Thursday, June 29, 2017

Annabeth Albert - Off Base

After trading the barracks for a fixer-upper rental, navy SEAL Zack Nelson wants peace, not a roommate—especially not Pike, who sees things about Zack he most wants to hide. Pike's flirting puts virgin Zack on edge. And the questions Pike's arrival would spark from Zack's teammates about his own sexuality? Nope. Not going there. But Zack can't refuse.
Pike Reynolds knows there won't be a warm welcome in his new home. What can he say? He's an acquired taste. But he needs this chance to get his life together. Also, teasing the uptight SEAL will be hella fun. Still, Pike has to tread carefully; he's had his fill of tourists in the past, and he can't risk his heart on another, not even one as hot, as built—and, okay, yeah, as adorable—as Zack.
Living with Pike crumbles Zack's restraint and fuels his curiosity. He discovers how well they fit together in bed…in the shower…in the hallway… He needs Pike more than he could have imagined, yet he doesn't know how to be the man Pike deserves.

Comment: I got this book after seeing several positive opinions around. This is the first book by the author I've tried and, in general, I liked the writing enough to feel interested in trying something else by her in the future.

In this book - the first of a spin off of the Gaymers series - we meet Zach Nelson, a young Navy Seal who silently suffers some bullying and harassment from a co worker, afraid he might tell others he was ogling a fellow military man, something Zach wasn't even aware of doing. Life at the base where he currently is with his team has become unbearable even more so because he can't think enough about his sexual preferences and hides himself from everyone.
Things start to change when Zach knows about a house his superior rents and immediately Zach accepts the chance to renovate it so as long he can live there. In comes Pike Reynolds, a friend of a friend who has always stirred Zach's attention, and who also needs a place to live now that he accepted a teaching job nearby.
Together, Zach and Pike don't seem to have much in common but the attraction and the blatant need Zach of a friend can be the beginning of something wonderful, as long as Zach can trust himself to accept and enjoy life as it is.

This was a very well thought story, in fact. I confess I wasn't expecting such a complex story, not much in terms of happenings and situations but the emotional aspect of Zach's struggles and the consequences of his little actions were quite engaging.
Zach is in a very uncomfortable position, I kept imagining what it must be like to be in a line of work where you not only need to pay attention to details so things don't go wrong but where you also need to trust those around you and to think Zach always had someone nearby who would not help him because he is gay (even if not out) seems quite suffocating. He also had problems with his over conservative parents who see him as a saint when his older brother has always been a black sheep. The sort of pressure put on him was a lot. On top of this, he tries to deny a side of him that alone might be bearable while he wasn't ready to deal with, but along with the other things, it got out of proportion as well. 

I did feel for Zach and his pain in not being able to control things was difficult to envision but I bet it's more common and realistic than we imagine. This was my favorite aspect of the plot. How realistic Zach's struggles were and how complicated it was for him to overcome everything. Even at the end, with a deserved HEA and the help of friends, his life wasn't simply solved but it got easier.

Zach's romantic interest is Pike, a man who is not afraid of being who he is, who has had a much different upbringing so his way of seeing things is different too. He's not obtuse, though. But I can also understand why it was not easy for him to just accept Zach's reluctance and fear of holding hands for instance. The romance was sweet and tender when necessary and I liked how both characters acted in a believable way but I also admit it was not always easy to see how quickly Zach decided to be with Pike in a situation where he was not at his best. For someone so afraid and shy... well, the romance had to start somehow, but it's not how I'd associate Zach's personality to a first step.

The professional situation that affects Zach is also solved but not before something very complicated happens. At this point of the novel some scenes had been just ok, others not as easy to accept considering the situation, others poignant and serious, like when Zach shares some of his fears.
Pike too needs to deal with a professional situation which can affect his being with Zach.
The way things ended was cute and believable enough and I felt glad they decided to be a team and trust one another completely.

Like I said, this was a complex story, in real life I bet it wouldn't be as easy to deal with everything we were told, but I still think this was a good story, some details I liked less, but a good one overall.
Grade: 8/10

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