Rating: 4.5 stars
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Sonar Chief Derrick Fox wants revenge on his ex by showing off a rebound fling. But since Derrick’s been deployed on a submarine, he hasn’t had a chance to find that rebound. Enter his best friend’s younger brother. Arthur Euler is willing to put on a show when the sub docks to make Derrick’s ex jealous. The only thing is, the show is too good. Both Derrick and Arthur are attracted to each other, and the kiss between them has everyone thinking they’ve been dating for a while.
Arthur simply says they’ll stage a breakup in a week or so, and Derrick is on board. But Arthur’s mom railroads them into both attending the family reunion. Derrick has time he needs to take, and he hasn’t had a vacation in years. He also has no contact with his own family, and he’s always been welcomed by the Eulers. Arthur gets the benefit of having a “boyfriend” on the trip. Since Arthur is the only one in his family that’s not military or has a career that super successful, he’s definitely the odd man out. And though the family is loving and wonderful, they often tease Arthur for his differences. Derrick doesn’t want to lie to the Eulers, but he goes along with it for Arthur’s sake.
For the week the family is ensconced at the wooded retreat, things go well. Neither Arthur or Derrick have much experience in relationships and agree to practice on each other. But the more time they spend together, the closer they get. Soon, their mutual attraction won’t be denied. When the reunion ends, Arthur and Derrick agree to keep seeing each other. But both have reasons for not wanting a relationship. Arthur has seen what military relationships can do to a person, and Derrick is off on a submarine often, so he doesn’t have enough time to devote to a partner. But they want to see what can come of their relationship, and they have time.
That is, until, Derrick is sent out on a sub again, much quicker than either man thought would happen. Being apart when the relationship is so new is hard on them both. But it also makes them evaluate their feelings and what they want from each other. Derrick knows he wants a future with Arthur, he just has to make sure that Arthur wants that too.
Annabeth Albert has a new military series, and I am here for it. I am a fan of this author, and love the characters she creates. The two MCs here are no exception. I loved both Arthur and Derrick, the way they interacted with each other, and the way their relationship evolved.
Told in alternating first person POV, we really get to delve into both characters, where they are coming from, and their journeys. And Albert does a good job here balancing both MCs. They both have their baggage, and their own growth, and I really liked the way that not only did we get both, but that they worked well with each other. These guys are becoming individually stronger as they grow in their relationship with each other.
A good portion of the story takes place while they are at the family reunion, and my heart broke for Arthur. He’s a composer and makes a good living, he’s not outdoorsy or competitive, and all of this is at a complete opposite of what the rest of his family is like. He does his best to get them to hear him, but they just don’t see it. At the same time, they are very kind and loving, so you can’t hate them for it. They just don’t understand. I really loved how much Derrick was simply there for Arthur, backing him up and supporting him. This was the biggest moment for the growth in their relationship. As each day went by, they grew closer and closer, until they finally give in to their attraction.
And these guys together are the definition of sweet plus heat. The chemistry sparks and sizzles from the very first kiss and keeps growing throughout the story. The progression of their feelings is real and believable, and makes total sense for who these guys are. I was on board and rooting for them completely. I also really appreciated that their “black moment” was really sort of gray, didn’t last too long, and was about their individual feelings more so than a problem in their relationship or an outside force. Because of that, the ending was wholly satisfying.
Overall, I really liked this book. It was an easy read in that the story flowed effortlessly and the characters were well drawn and endearing. It’s a great start to a series, and I’m looking forward to the next one, especially since we know who it’s going to be about. This is an easy recommendation if you’re a fan of this author, like military romances, and/or are a fan of sweet with heat.
I was going to read this book, until I saw the cover. Derrick Fox is a Senior Chief in the Navy, but the cover shows a man wearing a naval officer’s cap. This completely turned this navy veteran off.
Oh no! I know it’s hard to get cover models for gay romance so maybe that was a factor. But yeah I can see why that would be frustrating
Thanks for your review, Kris; this sounds like a book I’d enjoy!