Sink or Swim (Anchor Point #8) by L.A. Witt

When need meets fear, can two very different men find common ground?
Alhazar Bukhari spent his Navy career in the closet. Now he’s retired, divorced, and hungry for the love he’s never had a chance to experience. He tries to put his faith in Allah to bring the right man into his life, but it’s hard to be patient after all this time.
Chaplain Dylan Pedersen spends his days counseling Sailors, and his nights with men he doesn’t know. Months after finally escaping an abusive relationship, he’s terrified of anything more than a physical connection. Maybe it’s a sin, but he’s too lonely to not let men into his bed, and too scared to let them into his heart.
When Alhazar’s civilian job brings him aboard the USS Fort Stevens, and his daily prayers bring him into Dylan’s chapel, the chemistry is instantaneous. Sex and friendship quickly evolve into more, but Dylan’s too haunted by his recent past to be the man Alhazar wants. Alhazar needs love, Dylan needs time, and if they can’t find some sort of balance, they’ll sink before they ever have a chance to swim.

When L.A. Witt decides to tackle a subject, she doesn’t hold back. I love the real life situations that she has her characters face in the Anchor Point series. Given that most of those situations are unique to the military makes things even more interesting. In Sink or Swim, Alhazar and Dylan had more than one obstacle to over come if they ever wanted to make a relationship work between them.

Despite those obstacles, Alhazar and Dylan had a lot in common. They both were previously married to women and had children. Alhazar married out of necessity, Dylan in an attempt to have a “normal” life. You’ll have to read Sink or Swim to get their personal back stories. Parts of both are heart breaking.

I respected both these men a lot. It was refreshing to “meet” a Chaplain – or any religious character – be as open, welcoming and respectful of other religions as Dylan was. I loved Alhazar’s devotion to his faith and learning more about it was an added bonus. His family dynamic with his ex-wife and children was great too. The circumstances were unique, but they made it work.

Both men slipped, they weren’t perfect and as much as I loved them, there was at least once where I wanted to yell at them both. There were a lot of odds against them and that balance they needed to find didn’t come easy. Alhazar had a strong need to protect those he cared about and Dylan felt like he needed to stand up to his fears on his own.

It was great seeing other characters from previous stories. Even though it would be easy to pick any one of the books in the Anchor Point series up as a stand alone, having those simple connections between the characters adds a lot to each book. I think that’s what I might like best about series books that include different characters with each book and L.A. Witt does a great job at including those previous characters seamlessly. So… if you haven’t started the Anchor Point series up yet, you could start with Sink or Swim, but I’d start with the book that started it all… Just Drive. You can thank me later 😉

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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.

Wash Out (Anchor Point #7) by L.A. Witt

Casey Olson has always known he was destined to be a Navy SEAL, and the best day of his life was when he was accepted into training. The worst day was when a snapping bone ended his dream.
After three combat tours in five years, Logan Carter left the Marines and self-destructed. Now he’s sober and, thanks to a forgiving ex with friends in high places, has a promising job as a civilian contractor. All he has to do is stay on the rails and out of a bottle, even when his demons won’t leave him alone.
Logan likes his job, and he really likes the gorgeous man at the next desk. Casey tries not to check Logan out, but who is he kidding? From the start, despite their best efforts, neither man can resist the other. Sizzling chemistry leads to sex so hot they can both almost forget why they’re stuck in this office to begin with.
It would be perfect, except Logan can’t stop reliving wars he’ll never forget and Casey can’t stop grieving the SEAL he’ll never be. And they’ll never have a future together until they can make peace with their pasts.

I loved these guys, I really did, but I also got aggravated with them more than once. I also sympathized with both of them. However, if I had to take sides with either Logan or Casey, I’d have to go with Logan.

