Annabeth Albert


Portland Heat: Served Hot (2015), Baked Fresh (2015), Delivered Fast (2015), Knit Tight (2016)

Frozen Hearts: Arctic Sun (2019), Arctic Wild (2019), Arctic Heat (2019)

#gaymers: Status Update (2015), Connection Error (2016)

Save the Date (2017)

Portland Heat

Served Hot (2015)

Served HotRobert Edwards (Robbie to his friends) runs a coffee cart in the atrium of the Old EMerson building in Portland, and every day, his favorite customer, David, comes by at 11:50 for a vanilla latte.

Robbie has a huge crush on David, but isn’t sure if David is into him–or even into guys. And even if he is, Robbie doesn’t want another closeted boy-friend.

David, however, has issues to deal with.

“You feel what you need to feel.” What did I know about grief? I would be pissed, but I wasn’t David. And if David’s sadness made me feel smaller, I didn’t think it was intentional. I’d just have to work past it. Same as him. I wanted to trust in us both.

The story is all from Robbie’s POV, and we learn only very slowly about David’s past, and why he’s so reticent. (He has a lot of reasons, and they’re all quite good.) It also unfolds over the better part of a year, with David slowly sharing himself with Robbie.

Robbie and David with both very sweet, and both had communication issues, Robbie’s natural, and David’s stemming from his past, so it makes sense that things would happen slowly.

However, at times the story felt a bit disjointed, jumping about in time. I never quite felt the worry of whether things would work out–obviously they were going to, because it’s a romance–so the story needs to draw me completely in to make me feel the tension that Robbie felt, and this never quite did that.

I did have a major issue with the way the ebook was formatted at one point, which caused me to think the book was missing a chunk. In fact, even if it had been a little more clear these were two separate scenes, I probably still would have had issues, because the switch is so abrupt.

After the greetings, we headed into the house, (woman) leading the way. “So tell me, Robby,” she said over her shoulder, “how do you feel about venison?”

“I’m sorry,” David whispered next to me.

“It’ll be fine,” I whispered back, leaning toward him a little. “But I’ll let you make it up to me later, if it makes you feel any better.”    

“You sure I’ll like this?”

“Of course I am,” I lied.

“Well, I suppose I do owe you.”

“You do.” I grinned up at him, all teeth and sass. It was good to be home.

That’s just really abrupt, and since the first scene was very short, it was extremely confusing.

To be clear, it wasn’t a bad story, and I wanted both Robbie and David to be happy, but I was never deeply invested in what happened to them.

On the plus side, I borrowed this from the library, so I’m not mad at it for being a bit weak, so I’m going to borrow the next book in the series, to see if the writing becomes a little stronger.

Publisher: Lyrical Press
Rating: 5.5/10

Baked Fresh (2015)

Baked FreshVic Degrassi is a baker with plans for the future–and he’s a man who does what he sets out to. After losing his job, he went to culinary school. After losing his cousin and best friend, he got surgery and lost 111 pounds and became fit. His next goal: a boyfriend.

I just wanted to get out there. Give myself a chance to maybe meet a nice guy who wouldn’t care about my food issues and my loose skin and my bald-by-choice look.

And he really wants Robin Dawson, who also volunteers at the shelter and had worked hard to keep his own promise of sobriety.

Vic has crushed on Robin for years, but Robin is young and beautiful–and on the rebound–so Vic feels he doesn’t really have a chance, but decides to try anyway.

The entire story is from Vic’s point of view, which means we see his issues and hang-ups, and his slow realization that Robin has his own past to sort through. Vic is focused on his body and the parts of his makeover that he didn’t expect, so he doesn’t quite see how gorgeous Robin might not feel perfect himself, and have his own fears and weaknesses.

It’s really a lovely story.

“You are here for reason— you’re here for you.”

Publisher: Lyrical Press
Rating: 7/10

Delivered Fast (2015)

Delivered FastThis is probably my least favorite book in this series so far, mostly because it starts with a hook-up, and a LOT of the story is centered around their boinking.

That doesn’t make it a bad story, but it just isn’t my thing.

Chris O’Neal is co-owner of The People’s Cup, a coffee shop that does a vegan / vegetarian brunch on Sundays that’s popular with all kinds of folks. Unfortunately for him, the other owner is his ex, but luckily Randy works at the other location, so they don’t have to deal with each other every day.

