are dealing with military issues (Out of Uniform series, the connectivity of a small group of shop owners (Portland Heat), the revival of a seaside town (Rainbow Cove), and the development of a highly popular videogame, Space Villager (#gaymers), the veracity and vividness of the characters and stories always makes you feel grounded in them and their lives.
Level Up by Annabeth Albert is exactly what I have come to expect from this author. A wonderful story that explores the beginning of a relationship between two people who start out their connection based on a calendar shoot, exchanged emails, and of course, their shared love for that game that I really wish was real, Space Villager.
Bailey is the photographer for the naked charity calendar and Landon is the now regretful volunteer. They have been exchanging increasingly flirtatious emails, based on their shared love of all things nerd and geek but Landon is surprised to find that Bailey is not a pink haired girl he pictured but a rather large man, a shock that telegraphs immediately to a hurt Bailey upon their meeting. A shock that doesn’t diminish the attraction between them.
Here’s Albert delves into the background of both characters using two povs to reveal the issues standing between both men, Landon’s history, to create a sweet, heartwarming friends to lovers romance. I absolutely bought into the chemistry between these men, the bond forming between them first of friendship and then love.
Even the secondary characters, although I certainly could have used a little more of them as well, are as strong as the main ones. I wanted their relationship to work out too.
I just love the way in which Bailey and Landon went through all the stages of their relationship here, equal parts sexy, serious, handled with sensitivity and when needed, fun. What a wonderful story and couple. I certainly hope they pop up again in the #gaymers universe. I’d love to check in and see how they are doing.
Yes, I recommend this story. You don’t have to have read the #gaymers series to read this one, but it certainly enriches it.
Cover art accurately depicts in my mind the character of Landon. I love this cover.
Sales Link: Amazon
Kindle Edition, 132 pages
Published May 17th 2018 by Amazon Digital Services
Original Title Level Up
Previously released as part of the EXPOSED anthology, and loosely linked to the #Gaymers universe, this friends-to-lovers, hurt/comfort story stands alone with a guaranteed happy ending. Contains a brief mention of a prior assault, but no on-screen violence or flashbacks.