Before anyone points this out, I know that I usually don’t choose sides. Especially when both characters are living with their own brand of pain. I could just relate to Logan’s honesty. He had been where Casey so desperately wanted to go and even though he knew that Casey didn’t want to hear it, he couldn’t hold back the relief that Casey wouldn’t have to endure what he did. Casey couldn’t see past his pain and loss and lashed out at Logan every time he voiced that relief. They both had issues that they had to work on individually and even though age was never mentioned (at least not that I noticed) Casey had a lot of growing up to do along with the healing.

Having said all that, it doesn’t mean I didn’t like Casey, because I did. I also think that they were good for each other. In a strange way, Logan’s past helped Casey see things in a way that he never had – and never really wanted to see before. Logan had screwed up, a lot, but he was making up for it and he was also a lot stronger than he gave himself credit for. There were a couple of close calls, but even at some of his lowest points, he pulled himself back up.

Wash Out was most definitely Casey and Logan’s story, but it was great seeing past characters. Readers who have followed the series had met both Casey and Logan in previous books briefly. It was nice finding out what happened to Casey after his accident and giving Logan a chance to make up for everything he put Clint through in Afraid to Fly, the second book in L.A. Witt’s Anchor Point series. I was also really happy to spend some more time with Diego from Once Burned. And yeah, you can probably read each one of the books in the Anchor Point series as a stand alone, but I like all these little glimpses into past characters.

Once Burned (Anchor Point #6) by L.A. Witt

Captain Mark Thomas’s world has been tossed on its head: A long overdue but still unexpected divorce. A promotion out of left field. Last-second orders to a ship where careers go to die. As the dust settles in his new home, he barely recognizes his life, but he sure recognizes the loneliness creeping in.
Diego Ramírez wants nothing to do with the military or its men. Not after the Navy burned him both literally and figuratively, costing him his career, his health, and ultimately his green card. Now working illegally in an Anchor Point bar, he keeps the military and its personnel at arm’s length.
But after a single moment of eye contact across the bar, Mark and Diego can’t resist each other. As a one-night stand quickly turns into more, Diego knows he’s playing with fire. Now he can stick around and let things with Mark inevitably fall apart, or he can run like hell and wonder what might have been. One way or another, Diego knows he’s about to get burned. Again.
50% of the author’s royalties from this book will be donated to charities supporting US military veterans who have been deported or are at risk of deportation.

If you’ve been reading the books in the Anchor Point series, you know that readers met Diego in the previous book, Going Overboard. He was Dalton’s best friend and earned just enough page time to make me really look forward to his story. I wasn’t disappointed.

Both Mark and Diego are more than a little bit broken when they meet. Diego has good reason to not want to have anything to do with the military. Falling someone who has obviously decided to make the military his career is someone he needs to stay away from. The problem is, once he gives in, he finds it hard to stay away.

Mark is lost. His marriage wasn’t a great one, far from it, but it was familiar. When he sees Diego for the first time, he’s more than a little surprised that the connection just feels right. These two are drawn to each other physically, but it doesn’t take long for them to form a real connection.

Diego is drawn to Mark, but he knows that there’s no future between the two of them. Trust is hard for him and Mark means well, but he’s oblivious to the situation that Diego is in. Not because he’s unfeeling, just because he had no idea how bad things really were and how precarious his situation really was.

For the record, L.A. Witt did an amazing job of handling this touchy subject. I fell in love with both of these characters and really felt for both of them. Diego because of the situation he was in and Mark because of his determination to make things right, regardless. This was definitely another great addition to the Anchor Point series and I can’t wait to see what comes next with Wash Out – the next book in the series. 

Squared Away (Out Of Uniform #5) by Annabeth Albert

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.

I really liked this book in the Out of Uniform series, for so many reasons. I love books that include kids, especially books that include them for more than just props. I also love books that center around a strong sense of family… Squared Away had all that and more.

Mark loved his family, but his life as a Seal kept him away. Isaiah loved his family too and even though he played the part of “wild party boy” he had his priorities. He was there for them and not just because of his proximity. Because of the physical distance between them, it was natural for Mark to not really know the man that Isaiah had grown into. It didn’t take long for Mark to realize that his assumptions had been wrong, but he still couldn’t shake the idea that Isaiah might fall back into the person who couldn’t commit and wasn’t dependable enough to take on the responsibility of his sister’s kids – plus, he wanted to keep his heart safe.

