This first book in the Shore Leaves series by Annabeth Albert is a sweet, light-hearted, low angst, fake-dating mm romance between a submarine chief and an adorkable musician, with some of my favorite tropes; fake-dating, opposites attract and falling for best friend’s younger sibling.
When his big brother calls, Arthur Euler agrees to help his brother’s friend, Navy Chief Derrick Fox, out with a plan to make his cheating ex boyfriend jealous. Giving Derrick a home-coming kiss doesn’t seem like much of a deal. But when the whole Euler family is there and so happy for the two being involved and invites Derrick to the annual family holiday, Arthur and Derrick find themselves pushed into continuing the charade for much longer than expected. But how fake are the feelings they have for each other, really? Arthur has a rule about not dating military men and Derrick is done with relationships, but they decide to take this fake dating opportunity to practice being better boyfriends for the future. But as the days go by, it all seems more and more like real love…
This was such a cute, sweet and fast read! I love the adorkable Arthur and the big Euler family. I also loved the way Derrick made Arthur feel seen and always stood up for him against his competitive family.
I had some issues with the pacing though. It was strangely enough both too slow and too fast. I’d wished for the attraction between Derrick and Arthur to have been allowed to take a little longer, but on the other hand, the family holiday with their constant pining and all focus on the bed-sharing issue felt a bit too drawn out, if that makes any sense…
But all in all, this was a highly enjoyable and cute read with two tropes that I love: fake-dating and opposites attract, plus a wonderful big, chaotic and loving family. It’s one of those stories that will make you smile and warm your heart!
Thank you to Carina Adores for the ARC and blog tour invitation! All opinions are my own and I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.
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Happy Book Birthday tomorrow to Up in Smoke by Annabeth Albert! I’m so happy and honored to be a part of the Carina Press Blog Tour celebrating this sweet and heart-warming m/m romance about two absolutely endearing guys falling in love at the same time as their whole lives got turned upside down. It was a truly enchanting story about stepping up to the biggest responsibilities of all, to realize that things you’d taken for granted in your life might not be what you actually need or want, and about finding happiness, love and family in the most unexpected way.
Up in Smoke is the fourth book in the Hotshots series, but each book can very well be read as complete standalones. They are all set in the smoke jumping world, but with different characters and with focus not specifically on the smoke jumping work as such but on the characters and their story and growth. But just let me say that it sure doesn’t hurt that there are a lot of brave firefighters in the stories…
Brandt Wilder is a freewheeling smoke jumper who thrives on adrenaline. He’s popular and fun-loving and not at all looking to settle down or form lasting relationships. It’s a lifestyle that’s served him well…right up until the day he finds a baby on his doorstep.
Shane Travis is the semi-closeted country-singer whose music career still hasn’t hit it off, and who’s spent most of his life cleaning up after his sister Shelby’s messes. But even though he’d stopped being surprised by her recklessness, he’d never in a million year expect her to ditch and leave a baby behind and for him to be the one to have to tell Brandt Wilder the big news. Especially not since the hot fire jumper has been on his mind ever since his sister took them skydiving together the year before.
I loved Annabeth Albert’s writing style and the wonderful dynamic between Brandt and Shane. I loved their banter and the humor, and not to mention the chemistry… It was absolutely sizzling! I really appreciated that this story was so low-key and focused on Brandt’s and Shane’s relationship and their character growth, and not going for the clichés with baby mommy drama or making Shelby into a pure evil character. Leaving your baby is a completely unforgivable thing to do, but Annabeth Albert did a wonderful job to make Shelby a complex character with mental health issues that made her actions more understandable.
That said, I didn’t really like the beginning of this book though. The whole situation with Brandt hooking up with Shelby at the same time as her brother intrigued him never felt right. And the way Shelby left the baby and how Brandt just accepted being the father of the baby without stirring up the world to search for Shelby felt a bit too unrealistic. But those minor complaints set aside, this was a beautiful, sweet and addictive read with some amazing character growth!
What I loved most about this story was the slow-burning romance and how the instant attraction between Brandt and Shane was allowed to grow into respect for each other and a solid friendship first. The sexy parts were quite explicit, but still very sweet. They really showed how both Brandt and Shane felt vulnerable from having had very little experience from being with other men, but how they allowed themselves to open up and trust each other to explore new things in a safe and respectful way.
“Damn. Shane wasn’t just something. He was everything.”
All in all, Up in Smoke was a sweet, low-angst and heart-warming story about finding love and a home with your chosen family. There was no unnecessary drama just for the sake of it, which I really appreciated. Finding out that you’re a dad and falling in love with your baby’s uncle and trying to navigate the way through a completely new life situation is overwhelming enough. It was my first read by Annabeth Albert, but it will certainly not be my last!
Thank you to Carina Press and NetGalley for the ARC and blog tour invitation for this wonderful book! All opinions are my own and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
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