Cash Erwin is a newly retired SEAL and he is at loose ends. Staying with his best friend from the service while he figures his life out is only temporary. But Duncan keeps trying to get Cash to join his just-started security firm, though Cash has no interest. However, when Duncan needs to go out of town, he talks Cash into one job, but only because it’s in regards to Duncan’s little brother, Danny Love.
Daniel is a former childhood actor who was wildly popular, but made some bad decisions in attempt to rebel and gained an addiction along the way. He’s twenty-five now, and sober, and this time he’s putting in the real work to make it stick and turn his life around. He’s done with acting, among other things, but that hasn’t stopped some crazed fan from stalking him. At first, Daniel wasn’t worried, but things have escalated. And the last thing he expected when he asked his brother for some advice was for Duncan to send Cash, and for Cash to not only take him seriously, but be there for him.
When things take a scary turn, Cash takes Daniel to a remote cabin in hopes lying low and out of the public eye will give the police a chance to find his stalker. Daniel isn’t used to rustic living, but so much of his life has been a performance that he sees it as an adventure, which makes things easier on Cash. If only Cash could tamp down and get rid of his attraction to Daniel, that is. Daniel is sweet in spite of his life, whereas Cash’s upbringing has made him hard and closed off. And until now, Cash hasn’t given much thought to his sexuality one way or the other. He’s never been in a place where it was safe to do so.
But time spent together only fuels the attraction between them, and Daniel’s offer to experiment is what Cash needs to take that leap, even if the thinks it’s not the best idea. He and Daniel click on every level, and the chemistry between them is amazing. With each passing day, the men grow closer. But reality is looming, their future isn’t secure, and when things come to a head, it looks like Cash is going to walk away. Daniel wants him to stay. Cash wants the same. They just need to get on the same page and talk, if they’re going to have their happily ever after.
Tough Luck is the first in a new series from Annabeth Albert and, for the most part, it hit all the right notes for me. The author has a knack for writing engaging characters and, for me, that’s always the biggest draw with her writing. Here you can expect what she does best: a former military MC who is gruff and grumpy, a sunshine MC who’s had some hard times, and chemistry between them that leaps off the page.
The MCs are what really made this story work for me and kept me reading straight through. Cash has had his fair of hardships and his upbringing was not a good one. He entered the Navy as a way to escape and excelled there. Being part of a team kept him grounded. But now that he’s retired, Cash doesn’t know what to do with himself. He’s only 38, so he has a lot of living left to do. But without the direction of the Navy and his SEAL team, he’s lost. Daniel is in much the same boat, as his entire life has been orchestrated for the public by his overbearing and controlling mother. His lifestyle lead to partying, and the partying lead to addiction, but Daniel was just trying to escape. Now that he’s sober and he’s got his life on track, it would seem things are looking up. And they are in a lot of ways. But he doesn’t know his next steps, and he’s lost and lonely without a solid friend group.
Immediately, I was drawn in by these characters. I loved Cash, because he’s the kind of MC I always like, but my heart especially went out to Daniel. Especially because right from the start, the author did a great job of showing the reader where Daniel’s head is at and how far he’s come, but he’s hampered by the way the rest of the world views him. It’s the price of fame, in a way, but it really tugged on my heart strings that the people he came into contact with treated him a certain way because of his past. The police don’t even seem to take the stalker very seriously. But Cash believes him from the start and these two connect instantly. While they both have growing and learning to do, and they both do that well throughout the story, their immediate connection is nice to see. Things spark and sizzle from the start, but they build a friendship first and really communicate well. This is a story about Daniel growing into his confidence as much as it is about Cash finding his way and understanding his sexuality. The stories parallel nicely and the romance is incredibly well done.
Some of the other plot points are fairly predictable and there’s nothing really shocking. The stalker storyline is nothing too exciting and gets resolved easily by the end. The best friend’s brother and the temporary-turned-permanent experimentation is a storyline we’ve seen from this author before. Both aspects are done nicely, but it’s nothing new. But that being said, it was the characters who kept me engaged throughout the story, and Albert’s narrative style that kept me reading. I really enjoyed both Cash and Daniel, and I was rooting for their romance from the start. Cash’s understanding of his sexuality was a bonus here, and handled with a deft hand. And I’m looking forward to the second book in this series, which features Duncan and a friend of Daniel’s. If you’re a fan of this author, or this type of story, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book.