One of the other reasons why I loved this book is because it was so “real.” The juggling of kids and working. The crushing grief that both Mark and Isaiah experienced and the strength they had to muster to be there for the kids. The judgement that came with Isaiah not only being a man, but gay. Mark wasn’t the only one who thought that Isaiah was in over his head, so he had a lot to prove. The kids came first, regardless and in the end, that’s what made me grow to admire both Mark and Isaiah. Neither one of them were perfect, but together, they were great.

Basically, this story had a lot of heart and was a great addition to the Out of Uniform series. ❤ A couple of characters from past books made appearances in Squared Away and fit in well – offering the support that both Isaiah and Mark needed. Tight Quarters is next and I can’t wait!

Point of Contact by Melanie Hansen

Only love can heal an impossibly broken heart
There’d forever been a thread running through Trevor Estes’s life—his son, Riley, strong and constant like a heartbeat. But when Riley is killed in combat, everything in Trevor’s life unravels into a mess he doesn’t know how to mourn.
Then Jesse Byrne, Riley’s friend and platoon mate, arrives on Trevor’s doorstep with a box of Riley’s things. Jesse’s all-too-familiar grief provides an unlikely source of comfort for Trevor: knowing he’s not alone is exactly what he needs.
Trevor never imagined he’d find someone who fills his heart with hope again. As the pair celebrate Riley’s memory, their unique bond deepens into something irreplaceable—and something neither man can live without.
But diving into a relationship can’t be so simple. Being together means Trevor risking the last link he has to his son…leaving Jesse to wonder if he’ll ever be enough, or if Trevor will always be haunted by the past.

Oh, this book just about broke me. I feel like it should have come with a warning. See, I was prepared to meet two men who had lost someone they loved deeply. One was a father and one was a best friend… a brother really. What I wasn’t prepared for was to not only meet, but fall in love with Riley, the young man they both lost way too soon. And for the record, that’s not a spoiler. You only have to start reading the first chapter to realize that you’re going to experience the loss of Riley right along with Jesse and Trevor. Readers spend the first section of the book just waiting for it to happen. It’s hard and gut wrenching and I both hated and loved this author for putting me through it. Yes, it was intense and heart wrenching, but I love books that make me feel and I honestly think that there’s no possible way to walk away from Point of Contact without feeling.

I’m not really sure which character in Point of Contact I felt for most. I’m a firm believer that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Trevor lost his only son. A son he wasn’t prepared for in the beginning, but a son that his entire world revolved around by the time he became a young man. There were a lot of relationships that revolved around Trevor and Jesse – both good and bad. There was obviously an age gap that existed between these two, but given Jesse’s life experience, it didn’t take long to realize that it wasn’t a huge deal. Tragic circumstances brought these two together, but love and respect strengthened their bond.

So, Point of Contact wasn’t exactly what I expected going in, but it turned out to be so much more – I’m also pretty sure that it’s going to rank among one of my favorite reads of the year. This was also my first read by Melanie Hansen, but I can pretty much guarantee that it won’t be my last.

Going Overboard (Anchor Point #5) by L.A. Witt

Second-class petty officers Dalton Taylor and Chris Ingram have been best friends since coxswain’s school. Now they’re stationed together in the harbor patrol unit of NAS Adams. They’re content as friends, but secretly, they both ache for more. Neither makes a move, though; while Dalton is out and proud, Chris is closeted—even from his best friend.
Then another coxswain’s negligence nearly drowns Dalton. After a taste of how easily they could lose each other, neither man can keep his feelings hidden anymore, and it turns out love and sex come easy when you’re falling for your best friend.
Things aren’t just heating up between the friends-turned-lovers, though. The Navy is investigating the accident, and the harbor patrol chief isn’t going to let his star coxswain go down for dereliction of duty, even if saving him means throwing Dalton under the bus.
As the threats and gaslighting pile up, Chris and Dalton need each other more than ever—as shipmates, friends, and lovers. But if their chief prevails, the only way they can save their careers is to let each other go.

