Level Up: #Gaymers Book 4, Annabeth Albert

Level Up (#gaymers Book 4) by [Albert , Annabeth]

Sweet, awkward, difficult, endearing.  Both Bailey and Landon are made for one another but their future will only happen if they can find it in themselves to take a risk, face their fear, and just be together.

Sometimes is as simple as that.  Other times it's not.  Landon has a heap of baggage keeping him from moving forward with Bailey.  Well, with anyone really.  When his assumptions about who Bailey is are proven false he's immediately on the defensive.  But it's not really because he's disappointed or upset, it's more because his body and head are now at war.  His baggage is what he has to battle to give in to the promise of love with a good man.

Bailey is eager to meet Landon.  In getting to know one another through emails he's more than just attracted to him.  Their first meeting is a bit of a struggle.  Posing nude for a calendar and realizing that the man you're crushing on was expecting a woman...not exactly a recipe for a successful relationship.  But if he's patient, he just might find the love of a lifetime.

 Level Up: #gaymers Book 4, Annabeth Albert

They both have what the other person needs.  I loved Landon's bumbling apology and explanation of why he did what he did as well as why they could and should be together.  He used both geek-speak and heartfelt explanations to describe all the why's.  Seeing his heart laid bare after seeing just how amazing their chemistry is you can't not root for them.

The evolution of the relationship played out well in the length of the story with most of the exposition being adequately covered and were well-placed and concisely described.  Both men were likable and together they were both sweetly-awkward and passionate.  I loved that there wasn't a "magically cured" moment, it was a much more real, accessible, and believable story because of the lack of one.  This was a short story so there isn't a lot of drawn out angsting or reconciliation but it's no less moving than if it had had another 20,000 words or more.  Absolutely enjoyable.

$2.99 on Amazon!
 Level Up: #Gaymers Book 4, Annabeth Albert

Merciless: Merciless Duet Book 1, Willow Winters

Merciless by [Winters, W., Winters, Willow]

Two words.  Stockholm Syndrome.  Not Okay.  Inappropriate Relationship.  Disturbing Methods.  ...take your pick, they all fit this story.  Was the story good?  It's very well written and most of the characters we've met in previous stories and therefore have a bit of background.  Aside from that I'm not sure I could really sink deep into this story without some serious red flags, icky feelings, and extreme reservations.  Is the relationship believable?  Umm...yes?  I mean, Stockholm Syndrome is a real thing, it's been known to happen, documented cases of relationships forming because of forced captivity.  So yes, I can believe a relationship would form under these circumstances.  Does that translate into a lasting and true romantic relationship that could have formed without the captivity and breaking of wills?  No.  I don't buy it.

So we have Carter, the eldest brother in the Cross family.  He inherited a role he never wanted but still took to it like a duck to water.  We meet him briefly when we get Daniel and Addison's story, Possessive, and we see someone cold at the top but has a heart for his family.  What we're "tempted" with here is a man without a heart.  Someone stone cold with no heart at all.  He was forced to be this kind of man and yet he appears to embrace it with all of himself.  And yet there's the hope for that cold, cold heart...

Aria Talvery is a casualty of war.  At least that's what everyone thinks she'll be.  And they're all partially right.  Because of the violent interactions between the gangs in their area she's been hiding and now stolen in the name of brokering alliances and negotiations.  She's vulnerable, scared, and lonely.  Her loyalty is to her father despite knowing what he is and what he does.  When her world is turned upside down and she finds herself at the mercy of a merciless man, it'll take an inner strength she has neglected over the years.  If she can't find the strength she won't just submit, she'll break beyond repair.

The story takes a really long time to get anywhere.  Like, a really, really long time.  A lot of it is the plodding of time and the setup for betrayals, gang rivalries, emotional motivations, cryptic backstory, a few points of narrative exposition, and a whole lot of the disheartening inner monologues from both characters.  I find Aria shallow and weak.  Add in the whole Stockholm business and we've got a shell of a woman who had potential, a girl with a couple of interesting points that could have been developed but haven't been as of yet.  And Carter.  I wanted so much to like him.  To see something more than the incessant assurances that he's a horrible man who only wants to break Aria for his sexual use.  There's a whole evolution that we're not getting, in fact, we are barely getting any hints of one on the horizon in the sequel, Heartless, to be coming soon.

Overall I found the story slow-moving, extremely disturbing, the characters seemingly nonredeemable and quite unremarkable, and the "war" to be one that might never come to fruition.  With a severe lack of transparency for the audience, us the readers, despite getting both points of view, I'm finding it difficult to want to continue the story.  I probably will because I'm a little bit of a glutton for punishment.  If only to get more of the siblings so I can have something to look forward to as the Cross brothers each get their own book.  So I didn't hate the story, but I didn't like it ether.

$3.99 on Amazon
 Merciless: Merciless Duet Book 1, Willow Winters

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