Lance Degrassi is working hard to finish college so he can get into his dream grad school, but between his job delivering for the bakery and school, he and Chris eventually manage to carve out and on-going thing that is definitely NOT a relationship.

It’s not a relationship because Chris is certain he is entirely too old for Lance, and a serious relationship would keep Lance from living his life and discovering who he could really be.

And that’s what keeps the two apart–Chris certain that he’ll ruin Lance’s life and keep him from the life he deserves if they become exclusive.

What I did like about this story was Lance’s family, and how loving and supportive they are. We only see things from Chris’ POV, and life and coming out were very very different for him than from Lance, which colored part of his assumptions.

But as I said, the relationship wasn’t particularly my thing, so this definitely wasn’t the book for me.

Publisher: Lyrical Press
Rating: 6/10

Knit Tight (2016)

Knit TightThis is the fourth book in the Portland Heat series.

Brady works as a barista at People’s Cup, and one of the busiest nights he works is Wednesday, when the local knitting group meets. It’s good for tips, which he needs, because he and his eighteen year-old sister are raising their elementary school aged siblings.

The girls shared the larger bedroom with Renee, while I shared the smaller one with Jonas. It wasn’t ideal, but the social worker had nixed the idea of anyone sleeping in the living room.

Evren has come back to Portland to help his aunt run her knitting store while she is treated for cancer. He doesn’t plan to stay, and so isn’t looking for anything other than perhaps a friend.

I don’t know what it is, but although this series is perfectly find, I don’t find it anywhere near as good as her Arctic Heat series. That isn’t to say it’s bad, it’s possibly just not a tightly written as the Arctic Heat series, or perhaps these are earlier works and she’d honed her craft more by the time she wrote the Arctic Heat series.

What I particularly liked about this story was the relationship between Brady and Renee. The two are struggling–with good reasons–to take care of their younger siblings, and Renee is only 18, so she’s a teenager whose life is drastically different from that of her peers as she has to deal with childcare duties as well as as being 18 and a college student. What is done particularly well is the tension between Brady and Renee as they deal with their siblings (and each other) and the fact they can’t have the normal lives of everyone else their age.

Renee does often act like an 18-year-old, and it’s easy to get irritated with her, until you remember that she is eighteen and helping to raise her elementary school aged siblings. It’s really a terrible position she and Brady are in, and it’s understandable that both of them have trouble dealing with the stress, and that Renee is pushing at boundaries, like any normal college kid.

I liked both Brady and Evern, and how their families came first with them. The romance? It was fine.

Publisher: Lyrical Press
Rating: 7/10


Status Update (2015)

Status UpdateNoah Walters is trying to finish his book, so he can complete his sabbatical as expected and then get tenure. Teaching jobs in geoarchaeologist are few and far between, so even if he isn’t especially comfortable at the conservative college where he teaches, it’s a good job and he loves teaching. And he’s used to being alone, so it’s all okay.

Until it suddenly isn’t.

If there was any doubt remaining about Noah’s orientation, his instantaneous response to Adrian’s touch would have erased all suspicion.

Adrian Gottlieb is heading home for his sister’s wedding, and hoping to do some site-seeing on the way, except that spending in-person time with his long-distance boyfriend goes worse and worse until he’s stranded in his bare feet on a gravel lot in late November with just his cell phone as his so-called boyfriend drives off.

Also, there are dogs.

This story is so sweet and adorable it was precisely what I was needing.

First, Noah is everything.

Noah loved his job, but being “on” for a long lecture class could be exhausting, to say nothing of faculty functions.

He was raised in a conservative christian family with an abusive father, and teaches at a conservative christian college with a morality code. He knows he’s most likely gay, but since he’s terrified of losing both his job and his family, he’s never even considered having a boyfriend.

Second, Adrian is lovely. He works in video game design, and has a lovely and loving family, but sometimes they can be a bit much, and although the accept him, he often feels that he isn’t living up to their expectations, so he really doesn’t want to show up alone to his sister’s wedding.

Thirdly, the two of them are So. Adorable.

Noah plays the game Adrian is working on, and the two of them geek out regularly on bad movies and all kinds of things and I love it.

Shall we take our food and start the movie?”

“Yes, Alex, we shall. Will your next package be from Korban Dallas?”

Did I mention how adorable I thought this was? So very!

