Up in Smoke (Hotshots #4) by Annabeth Albert

Three Men and a Baby meets Backdraft with explosive chemistry and heartfelt feels.
Freewheeling smoke jumper Brandt Wilder thrives on adrenaline. He’s never met a parachute he can’t repair or a dangerous situation he couldn’t wrangle his way out of. He’s popular and fun-loving and not at all looking to settle down or form lasting relationships. It’s a lifestyle that’s served him well…right up until the day he finds a baby on his doorstep.
Shane Travis is used to putting his country music career—and his own happiness—on hold after his sister rolls through his life. Like last spring when she convinced him to try skydiving for his birthday—and she walked away with the hot parachute instructor.
Now he gets to deliver the piece of news that will upend Brandt’s carefree life: he very well might be a dad.
Shane’s niece is safe in Brandt’s strong, capable hands, but too many questions remain unanswered. Co-parenting while they sort it out leads to late-night talks, and soul-bearing confessions lead to a most inconvenient attraction. Still, Shane can’t leave this makeshift family behind—even if it means playing house with the one man he can’t resist.

This was another great installment to Annabeth Albert’s Hotshots series. It had an interesting twist with surprisingly low drama and angst – given the situation that both characters found themselves in.

The story opened with Brandt and Shane’s first meeting. There was a strong attraction then, or at least Shane thought so. Turns out that he may not have been as far off as he first thought.

These two guys both had to give up part of their lives to take care of Jewel, but there was no doubt in either of their minds or hearts. Even though Jewel was an central part of the story, another real focus was how she brought these two men together. Shane’s sister was always in the background, sometimes even when she was there. I wasn’t a fan of Shelby, so I understood Shane’s animosity toward her. What I did like was how Brandt interacted with her in comparison.

It didn’t take long for this unlikely trio to become a real family, but the progression was perfect. I love books that include kids, especially when they’re an integral part of the story in a believable way. Up In Smoke definitely accomplished that and more.

Feel the Fire (Hotshots #3) by Annabeth Albert

When their career paths bring two high school sweethearts together again, the forest isn’t the only thing ablaze…
Fire behavior specialist Luis Riviera goes where his job takes him. But when he’s assigned to an arson investigation in Central Oregon—the place he left his broken heart twenty years ago—he’s afraid of being burned all over again.
Tucker Ryland had planned to join his first love, Luis, in LA after high school graduation, but life got in the way. Now a fire management expert and a divorced father of teen twins, Tucker’s thrown for a loop when he finds himself working side by side with his Luis, now all grown up and more intriguing than ever.
Though consumed by a grueling fire season and family responsibilities, the two men discover their bond has never truly broken. Tentative kisses turn to passionate nights. But smoking sheets aside, old hurts and new truths stand in the way of this time being the start of forever.

This is one of those series that gets better with each installment. I liked Burn Zone and I adored Garrick and Rain in High Heat and I’m pretty sure that they’re still my favorite couple in the Hotshots series, but Luis and Tucker are now running a very close second. 😉

I love second chance romances and Feel the Fire was a perfect example. Life took Luis and Tucker is different directions and eventually their young love fizzled out…or so they thought. Their second-chance meeting took them both by surprise, even though Luis had a bit more time to prepare for the inevitability. They were both wary and even though the attraction was still there, there was some residual hurt that they needed to get through. Even then, there was the reality that distance was still a factor that there was no easy solution to, so having a real relationship still wasn’t in the cards for them.

Aside from the rekindled romance between Luis and Tucker, I think my favorite part of Feel the Fire was Tucker’s family. Tucker obviously put his family first, but the whole dynamic between the now blended families was refreshing. The fact Tucker’s parents and the rest of his side of the family basically ignored him once he came out to them wasn’t nearly as earth shattering as it could have been because of their new norm. It didn’t just center around the kids’ well being though, they all truly cared about each other and they were the true definition of what a blended family should look like.

The rest of the supporting characters were great and familiar to readers who have enjoyed the previous books in the series. It was nice getting to see them again and being around them helped Luis realize that things had changed in the community since he left.

