Canaan Finley works at a smoothie bar and he enjoys watching the Navy SEALS who come into the shop. Canaan has a particular eye for Renzo “Rooster” Bianchi, and is thrilled when some flirting leads to Renzo accepting his offer of a night out. The guys have a great evening together, so much so that when Canaan’s former bandmates pressure him to bring a date to an upcoming camping trip, he asks Renzo along to pose as his boyfriend. Canaan left the band to focus on his family, but with his ex coming on the trip, he appreciates Renzo’s company, especially if it helps make clear to Damian that Canaan has moved on. But after being used in the past, Renzo is a little worried that Canaan isn’t really as interested in him as he hoped, but instead is just looking for some SEAL arm candy.
It turns out that the trip is a chance for Renzo and Canaan to really connect, despite Renzo’s reservations. And when disaster strikes and the guys are trapped alone, the strength the men provide one another and the connection they build leads them both to want to continue things when they return home.
The guys are falling hard for one another and for the first time, building a relationship that could become something real. But Canaan worries that he doesn’t have much to offer, as he is still in school and helping to take care of his grandfather and not really settled into his life yet. And while Renzo is more settled in his career, he is used to having to take care of everyone and be the perfect son, solider, and partner. Learning to trust in Canaan and believe that there can be a true partnership isn’t easy for him. Even if they can get past all that, however, Renzo’s life in the military means that time apart is inevitable and making a relationship work is hard. Now the men must be honest with their feelings and trust one another enough to take a chance on what they are building between them.
Rough Terrain is the seventh and final book in Annabeth Albert’s fabulous Out of Uniform series. This series seems to be a reader favorite, and deservedly so, as Albert has created some great characters here and engaging stories that we have followed over the books. Interestingly, while this is the final book of the series, it actually stands alone pretty well compared to some of the others. While we have met Renzo in some previous books, and Canaan has had a very minor role as well, this story is very self contained aside from a few small cameos. So while fans of the series will not want to miss this one, new readers can jump in here as well (though my guess is this book will whet your appetite for more of the series!).
This story is very character-driven and focused on both Canaan and Renzo and the two of them working through their relationship. While there are some storyline conflicts, including Canaan’s ex and his former band, as well as their camping trip and ordeal there, most of the story is centered on the two men and how they are figuring out themselves and their connection. Albert has made both of these guys layered, interesting men and I enjoyed watching both of them open up and realize that this could be something real between them. Canaan is strong and determined and even with his own fears, he is also a fighter and willing to go after what he wants. Renzo also has his doubts, as well as some family baggage, and I loved to see him come into his own here with Canaan’s support and love. These two are a good match and even while I saw the conflict coming, I enjoyed seeing how they work it out and ultimately fight for what they want.
So as sad as I am to see this series end, Rough Terrain is a great conclusion. The story is romantic and sexy and really showcases Albert’s great writing and character development. It has a been a great ride and I look forward to more books from the author in the future.
New in Town is a free short story in the Out of Uniform world. It follows Alex and his husband, Marco, as they move to California from Virginia when Marco is reassigned to the base at Coronado. The couple have two kids and making the transition to their new home is both exciting and scary for them. Fortunately, the team is welcoming and the extended SEAL family makes them feel right at home, and it doesn’t take long before they are settling into their new life together.
New in Town is officially book 6.5 in the series, but it reads as a standalone in that Alex and Marco are a new couple to the series. So for folks who haven’t read any of the other Out of Uniform books, this can be a nice place to jump in and check it out. However, fans of the series will love Albert’s signature style, as well as a chance to catch up with many of the series regulars through their cameo appearances here. This is an entertaining story with lots of a heat and a good way to revisit some favorite characters. You can get a free copy of New in Town here: https://claims.prolificworks.com/free/P5m3oZI6.