Title: Squared Away (Out of Uniform #5)
Author: Annabeth Albert
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: April 16th 2018
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance, Military
Page Count: 352 pages
Reviewed by: Belen
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
In the wake of tragedy, SEAL Mark Whitley rushed stateside to act as guardian to his sister’s three young children. But a conflicting will could give custody to someone else—someone Mark remembers as a too young, too hot, wild party boy. Even after six years, Mark can’t shake the memory of his close encounter with Isaiah James, or face up to what it says about his own sexuality.
Isaiah’s totally over the crush that made him proposition Mark all those years ago. In fact, he’s done with crushing on the wrong men altogether. For now, he’s throwing himself into proving he’s the best person to care for his cousin’s kids. But there’s no denying there’s something sexy about a big, tough military man with a baby in his arms.
As the legal details get sorted out, their long-buried attraction resurfaces, leading to intimate evenings after the kids are tucked in. A forever future is within reach for all of them, if only Mark can find the courage he needs to trust Isaiah with his secrets—and his heart.
Let’s begin with what I liked about Squared Away…
The writing is terrific – whether making my heart melt, or my head burst into flames – Annabeth Albert draws the reader in and keeps them captivated (even when I wanted to throw my Kindle out of a window).
The characters seemed real to me, like I could actually meet/spend time with them IRL. Because of the dual POV I was able to get into both Mark and Isaiah’s heads and take this journey with them.
I was particularly interested in the exploration of Mark’s sexuality and I really felt like it was organically introduced and examined without making the whole thing feel forced. I was happy to see positive asexual spectrum representation, especially in a romance novel, where the Ace character wasn’t considered broken and wasn’t expected to change.
I loved the hurt/comfort, of how Mark and Isaiah were for one another, and how they were processing losing their siblings because not only were they having to deal with their grief but also their anger because of the circumstances.
Which brings me to what I didn’t like about the story…the whole miscommunication thing that happens. And I get it – Mark aka “Wizard” is a fixer. Literally and figuratively. He needs to feel in control particularly because so much around him is always out of his control.
But Mark’s trust and abandonment issues were frustrating and the whole guardianship set-up was maddening and felt like it went on way too long. Frankly, I spent half the book waiting for the whole thing to blow up, which sort of put a damper on enjoying the budding relationship because I knew it was going to all go sideways sooner rather than later.
However, once the miscommunication is dealt with, and all the fallout from that, Mark and Isaiah (cough mostly Mark cough) finally manage to get their heads together and figure out what they really want.
“Maybe we needed each other.” Mark gave him a lopsided smile. “Maybe we needed each other to learn to trust. But maybe you figured that out a little faster than me.”
Sure, they get to where they want to be, but I personally felt like the ending got rushed, and it left me a little head spun at the end.
But the thing is, Albert’s writing was so good that I was reacting to this as though it were really happening. I was invested, y’all.
All in all though it’s a solid addition to the series with plenty of hurt/comfort, a medium amount of angst, some light heat, and a HEA.
“You taught me to love going slow. Before I was always speeding through life, one milepost to the next, missing all sorts of sights along the way.”
“Then let’s drive the slow lane together.”