In the end, Luis and Tucker both had to decide what was best for them either apart or as a couple. Their solution wasn’t what I expected, but that’s not a bad thing. ❤

High Heat (Hotshots #2) by Annabeth Albert

Smoke jumping is Garrick Nelson’s life. Nothing, not severe injuries nor the brutal physical therapy that follows, is going to stop him from getting back with his crew. But when a lost dog shows up on his front porch, he can’t turn her away, and he can’t take care of her on his own. Thankfully, help comes in the form of his new sexy, dog-loving neighbor. As they work together, trying to re-home their little princess, Garrick can’t resist his growing attraction for the other man, even though he knows this guy isn’t the staying type.
Rain Fisher doesn’t take anything too seriously. He dances through life, one adventure at a time, never settling in one place for too long. When his hot, conveniently buff, neighbor shows up on his doorstep, dog in tow, Rain’s determined to not just save the adorable puppy, but her reluctant owner as well. He never expects their flirtation might tempt him into stay put once and for all…

I really liked Jacob and Link in Burn Zone, but I think Garrick and Rain (and Cookie) are now my favorites in the Hotshots series. ❤

Even though readers met Garrick in Burn Zone, you could read High Heat as a stand alone. There is a little bit of set up in the first book – mainly, Garrick’s accident. It wasn’t only devastating to Garrick, but to the rest of his team – who were essentially, his family.

High Heat doesn’t have as much of the day to day work atmosphere that Burn Zone did, but that’s to be expected. Garrick’s main goal is to get back to that, but it’s slow going. A lot slower than Garrick wants. Rain and Cookie are exactly what Garrick needs to keep his mind occupied on other things – and they’re both perfect distractions.

Speaking of Rain, he was amazing. He was so patient and seemed to know when to back off and not hover over Garrick, but was always there to help when it was needed. He had a way of presenting things and ideas to Garrick that made him look at them a different way. I loved all that about him.

This story was about trust and acceptance and a whole lot of hope. All those things, plus the strong sense of family made this one a favorite in the series so far. Feel the Fire is next in Hotshots, so stay tuned…

Burn Zone (Hotshots #1) by Annabeth Albert

Smoke jumper Lincoln Reid is speechless to see Jacob Hartman among his squad’s new recruits. Linc had promised his late best friend he’d stay away from his little brother. And yet here Jacob is…and almost instantly, the same temptation Linc has always felt around him is causing way too many problems.
Jacob gets everyone’s concerns, but he’s waited years for his shot at joining the elite smoke jumping team, hoping to honor his brother’s memory. He’s ready to tackle any challenge Linc throws his way, and senses the chemistry between them—chemistry Linc insists on ignoring—is still alive and kicking. This time, Jacob’s determined to get what he wants.
Close quarters and high stakes make it difficult for Linc to keep his resolve, never mind do so while also making sure the rookie’s safe. But the closer they get, the more Linc’s plan to leave at the end of the season risks him breaking another promise: the one his heart wants to make to Jacob.

I’ve read several books by Annabeth Albert and I have to say that Burn Zone wasn’t my favorite out of all of them. (That would be Squared Away, but that’s another book in another series and pretty tough to beat… ❤ ) That doesn’t mean I disliked it though – it just didn’t blow me away.

I liked Linc and Jacob, but I have to admit that it took me a while for Linc to win me over and I still wasn’t “team Linc” by the end of Hotshots. Jacob was nothing but honest and sincere from the beginning. It wasn’t that Linc was dishonest, but he spent a lot of time hiding – even from himself. I also had a hard time with Jacob’s family, but you’ll have to read Hotshots to see if they redeem themselves for you or not. In my opinion, even by the end, they still had a long way to go.

