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.
When a SEAL medic inherits three young children, he must battle to keep the family together and keep his long-held feelings for the man challenging him for custody at bay.
Series: Out of Uniform #5
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date (Print & Ebook): April 16. Print, ebook, and audio all available.
Length (Print & Ebook): 80,000 words
Subgenre: m/m military romance
Includes: military romance, insta-family, hurt/comfort, angst, interracial, heroes-with-kids, gay romance, demisexual/gray ace hero, first time, loss, reunion, forced proximity
Greetings! I’m so excited to be here today, talking about SQUARED AWAY, the latest book in my out of uniform series. One of the heroes, Isaiah, shows up as a minor character in AT ATTENTION as a new friend for Dylan, the AT ATTENTION hero. Isaiah intrigued me from the start and when he insisted on reappearing in WHEELS UP in a minor role for a scene, I knew he was getting a book.
He demanded Mark “Wizard” Whitley who appeared in ON POINT as a medic. Isaiah has had a crush on Mark ever since Mark’s sister married Isaiah’s beloved cousin. He really believed that they shared a special connection, but Mark gently turned him down, and now years have gone by and Isaiah’s tried to push his crush aside.
But when tragedy throws him and Mark together to raise three young children, old feelings come rising to the surface. Isaiah’s deep feelings for Mark are contrasted with his fun-loving personality. He’s great with the kids because he loves playing around, dancing, and inventing games. He’s learning skills like cooking as he goes along, and he does a really admirable job coping with the tragedy.
Isaiah is something of a hedonist—he loves long baths, massages, and finding ways to share pleasure. He’s good at taking pleasure in the small things in life too. His big ambition is to run his own landscaping business, and he takes particular pride in designing gardens for families. Something of a party boy when he was younger, Isaiah is coming to see how much of a homebody side he really has—he loves movies, dinners in, and sneaking cuddles on the couch.
His story was one of my very favorites to write, and I can’t wait for you to meet Isaiah in SQUARED AWAY! Enjoy!
What Annabeth Albert has to say about this book in her Out of Uniform series:
“I wanted to write a book about the nature of family and how loss and tragedy can shape family, mold it into something stronger, force growth and change. I’m enormously proud of SQUARED AWAY as a result because how I fell in love with this little family.”
“When Wizard first appeared in ON POINT as a secondary character, I was intrigued by him, but it wasn’t until I let myself get into his head that I really saw how complicated he was. I feel honored and privileged to have been able to tell his story.”
“No book gets written in a vacuum and this one is no different. I owe a huge debt on this book to my sensitivity readers who really encouraged me to dig deep.”
Mark and Isaiah…Mark’s sister married Isaiah’s cousin, and thus a crush is born.
At their wedding several years ago, Isaiah saw Mark and wanted him so bad. Unfortuntaely, Mark being a Navy SEAL, and Isaiah being so young, Mark turned him down when Isaiah propositioned him, then spent the next several years avoiding him as best he could. Then, tragedy strikes and they lose the people they had in common, and it’s so hard on both of them. Harder even because they’ve left their three kids behind, with a confusing will and neither know what to do about it, but both of them want the kids. Have I mentioned, ever how big of a sucker I am for hot guys with cute kids? I mean come on! Who doesn’t love that?!?!
Isaiah may have been a party boy and may have been flighty and irresponsible before, but with those kids…he’s fierce and protective and they all love each other so much. He would’ve went down swinging for them for sure. Unfortunately, Mark had been deployed and busy with his own life, so he didn’t have a relationship with them, but wanted to, now that he could. He couldn’t do it without Isaiah though, he was the one holding them all together.
Now, there were terms I had to look up, because I didn’t understand what gray ace was, or demisexual, there are so many different labels, I had to look them up. I wonder how many people struggle with that? Thinking that there’s something wrong with them and not knowing what…Or feeling broken somehow and not knowing that there are other people out there with the same preferences. I loved that this story used that. I was ignorant to it before and I like learning new things, so… thanks for that!
There were times I wanted to shake Mark and wonder how in the world he didn’t know that some of the things he was doing, could and probably would hurt Isaiah, because in my opinion…Isaiah was so much more patient and understanding than I would’ve been. Not about Mark coming out, but just about everything. Mark was kind of lost, and trying to find his way with this new “relationship”, not only romantically, but as uncles who were raising 3 children and trying to the best they could with that they had. A lot fell on Isaiah, and it had to be a lot of strain on him…I admired him for keeping it together and wanting to do what was right for the babies, even when he was hurting so bad, with everything that was getting thrown at him, left and right. I was rooting for both of them, but I had such a soft spot in my heart for Isaiah.
I also loved seeing the other guys from this series, and seeing how they took Mark’s back when he needed them, even though it took him forever to let his guard down and trust them to have it. Tackling same sex marriages in the military at all is tricky business, so I love reading stories where it’s accepted and even celebrated, even if only in small ways. One of these days we’ll get to a place where it won’t be a thing we even have to differientiate. Fingers crossed.
Until then, I’ll keep reading and loving these stories, and I thought this one was an excellent addition.
4 pieces of eye candy from me!
To his surprise, Mark didn’t laugh. Instead, he looked thoughtful. “What if I asked you to?” he said softly.
“To put out?” Isaiah’s throat had never seemed drier.
“We’re sitting here. Talking. Like adults. Just a couple of guys. And I can’t quit thinking about your lips, and I don’t know why.” Mark’s voice had a sleepy, dreamlike quality to it, and Isaiah was fully prepared to wake up any second because he’d been dreaming about Mark saying shit like this for years.
“I do.” Moving slowly as to not bang heads or—more likely—spook Mark, Isaiah moved so that their faces were level, inches apart. “You want to kiss me.”
Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer. The #OutOfUniform series joins her critically acclaimed and fan-favorite LGBTQ romance #Gaymers, #PortlandHeat and #PerfectHarmony series. To find out what she’s working on next and other fun extras, check out her website: www.annabethalbert.com or connect with Annabeth on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Spotify! Also, be sure to sign up for her newsletter for free ficlets, bonus reads, and contests. The fan group, Annabeth’s Angels, on Facebook is also a great place for bonus content and exclusive contests.
Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two active children.
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