Status Update (#gaymers #1)
by Annabeth Albert
An M/M Contemporary Romance
From Carina Press
Released December 7th 2015
Adrian Gottlieb is winning at life. He’s a successful video game designer with everything a man could ask for, including a warm comfy ride to Denver and a date for his sister’s wedding. But he finds himself in need of a total reboot when he’s left stranded at a snowy campground in Utah. Holiday plans? Epic fail.
That is until Noah Walters offers him shelter for the night and a reluctant cross-country ride. Nothing about the ultraconservative geoarchaeologist should attract Adrian, but once he discovers Noah’s hidden love for video games, the two connect on a new level. Soon, a quiet but undeniable chemistry sparks.
Something doesn’t add up, though. As the miles accumulate and time runs out, Noah must face the most difficult choice of his life. Meanwhile, Adrian must decide whether he’s ready to level up. Is their relationship status worth fighting for, or has this game ended before it’s even begun?
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You know you’ve found a winner when you’re dead tired the morning after reading an all-nighter, and you’re still remembering the story and its characters the next day with a huge grin on your face. What can I say? Annabeth Albert is fast becoming a must-read author of mine and with this latest story she just proved why she’s earned a place in that list.
What I enjoyed must about this story was the way Noah and Adrian were brought together. Their paths crossed in an unexpected way and a tentative friendship was formed where both men eventually gave in to the attraction that simmered between them. But what made this different from some of the stories I’ve read lately was the fact that although the attraction was palpable, it was slow burning with tentative touches and stolen looks to add to the allure of these two coming together.
Both Noah and Adrian were great characters and I appreciated the chance Annabeth Albert afforded me to get to know them. On the surface, Noah and Adrian appeared to be opposites, but ultimately they complemented each other perfectly well. Noah with his caring nature helped Adrian recognize that his previous relationship never allowed for something real where there was no distance and opportunity to put problems aside. Likewise, Adrian’s laid-back personality and honest acceptance allowed Noah to relax and eventually recognize what he was missing by keeping himself closed off.
Although emotions did play a major role in the story, the author made sure that the story never reach angsty levels. I thought Noah’s hesitancy was perfectly brought to the page. I understood where his doubts stemmed from and I loved seeing him exploring that side of him he kept to himself. It was fantastic to see how Adrian’s understanding and caring nature put Noah at ease and eventually brought him out of the ‘closet’ Noah had lived in for so long. Their happy moments were a treat to experience and their more candid and honest moments only served to prove how deeply the connection between Noah and Adrian ran.
I loved that the romance was slow in coming that the connection shared was firmly established and developed throughout. But that’s not to say that the chemistry was lacking. Like I said before, those tentative touches kept the tension alive and present which made for some tantalizing moments. And when they finally did come together? It was everything I was expecting and much more.
Even though I enjoyed this story from beginning to end, I couldn’t help but want to see more of Adrian and Noah as a couple after everything was said and done. The last chapter was great, but I feel like I missed on seeing them go through all the intricacies of establishing and maintaining a relationship, especially when it came to Noah. The last chapter was great, but I don’t know, I just wish I could have seen more of them as a couple.
All in all, a fantastic romantic read.
*I received a copy of this title in exchange of my honest opinion.
Noah knew the dog was trouble as soon as he and Ulysses entered the campground’s off-leash dog area. The little guy—some sort of Chihuahua/mini-pin mix in a yellow-and-green checked coat—stood in the center of the scrubby grass, barking his fool head off. The only human in the dog area sat at the picnic table on the far side, completely absorbed in his shiny phone, oblivious to his dog strutting around like all eight pounds of him would be enough to keep potential threats out.
Ulysses gave Noah a look, like “you really expect me to ignore that?” Noah tightened his hold on the tennis ball chucker. Ulysses never did well competing with smaller dogs for his toys. He unclipped Ulysses with a stern look.
Still yapping, the little dog rushed over to inspect his new enemy. Predictably, Ulysses wandered away to do his business. He was too old for these sorts of games.
Noah gave a halfhearted wave in the direction of the owner, but the guy didn’t look up from his phone. The young guy was a typical hipster tourist—thick tortoise-framed glasses, artfully messed-up dark hair, with a thick purple streak, falling over his forehead. Slim build, but his wide shoulders stretched his too-thin jacket, making the shiny fabric ripple with his motions. He wasn’t any more prepared for November in Utah than his designer dog. Still, he was a cute guy, if one was the type to notice things like that, which Noah was not.