The rest of the supporting characters were great and I’m looking forward to getting to know the rest of the crew, if that’s where the series takes readers. I’m hoping so because there were a couple that I’d really like to get to know better. 😉

 

Arctic Heat (Frozen Hearts #3) by Annabeth Albert

A lasting connection needs more than simply surviving a winter together—they’ll have to outsmart danger, let down their defenses and open their hearts.
Owen Han has a fresh lease on life—he’s kicked cancer’s ass and is roaring through his bucket list. The former investment banker hopes to find his next challenge in Alaska, volunteering alongside park rangers and fulfilling his childhood dreams of snowy winters and rustic life. Of course, those dreams did tend to feature big strapping mountain men in vivid detail…
Ranger Quilleran Ramsey would like to be anywhere other than dealing with newbie volunteers. And really, the only thing he needs less than a green volunteer “partner” is the flirty attentions of a buff city boy who doesn’t look ready to last a week, let alone an Alaskan winter. They’re all wrong for each other, even if Quill’s traitorous body enjoys the flirting more than it should.
As the weeks pass, the two snowbound men give in to temptation. But can their seasonal romance last until spring? For them to have a future together, each will have to trust the other…while hoping that the harsh elements and omnipresent dangers don’t destroy what happiness they’ve found in the moment.

Readers who have been following the Frozen Hearts series have already met Quill, although it was very briefly. He was one of Toby and Reuben’s rescuers in Arctic Wild. Other than a quick cameo from a couple of other characters, that’s pretty much the only connection between Arctic Heat and the other books in the series. That means that Arctic Heat could easily be read as a stand alone. I’ve really enjoyed the other books in the series though, so of course I’m going to recommend that you read the rest 😉

Owen was fortunate enough to be able to live life to its fullest after his recovery from cancer. Quill was living the life that he had always wanted with little or no drama. Neither one of them expected to find romance in the process. Especially Quill.

Owen was out, Quill was not. Owen was looking forward to spending time with Quill, but Quill wasn’t so sure. The attraction was there, but Quill wasn’t ready to take a chance. Watching his defenses crumble was fun and frustrating at the same time.

It took a dangerous situation to make both men face what was right in front of them…

Arctic Wild (Frozen Hearts #2) by Annabeth Albert

When a plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness, the best place to land is in the arms of a younger man…
Hotshot attorney Reuben Graham has finally agreed to take a vacation, when his plane suddenly plunges into the Alaskan wilderness.
Just his luck.
But his frustrations have only begun as he finds himself stranded with the injured, and superhot, pilot, a man who’s endearingly sociable—and much too young for Reuben to be wanting him this badly.
As the sole provider for his sisters and ailing father, Tobias Kooly is devastated to learn his injuries will prevent him from working or even making it back home. So when Reuben insists on giving him a place to recover, not even Toby’s pride can make him refuse. He’s never been tempted by a silver fox before, but something about Reuben is impossible to resist.
Recuperating in Reuben’s care is the last thing Toby expected, yet the closer they become, the more incredibly right it feels, prompting workaholic Reuben to question the life he’s been living. But when the pressure Toby’s under starts closing in, both men will have to decide if there’s room in their hearts for a love they never saw coming.

Frozen Hearts started with Griffin and River in Arctic Sun. Even though you could probably read either book as a stand alone, there are some cameos from previous characters, plus readers do briefly meet Tobias in the first book. I’m a series “junky” though, so, it’s up to you if you want to start here. 😉

I really liked getting to know Toby better in Arctic Wild. There was certainly a lot more to him than the playboy readers met in Arctic Sun. He’s under a lot of pressure and responsibility – which is why losing time from work after the accident is such a hard blow. It also makes it hard to become too dependent on Reuben, especially since getting attached to someone who doesn’t plan on sticking around is risky – mainly to his heart.

Reuben is a certified work-a-holic, but while he’s taking care of Toby, he realizes that there’s more to life than work. Getting close to Toby while re-connecting with his daughter makes him want even more. Toby doesn’t trust what they’re feeling to be enough to pull Reuben away from the fast-paced business world he seems to thrive on. Watching the three of them (including Reuben’s daughter) become closer and eventually trust what they’re all feeling was the best part of the story, at least for me.

The rest of the supporting characters were also great and added a lot to the story. (I especially loved Toby’s sister.) Even the characters that I didn’t like very much kept things interesting.

The next book in the Frozen Hearts series features a character that readers only met briefly in Arctic Wild, so I’m sure Arctic Heat can also be read as a stand alone.

