Landon is a physicist and has agreed to be part of a charity calendar, albeit a bit reluctantly since he will have to pose mostly nude. But he has been chatting (and flirting) online with his photographer, Bailey, who has put Landon at ease. Landon is surprised to find Bailey is a man, not a woman, when they finally meet, but the rapport the guys built while chatting manages to carry over to their in person meeting. The men share a love of gaming and enjoy each other’s company, not to mention sharing an attraction
Things are complicated for Landon, however. After a traumatic event in his past, Landon experiences panic attacks and the fact that Bailey is bigger and stronger than him can sometimes be a trigger. Bailey is patient and understanding, but the guys need to take things slow physically, and even that is not always enough. Bailey worries that his big body and his awkwardness are making things hard for Landon, and Landon feels bad that he has some obstacles to having a physical relationship with Bailey. But the feelings the men have for one another are strong and with some patience and effort, they may be able to work things out after all.
Level Up was originally published as part of the Exposed anthology and is now available as a stand alone novella. It is very loosely connected to Albert’s #gaymers series as Landon appears as a side character there, but you definitely don’t need to have read that series to follow this story. The books connect more thematically in that gaming is a big deal for both these guys and something they do together quite a bit during the book.
This is a sweet story with a little bit of a mistaken identity element at the start as Landon assumes Bailey is a girl and has a bit of a crush on him. Landon is definitely bisexual and out, but he is surprised and also a bit wary due to Bailey’s size. But the guys have a nice chemistry and the relationship grows slowly but steadily throughout the story. Landon shares his history of sexual assault with Bailey early on and they take the time to really work through what works for Landon and what may be a trigger. The issue is handled well and Bailey is patient and understanding and willing to go at Landon’s speed. I enjoyed the photography elements, particularly seeing the way Bailey views people around him through his pictures. And the gaming elements were fun and I liked the mix of playfulness and friendship these guys have together, combined with the romance and sexiness. This is kind of a quiet story, but I found it engaging and really liked both of these guys together.
Note: While the basics of Landon’s assault are explained, it is not graphic or detailed. However, be aware if this is a trigger for you.