On Shane Travis’ birthday, he goes sky diving. Not because he wants to, but because his sister, Shelby, talks him into it. Shelby wants to spend more time with Brandt Wilder, a one-time hookup and one of the diving instructors. But Brandt ends up tandem jumping with Shane and the attraction sizzles between them, even though Shane knows there’s no hope for anything more.
Eleven months later, Brandt is in Painted Ridge, Oregon for the season, fixing up an old house before he moves on. The last thing he expects is to find a baby on his porch, and the little girl’s uncle to be none other than Shane. Brandt is convinced the baby can’t be his, but there’s no doubt he’s the baby’s father. Shelby has taken off, leaving the infant with Shane, and it’s up to Shane to navigate the waters between the baby and Brandt.
The attraction is still there between them, and both men have the baby’s best interest at heart, which means co-parenting for a while. The domesticity only enhances their feelings and has adrenaline junkie Brandt reevaluating his life. He knows he has to do what is best for his daughter, and a scare during a demo jump has him truly thinking about his life as a smoke jumper. And there’s Shane to consider as well. Brandt wants nothing more than to have Shane with him on his journey of life and love, but Shane has dreams he has the chance to make come true. Can the men find a balance between fatherhood, their love, and their dreams?
In this latest installment of Annabeth Albert’s Hotshots series, we meet two new men with a new set of challenges. There are some cameos from other installments in the series, but this is Shane and Brandt’s book, and more than the others, can be read as a standalone. It fits well within the series though.
What I really liked about this book is that it’s relatively low angst, and that the MCs are really good at communication. There’s no big black moment that drives them apart, though there are some insecurities that cause them to question whether they can work, Shane in particular. Throughout the book, the MCs’ chemistry drives the story. The baby definitely plays a role in them being together, but it’s not the main drive, and I loved that their attraction was the biggest draw between them.
Both Shane and Brandt are well drawn characters, and we spend a good amount of time with them both so we know exactly where they are coming from. I liked the growth and change we saw in them both, and really appreciated that it was more growing into themselves than truly changing who they were at their core. Albert does a great job really delving into both men’s motivation and letting us really see who they are and how they work together.
Brandt has always been on his own, and he’s a wanderer. He takes jobs at different stations, never staying in one place for too long. He craves adventure and he needs to be on the move. He has no family and nothing really to anchor him, and never expected to have it either. Brandt shows the most change in that regard, now having his daughter and Shane to consider. He is willing to make concessions and to find solutions that works for all of them. He really endeared himself to me for this, as well as the way he rolled with each new challenge.
Shane had an unconventional upbringing and wants more stability for his niece than he ever had, which is why he seeks out Brandt in the first place. He’s a musician and song writer, and he is chasing his dreams, which he puts on hold for the baby. I loved how dedicated he was to the baby, and how he wasn’t resentful of putting things on hold, but he knew that a life in an RV and on the road was no life for her. He has some insecurities in regards to Brandt that he need to work through, but Brandt is there to reassure him, by action and word, that he’s needed. And not just because of the baby.
Their romance is wholly believable, as Albert does a great job of showing not only their attraction, but showing that it’s not just the baby that keeps them together. Sometimes that’s a challenge in books where kids are involved, and especially when said child is the catalyst for the MCs meeting or getting together. Here’s it’s very clear that although Shane and Brandt are exceptional co-parents, and heavily rely on each other in that regard, there is so much more to their relationship than that.
All in all, I liked this story. It doesn’t have quite the same impact as the rest in the series, but there’s an easiness to it that I really liked. It’s not all easy and perfect, and the MCs definitely have to work through challenges on their HEA, but it’s not quite as dramatic as the other books. I really liked the MCs and their connection, and that drove the story.