Arctic Sun (Frozen Hearts #1) by Annabeth Albert

Ex-military mountain man Griffin Barrett likes his solitude. It keeps him from falling back into old habits. Bad habits. He’s fought too hard for his sobriety to lose control now. However, his gig as a wildlife guide presents a new kind of temptation in superhot supermodel River Vale. Nothing the Alaskan wilderness has to offer has ever called to Griffin so badly. And that can only lead to trouble…
River has his own methods for coping. Chasing adventure means always moving forward. Nobody’s ever made him want to stand still—until Griffin. The rugged bush pilot is the very best kind of distraction, but the emotions he stirs up in River feel anything but casual, and he’s in no position to stay put.
With temptation lurking in close quarters, keeping even a shred of distance is a challenge neither’s willing to meet. And the closer Griffin gets to River, the easier it is to ignore every last reason he should run.

At first glance, Griffin and River have absolutely nothing in common. That’s the problem with first impressions though, you have to really get to know someone before you should make a snap judgement on who they really are. Although River tried his best to make a good first impression, Griffen didn’t really care what anyone’s opinion of him was. He was there to help his family and their business. I loved watching that ice around him crumble. ❤

There was a lot more behind River than what I expected. Even though I liked him from the beginning, getting to know him made me want to get to know him even better. Though Griffin tried to deny it, even to himself, River had the same affect on him. The closer they got, the harder it was to deny. Yet, Griffin felt safest at home, where he kept to a steady routine and he felt like he had some control. River, on the other hand, couldn’t stay in one place. He had no “home” and didn’t want one, or so he thought.

These two had a lot to work through and it wasn’t easy, but nothing worth having really was. I should also note that while I liked some of the supporting characters, not many of River’s “friends” were, well, supportive. He ended up getting the best support from a totally unexpected source. I also loved Griffen’s family, but they irritated me at times as well. They had their reasons, but Griffin had come a long way and was a lot more capable of making smart, healthy decisions than they realized. They won me back in the end though.

The next book in Annabeth Albert’s new series is Arctic Wild and since we met at least one of the main characters in Arctic Sun, I can’t wait to see what this author has in store for him.

Rough Terrain (Out of Uniform #7) by Annabeth Albert

The camping trip from hell may be the first stop on the road to happily-ever-after.
Navy SEAL Renzo Bianchi has a soft spot for Canaan Finley, and not only because the man makes a mean smoothie. He’s the first guy to get Renzo’s motor revving in a long time. But when he agrees to Canaan’s insane charade—one all-access fake boyfriend, coming right up—he never expects more than a fling.
Creating a hot Italian SEAL boyfriend to save face seemed like a good idea…until his friends called Canaan’s bluff. Now he’s setting off into the woods with the very man who inspired his deception, and Canaan is not the outdoorsy type. The sparks are already flying when a flash flood separates them from their group, leaving Renzo and Canaan very much trapped…very much alone in the wilderness.
Working together to come up with a plan for survival is sexier than either of them expects. But back in the real world, being a couple is bringing its own set of hazards…

Oh Canaan and Renzo… as sorry as I was that Rough Terrain marked the end of the Out of Uniform series, I don’t think it could have ended with a more perfect couple.

On the surface, Canaan and Renzo weren’t even close to a perfect match. Renzo was totally focused on his military career and he had reasons for that focus. Canaan was just as focused. He was working his way through nursing school. He was also “nursing” a broken heart, but that didn’t stop him from being attracted to Renzo – and the feeling was mutual.

Attraction isn’t always enough and it took them almost losing each other to make them realize that their “pretend” romance was a little more real than they realized.