Anchor Point is turning into one of my favorite Military Romances. I’m not sure if I can say that Going Overboard was my favorite in the series, but it’s close. There were a couple of things that made this book unique to the series and although it could probably be read as a stand alone, there were a couple of key characters who would make it worth reading the rest of the series. If for no other reason, just to get to know them better. 😉

So what makes Dalton and Chris’ story different? Well, first, they’ve known each other for a long time. They started out together, got separated for a while, then ended up on the same base. They had a long history and they had grown to love and respect each other long before there was any romance between the two. Especially since Dalton had no idea that Chris was gay because he kept it hidden from everyone, including him. On the surface it may have seemed unnecessary, but the color of Chris’ skin had subjected him to more than enough discrimination. He didn’t need to add being gay to the mix. Plus, falling for your best friend is complicated. There was just too much to lose.

The other thing that makes Chris and Dalton’s story different from the previous stories in Anchor Point is that they were being personally attacked by a superior officer. All the couples before them had obstacles to overcome, but they were different. The battle that Chris and Dalton were fighting seemed so daunting to them that they had no choice but to give up. There were times that I wanted to push these two into trusting someone, anyone, who could stand up for them and actually help. They had to make that decision on their own though. I think the “mom” in me came out because these guys seemed so young compared to all the characters who had come before them.

I’m looking forward to the next book in the Anchor Point series. At least one of the characters in Once Burned was introduced in Going Overboard, which promises to keep things interesting. 😉

Wheels Up (Out of Uniform #4) by Annabeth Albert

Lieutenant Dustin Strauss is a reformed man. No longer a twentysomething hell-raiser, he’s his SEAL team’s new XO-and a man with a secret. Or seven. He’s kept his bisexual identity under wraps for years, along with his kinky side and a fondness for the military-themed semi-anonymous hookup website Joe4Joe. His latest chat buddy is more than a sexy online distraction-they’re taking their very not-safe-for-work relationship into real time.
Petty Officer Wes Lowe has a smart mouth, a take-charge attitude and an uncanny ability for making things go boom. The life of an enlisted man isn’t always enough to satisfy him, but one wild, no-questions-asked weekend with his online love comes close. When a transfer order comes in, Wes feels ready and centered. He’ll make a good impression on his new SEAL team and keep his growing feelings for Dustin on the down low.
But as they log more time online and some very real emotions surface, Dustin and Wes struggle to pretend they’re just a harmless fling. And when his commander introduces Dustin to his team’s newest member, they’re in for the shock of a lifetime…and a crushing disappointment: their difference in ranks means even a friendship without sexual contact could end their navy careers for good.
With their hearts on the line, Dustin and Wes may not survive their next mission, let alone find a way toward a future together.

The odds were against these two from the start. They had a strong enough connection that after months virtual hook-ups, they decided to meet face to face. By the time that they realized that they had no future without losing everything they had worked for, that connection had grown too strong to ignore.

That blow was even harder for Wes in some ways because the transfer had totally blindsided him. He needed to be close to his family for a lot of reasons. Reasons that Dustin knew and understood, but he had to keep his distance. Wes’ emotions were all over the place and the one person he would normally go to was right there, but out of reach.

The closeness that their positions kept them in didn’t make things easier. Dustin couldn’t talk to anyone about what he was going through either. Not just because the relationship forbidden, but he had kept the fact that he was bisexual away from everyone – even those he was closest to. He had his reasons for the secrecy, maybe not logical reasons, but he had done it for so long he didn’t know how to get past that first hurdle. I think even most readers probably breathed a sigh of relief when he finally talked it out. That didn’t solve the problems between he, Wes and the Navy, but it was definitely a step closer to being true to himself.

