Noah Walters is living at an RV park while he works on finishing his book in hopes of getting tenure at the small, conservative, religious college where he works. He is just looking for some quiet to work when he encounters a couple fighting, and then one of the men is abandoned at the campground with no money or way to get home. Noah offers Adrian Gottlieb a place to stay for the night, and then surprises himself by agreeing to drive Adrian to Denver in hopes Adrian can still make it in time for his sister’s wedding. Noah isn’t normally much of a people person and Adrian is bright and shiny and friendly in a way that kind of intimidates Noah, but also strangely draws him in. Something about Adrian just makes Noah want to spend more time with him.
With the holiday traffic and weather snowing them in, the trip ends up taking longer than expected. Along the way the guys get to know each other better and the connection is strong between them. Adrian is clear he is interested, but Noah isn’t out in any way (in fact, Adrian is the first person he ever tells he is gay). Noah’s university has a strict morality clause that definitely doesn’t allow for gay faculty and he is terrified of what his conservative family will think. Noah has pretty much locked that part of himself up tight, convincing himself that he doesn’t need companionship or sex, and that his dog is enough company for him.
Spending time with Adrian, however, makes Noah realize the things he has been missing. When he lets himself go with Adrian enough to experience romance and sex and a real connection, it is everything he couldn’t ever let himself imagine. The guys know that it can’t last. After so many bad long distance relationships, Adrian is wary, but willing. But Noah does not see a future for himself with a happy ever after relationship, even though he wants it desperately. As the holidays come to a close, the guys face losing what they have built. Now Noah has to figure out if he can give himself what he really wants, or if he is going to close himself back off for good.
Status Update is the first installment in Annabeth Albert’s new #gaymers series and it is off to a great start. It has a lot of themes I really like here, including an older, virgin hero, a road trip story, and a bit of a snowbound element as well. There is a nice dynamic between these guys, with Noah starting off so timid and reserved. This is a guy who is about as repressed as you can get, hiding his sexuality and burying his hopes for a future under his determination to walk the line in his conservative lifestyle. You can’t help but feel for him as it is so clear he wants more, but also is terrified to even try for it. He has even pulled away from his family, longing for more of a life than he will let himself have, and finding it too hard to be around their happiness, not to mention fears of their rejection. I think Noah could have come across frustrating in his denial, but Albert really makes him sympathetic. We can understand his fears and how they are holding him back, but at the same time, he opens himself up quickly to Adrian, desperately trying to grab that bit of happiness while he can. He just doesn’t think he can ever have more and struggles with his willingness to try for it.
Adrian, for his part, is a total sweetheart. He is kind and patient with Noah, open and friendly. Maybe a bit too good to be true honestly, but it is hard not to like him. And of course, dogs. If you are dog fan, both Noah and Adrian have dogs that play a big role in the book (and kind of adorably have personalities that totally mirror their owners). I also enjoyed the video game elements and learning the details of Adrian’s job as a developer of a new role playing game that Noah loves. (And I’m excited to learn that the other books in the series take place with other guys working on this same game). And finally, this story has a definite holiday vibe as the bulk takes place between Thanksgiving and the New Year and gives both guys a chance to reflect on family and what they want for their own lives.
So this was a really good start to a new series for me. I really like Albert’s writing and find I am becoming a big fan. I enjoyed this story a lot and am looking forward to more in the series.