There was so much to love about this final installment. Like a few cameos from previous characters that I always enjoy. A glimpse at military life that’s pretty close to accurate (or as close to accurate as fiction can get.) Then there was the connection between Renzo and Canaan. The supporting characters were both great and aggravating at times – the perfect balance. Although I’m still sad that Out of Uniform has come to an end, I can’t wait to see what Annabeth Albert has in store for readers next. 😉

Better Not Pout by Annabeth Albert

One hard-nosed military police officer.
One overly enthusiastic elf.
One poorly timed snowstorm.
Is it a recipe for disaster? Or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for holiday romance?
Teddy MacNally loves Christmas and everything that goes along with it. When he plays an elf for his charity’s events, he never expects to be paired with a Scrooge masquerading as Santa Claus. His new mission: make the holiday-hating soldier believe he was born to say ho-ho-ho.
Sergeant Major Nicholas Nowicki doesn’t do Santa, but he’s army to his blood. When his CO asks an unusual favor, Nick of course obliges. The elf to his Kris Kringle? Tempting. Too tempting—Nick’s only in town for another month, and Teddy’s too young, too cheerful and too nice for a one-night stand.
The slow, sexy make-out sessions while Teddy and Nick are alone and snowbound, though, feel like anything but a quick hookup. As a stress-free holiday fling turns into Christmas all year round, Teddy can’t imagine his life without Nick. And Nick’s days on the base may be coming to a close, but he doesn’t plan on leaving anything, or anyone, behind.

Teddy was adorable and Nick was prickly… but there was a lot more to each of them than that.

The last thing that Nick wanted to do was play Santa, but he only had a little bit of time left before his retirement so turning down his new CO wasn’t an option. He had no idea what he was in for and Teddy was definitely not what he expected.

Teddy considered Nick a challenge. He knows that there is more to Nick than the grumbly guy he first meets. The more he gets to know him, the more the challenge turns into a lot more than either one of them bargained for.

Better Not Pout was the perfect Holiday read. Full of a little sweet, a little bit nice and a little bit naughty. It fits right into what I’ve come to expect from Annabeth Albert’s military romances. 🙂

Tight Quarters (Out of Uniform #6) by Annabeth Albert

Petty Officer Bacon, a navy SEAL and ace sharpshooter, has been on the front lines of more than his fair share of dangerous ops. Yet when a minor injury relegates him to the beta team, he’s tasked with what may be his riskiest assignment yet: the silver fox journalist he’s babysitting is the hottest, most charismatic man he’s ever encountered.
Award-winning journalist Spencer Bryant may have been named one of Pride magazine’s most eligible bachelors of the year, but he’s not looking to change his relationship status. He’s a consummate professional who won’t risk his ethics or impeccable reputation by getting involved with a source. Even a sexy-as-hell military man. But while Spencer can resist his physical attraction to Bacon, he has less control over his emotions—especially when the mission goes sideways and the two men are trapped alone.
Getting out of the jungle alive turns out to be easy compared to facing the truth about their feelings for one another back in the real world. And whether or not they can build a future is a different story altogether.

I really like this series and it seems to get better with each installment.

There’s a lot of tension in Tight Quarters aside from the growing sexual tension between Bacon and Spencer. Bacon is a member of the same seal team that Dustin and Wes belonged to in Wheels Up. Their (secret) romantic involvement didn’t go over well with the team. Which is just one of the many reasons why Bacon isn’t anxious to let anyone but his closest friend in on the fact that he’s pansexual. Having being put on babysitting detail with Spencer just ups his stress level. While you don’t necessarily have to read all the books in this series to enjoy the individual books, connections like this add another layer that I really enjoy.

Things got really intense in Tight Quarters. More so than a lot of the other books in this series so far. Spencer was determined to make the most of his assignment, but the men on the team didn’t trust him. There were some pretty strong reasons why getting this story right was important to him and some times he couldn’t really see beyond that. Getting close to Bacon wasn’t smart because regardless of what the guys thought about him, he had a strong sense of ethics and certain boundaries he wouldn’t cross.

Bacon was loyal to his brothers on his team, but that didn’t mean he respected them all. There were some pretty strong personalities within the ranks and he wasn’t sure who among them would have is back if they found out about his sexuality. He was getting tired of hiding who he really was though and I really felt for him. He and Spencer were great for each other, but the timing for anything to develop between them was totally off.

I really love the real life circumstances that Annabeth Albert puts her characters in. A lot of tough issues that are unique to the military are tackled and I really like the way she handles them. Tight Quarters was definitely a great addition to the series and I really hope there’s more to come.