Noah looked away, studying the sheer cliffs that surrounded the Capitol Reef National Park. Didn’t matter how much time he spent in Southern Utah, he never got tired of the view. Phone guy was missing the light shifting into one of those perfect late fall sunsets that made the early dusk worth the loss of daylight. Pink streaks mingled with gray sky to cast a rosy glow over the scrubby grass and low fence of the dog area.
Rowwwr. Ulysses flopped at Noah’s feet, a deep beseeching whine rattling out of his barrel chest. He was eighty pounds of unhappy. He’d waited patiently all afternoon while Noah worked, and now he was missing out on his ball time thanks to the teacup gatekeeper.
“Okay, but play nice.” Noah threw the ball hard with the chucker toy, going for enough distance to outstrip the tiny dog’s ability to keep up with Ulysses. Not surprisingly, the little guy was tenacious, cutting off Ulysses’s path to the ball. Ulysses gave a warning woof, and Noah broke into a run, heading after the dogs.
“Down,” he called out. Ulysses wouldn’t attack the smaller dog, but he wasn’t above a major tantrum. And despite the smaller dog acting as instigator, people would see the huge black dog and toss out the “aggressor” label. Noah preferred to exercise him late in the day—Ulysses simply didn’t enjoy playing with other dogs, and Noah wasn’t one to force his dog into uncomfortable situations.
The little dog stood over the ball, yapping up a storm while Ulysses barked and growled, ignoring Noah’s command to sit.
Finally, the owner hefted himself off the picnic bench.
“Pixel, baby, what are you doing?” the owner called in a melodic voice that didn’t inspire Noah’s confidence in the man’s ability to control his dog. “Did the big doggie scare you?”
Hah. Typical. Noah snorted. “Can you grab the ball?” He didn’t trust those little dog breeds—too quick to snap. He’d nearly been bitten trying to retrieve a ball more than once.
“Oh sure.” The guy reached under Pixel—typical cutesy name for an annoying dog—and delicately plucked the ball free, but instead of handing it to Noah, he gave it a toss, sending both dogs running.
Oh great. Noah let out a slow breath, little puffs of vapor in the crisp evening air that did nothing to defuse his tension.
“It’ll be okay.” The way-too-handsy guy patted the sleeve of Noah’s parka. “They just need to work it out. Pixel loves to play.”
Noah took a step to the side. Who did that? Touched complete strangers? But the guy kept up his friendly grin, not unlike his dog, who kept gamely chasing Ulysses. Ulysses won the race to the ball this time and hightailed it back to Noah. Not releasing his prize, he whined softly.
“Hey, boy. You got a toy?” The guy knelt to dog level and extended a hand, but instead of sniffing, Ulysses shook his head.
“Sorry. He’s not much on new people.” Neither am I. Noah’s voice sounded rough to his own ears—too many days with only Ulysses to talk to.
“It’s okay.” The guy straightened, then extended a hand to Noah. “I’m Adrian Gottlieb. You been at Capitol Reef long?”
“Couple of weeks.” He returned Adrian’s handshake, hating it when a little buzz shot up his arm. Unlike his own gloved hand, Adrian’s hand was bare, a hint of a tattoo playing peekaboo with his cuff, his grip strong and firm. And Noah had absolutely no business noticing anything more than the guy’s relentless friendliness.
Adrian smiled expectantly as he released Noah’s hand.
“Oh, I’m Noah. And that’s Ulysses,” he added, because dog people always wanted to know all about the dog. No doubt the guy was bursting to tell Pixel’s life story.
“Add-dreeee-an,” a heavily accented voice called from the gate. A beefy guy close to Noah’s age leaned on the fence, bald head gleaming in the setting sun. “I’m lonely. When are you coming back?”
“Coming,” Adrian shouted, then gave Noah a shrug with a “what can you do?” expression on his face. He grabbed Pixel and jogged across the field.
Noah nodded like he knew anything about handling demanding friends. Adrian greeted the mammoth dude with a quick peck. Okay then. Not a friend. He should have guessed, but he was a bit slow about relationship stuff. The country was changing, even way out here, but no one would dare try even that much PDA in his tiny West Texas college town. His stomach gave a weird flip—not quite discomfort, but something else he refused to name. Time to return his attention to Ulysses. He hurled the tennis ball as hard as he could.
About the Author
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.
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 toddlers.
Represented by Saritza Hernandez of the Corvisiero Literary Agency