There is angst, because Noah is in the closet because of his job and his religious upbringing, but it’s also clear he doesn’t like being in the closet, and that he is curious about everything he’s been missing out on. Which means that the problems between the two are real problems and require work. When Noah comes out to his sister, I almost burst into tears.

“Have you really been staying away because you thought we’d reject you? You’re breaking my heart here.” Ruth’s voice wavered.

I also like that Noah’s faith is important an important part of him, even if he is conflicted about churches and religions. It’s obviously messed him up, but he isn’t willing to give up on faith just because his church made him hate who he was.

And I love that Adrian realizes he needs to accept himself.

“I love you,” Adrian said. “I love you for deciding to love yourself. Life’s too short to hate yourself.”

This really was the story I needed to read right now.

Publisher: Carina Press
Rating: 8.5/10

Connection Error (2016)

Despite his best planning, Josiah Simmons almost misses his plane and is the last passenger on board. But when he sees his seat mate, he thinks maybe everything things are looking up.

Ryan Orson is focused on one thing–get past his injuries and back onto the duty rooster. He doesn’t need any distractions–especially a cute but unfocused guy who no filter.

But unforseen circumstances put them back together and keep them in contact, and it could be that maybe Ryan doesn’t need to go it alone.

I liked both men’s story arcs. Josiah had some growing up to do and Ryan had a lot of healing–both the physical healing from his injuries and the broken heart he insists he doesn’t have, after his ex almost immediately got married.

Also, his insistence that he can still do everything on his own–despite his injuries.

I liked both characters, and Josiah was fun.

He lost track of Josiah for a bit, then found him over at the kids’ table, coloring with a group of Ryan’s nephews and nieces. “He was dancing with them a little bit ago,” his mother said, reappearing at his elbow with a plate of food.

I did see some of the things coming, but I felt that the issues the two hard came down to the need for personal growth, rather than stupid misunderstandings (something I hate).

Publisher: Carina Press
Rating: 8/10

Frozen Hearts

Arctic Sun (2019)

Arctic SunRiver Vale, supermodel turned traveler and writer, is not what Griffin Barrett wants on this tour. He’d rather not be running the tour at all, but with his uncle hurt, there’s no one else to do it.

…the customers. Oh, his mom called them guests, but really, it helped Griffin to think of them as what they were— big dollar signs that could make the difference for him and the rest of his family.

Griff and River are both damaged characters (hello catnip!), and each is afraid to let the other see the extent of the damage–especially since Griff has no interest in leaving Alaska, and River won’t stay still. River is in recovery from an eating disorder, while Griff uses hard work to help him stay sober.

River’s continual struggle with his eating disorder is almost heartbreaking to read, because it’s not anything that he can ever really just forget about (although staying out of the limelight helps). I can’t think of a book I’ve read that deals so openly and bluntly with what being in recovery from an eating disorder is like, and I think it’s something most people truly don’t consider. It was extremely well done–but also heart-breaking.

It’s partly control— I don’t like not having charge of what happens— but it’s also wrapped up in my body image stuff and the eating disorder. I have a hard time letting myself have good things.”

And Griff is just as broken, but in a different way. He may be sober, but he has a difficult time socializing without the crutch of alcohol, which makes leading a tour particularly difficult.

Also? There’s hiking.

The hike took them over a long wooden bridge away from the road until River felt the familiar thrill he got when hiking away from civilization— all the obligations and expectations that rattled around his head faded until it was only him and this spot on the planet, the rush of being privileged to get to see all this abundance of beauty.

How could I not love this book?

Publisher: Carina Press
Rating: 8.5/10

Arctic Wild (2019)

Arctic WildTobias Kooly loves his job–even if he did have to drop out of university to help support his family to take it. He loves flying, and leading tours allows him to socialize and flirt AND fly.

Reuben Graham was supposed to be taking this Alaska trip with his best friend and his wife (a partner in his law firm) when the couple cancels because of of work. The fact that the firm is offering Reuben a buy-out that his ex-wife is really pushing him to take means he really does need to take time to figure out his life. Especially since his 14-year-old daughter has turned into this sullen teen he no longer recognizes.

He was a master negotiator and could close multinational deals, but all it took was one fourteen-year-old to reduce him to a bumbling fool who couldn’t even talk with his own kid.

Towards the start of the book, Toby is injured. That Toby spends a lot of the book recovering resonated with me, as I know how much work and how tiring recover can be.

“Okay. What are you going to do while we’re out?”