There was no easy solution for Wes and Dustin, but they did finally get their well deserved HEA. As with the rest of the books in the Out of Uniform series, the supporting characters were great. I loved Wes’ family and readers already knew most of the characters nearest and dearest to Dustin. It was great checking in with them. Hopefully, we’ll get to know them even better as the series continues. 😉

Rank & File (Anchor Point #4) by L.A. Witt

Senior Chief Will Curtis is as straitlaced as they come. While his fellow Sailors have partied their way through their enlistments, he’s had his eye on the prize—making master chief and retiring after thirty years of service.
Lieutenant Brent Jameson is a Navy brat turned Annapolis grad. He’s lived and breathed the military his whole life, and he knows he’s destined for great things—once he’s done paying his dues at the bottom of the ladder.
When their paths cross, both men know better than to give in to temptation, but that doesn’t stop them. It also doesn’t keep them from coming back for more, even though being discovered would sink their careers. Something has to give—Will can retire, Brent can resign, or they’ll both face court-martial.
But there’s also the option neither wants to acknowledge: jump ship and walk away from each other instead of ending their careers over a fledgling relationship. And they should probably decide before they fall in love.
Except—too late.

Readers met Will in Chief’s Mess. Although he was a supporting character, he suffered a lot in that book, but he also offered a lot of support for Noah. So, going into Rank & File, I already had a soft spot for him.

Since his break up, Will hasn’t been interested at all in even looking at another man…until he met Brent. It wasn’t a normal meeting, but after that, neither man could get the other out of his head.

There was nothing simple about their relationship though, even when they tried to trick themselves into believing that what they have is casual. A relationship, even a casual one, is forbidden by their ranks. As long as they keep the careers that they have worked hard for, any kind of relationship is impossible. My heart broke for both of them because regardless of what they did, they were destined to lose something.

I’m really loving this series and getting glimpses of the previous couples, even small ones, is one of the best parts. Going Overboard is next and I can’t wait to see what happens next. 

Chief’s Mess (Anchor Point #3) by L.A. Witt

Anthony Talbot is in Anchor Point to visit family, but after two days of strife, he needs a break. A local gay bar is calling his name.
When Chief Noah Jackson sees that red head stroll into the club, he immediately wants him. They’re perfectly matched, and before long, they’re burning up the sheets. Noah can’t get enough. Anthony can’t stay in Oregon for long, but as soon as he leaves, he’s counting down the days until he can fly back for more. And between his increasingly frequent visits, there’s always phone sex, sexting, webcams . . . anything they can get.
But Noah’s got a carefully crafted façade, and Anthony can’t help noticing the slowly forming cracks. The scent of alcohol in the middle of the day. The extra drinks at dinner. The hint of red in his eyes. Anthony knows what it means. He doesn’t want to believe it, but he’s seen this before, and there’s no denying it. If Noah doesn’t get his downward spiral under control, he’s going to lose both his career and the first man he’s ever really loved.

I feel like this book should come with an “excessive sex” disclaimer. Honest, I’m not complaining, because the heat between Noah and Anthony was worth it, but at times it seemed like that was the only thing they had in common.  Aside from that one minor issue – which wasn’t really an issue at all – I really liked Noah and Anthony.

Anthony had no intention of starting a relationship. He was just trying to find an escape from the drama revolving around his sister and ex brother-in -law – even though there was a lot less drama than he expected. He had a harder time letting go of what his sister’s ex put her through than she did, but as close as he was to his sister, he was on the outside looking in. Regardless how things were now, he had his reasons for being ultra sensitive when he started picking up signs from Noah that were heavy reminders.

Noah wasn’t exactly blind to his problem. He did things that scared even him, but he talked himself down and made promises to himself that he deep down knew he couldn’t keep. It took almost loosing something that he didn’t even know he wanted to shake some sense into him.

An added bonus to Chief’s Mess was spending some time with Travis and Clint from Afraid to Fly. It was kind of hard to see Clint from Anthony’s perspective, but it was worth it to see thing turn around for all of them.