“At the risk of sounding like a total slug, probably nap.

If anything, I feel like Toby didn’t nap enough. I felt as if all I did in the month after I broke my ankle was sleep. And that was just my ankle, not multiple injuries like Toby had. But that’s not a ding against the book, just my personal experience.

I know a lot of people don’t care for books with kids in them, but I thought Amelia was a full-fledged character and integral part of the story. Plus, she was often very much a teenager.

“And if they expect stuff, you don’t have to go along with it, and that probably means they’re not the right person either. The right person will wait—”

“Can we not have a sex talk in the middle of a fabric store?” she said in a harsh whisper. “I meant more they’d expect me to game less, pay attention to them more, be all… squishy-happy-touchy.”

I also liked that Toby’s family was complex. His dad was prickly and defensive and hard on Toby but he is also a good man who loves his family and feels guilty about being a burden (which leads to being prickly and defensive). Even Reuben’s ex-wife was complex–she wanted the best for their daughter, but had a hard time recognizing that what she wanted and what her daughter wanted for herself were two very different things.

Which is also completely normal.

And like the previous book in this series, I loved the setting. I wish there had been MORE hiking, but beggars can’t be choosers.

There is boinking in this story, but far more time was spent on the story, which made me like the book even more. But there is boinking here.

I liked it and definitely want to read the next book.

Publisher: Carina Press
Rating: 8.5/10

Arctic Heat (2019)

Arctic HeatOwen Han is checking one more item off his bucket list–spending the winter in Alaska, and he’s doing it as a volunteer for the Alaska park service.

Quill’s tone didn’t exactly encourage more talking, but Owen was nothing if not friendly. And persistent. His sister the therapist called it aggressively extroverted, and she wasn’t entirely wrong.

Quilleran Ramsey has spent the past 20 years being a ranger because he likes the solitude, being with nature, and not having to deal with people. But budget cutbacks mean that it will be him and a volunteer this winter, and all the worse for him that the volunteer he gets is obviously interested in him.

Quill had never fully understood. He’d never figured out why some people enjoyed filling a perfectly good silence with inane questions.

If you think things are going to go badly from there, you’d be partially correct, but not for the reasons you necessarily think.

First, Owen is a very nice guy, so he might talk a lot, but his goal is almost always to make other people comfortable.

Soft spoken, Nancy had a reticent demeanor, and Owen spent some time trying to bring her out of her shell as they waited for the first-aid instructor to start. She reminded Owen of one of his sisters in her shyness, and making her comfortable took priority over more flirting.

Second, although Quill is deeply in the closet, out only to his previous partner at work, he has decent reasons for fearing what coming out could mean to him. And he hates arguments and confrontation. But he knows he has these issues.

Quill wasn’t without understanding that most people preferred to live a little more loudly than he was capable of.

But as they get to know each other, they discover they do have things in common.

Quill had almost lost his damn mind back there on the ridge, almost kissed Owen, and as they headed back to the center where warmth and a long night ahead waited for them, he honestly didn’t know if he could be that strong a second time.

And it wasn’t that Owen had looked particularly sexy in his many layers of winter gear. No, it had all been about the joy in his eyes, the way he’d looked out over the place Quill loved with every gnarled fiber of his being. Owen’s reverence and awe had hit a deep, powerful chord within him. A resonant bass note of understanding that made his soul, not his lips, not his libido, want a piece of Owen.

The thing I particularly liked about this story is that after the Event that comes after the This Isn’t Going to Work, everything isn’t suddenly perfect and OK. Yes, one character changed his mind and came to a realization, but the other wasn’t so sure about St Paul on the road to Damascus conversions, and is less ready to take the change of heart as a done deal, which is both realistic and healthy.

Publisher: Carina Press
Rating: 8/10

Save the Date (2017) Annabeth Albert & Wendy Qualls

Save the DateRandall Young is his sister’s Man of Honor, and although he’s sober for her bachelorette party, that doesn’t mean he isn’t looking.

Hunter Mitchell is looking to relax while in town for his best friend’s wedding. What he doesn’t plan on is hooking up with Beau’s soon-to-be brother-in-law.

This was a cute story, but there was lots of boinking, and the things that I found most interesting (Hunter’s friend Gary FREX) didn’t have much time at all, since this was a novella.

I liked both characters, and liked their families, but there was a LOT of boinking and something in the story had to give to fit all that in there.

Rating: 6/10