Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Annabeth Albert - Level Up

Landon can’t believe he’s let himself get roped into participating in a charity calendar, let alone one that features tastefully photographed nudes. The genius physicist is hardly model material, and he’s dreading the nude part of the photoshoot. Amid his reluctance, the one bright spot is his emails back and forth with the photographer.
However, Bailey turns out to be not exactly what Landon expects, and their first meeting is decidedly awkward. Bailey’s persistent though, and gradually Landon warms to the burly photographer, and they discover they have a shared love of gamer culture.
A tentative friendship is born, but the road from friends to lovers isn’t easy. Landon’s battling past trauma and must decide how much of a risk he’s willing to take. A sexy connection may not be enough to keep them together unless both are willing to put their hearts on the line.

Comment: This is the last installment in the gaymers series by Annabeth Albert, which I have been reading for the past months. This is a very loosely connected novella, in fact, and not a full length story. I think this ended up affecting my enjoyment of it.

In this novella we meet Landon, a professor who is asked to be a model for a charity calendar and the photographer is someone Landon exchanged emails with, so he is eager but anxious to meet face to face. That is why he gets quite a surprise for he thought Bailey was actually a female and although that doesn't change the fact he had liked to flirt with Bailey in the emails, he now feels very awkward. It's not he might not like Bailey for being a man but the fact he is burly is a turn of for him.
Bailey has also liked to flirt by email and he thought there were enough clues online for Landon to have figured out he was male but he can't help being disappointed by his reaction upon meeting at last. Still, their shared interests have to count and gaming is one of them, so when the opportunity to spend more time with Landon arises, he doesn't say no. But are they really on the same page when it comes to want to be in a relationship after all?

I was expecting the connection between this novella and the other books in the series to be more obvious. It turned out there isn't but that wasn't such a negative aspect in the end. The loose references to the game and one or two familiar characters was enough and I was ready to just like these two guys for their own worth.

I guess that is where the big issue (for me) happened, because I struggled to like these two together. I saw other reviews out there where readers pointed out better than me why this felt this way but to summarize, the kind of issues they both have, Landon in particular, to address in order to be a solid couple weren't dealt with in the best way. I think Landon ended up being a bit too stiff in how he engaged with Bailey, even though one can accept his reserve.

The thing is, Landon has had a traumatic experience with someone physically similar to Bailey and he can't help but reacting in certain situations. I can understand this and I think it's quite realistic we don't always follow a pattern when it comes to personal ways of dealing with things, so I can accept Landon's uniqueness. What is more complicated to accept is how he fails to explain this properly to Bailey and when he finally does, he doesn't want to compromise, putting Bailey in an unfair situation of having to measure up to something he can't control.

I think it's great for the author to add content to her stories to make us think about all the many possibilities which can arise in a relationship but this is also a romance. I would expect something romantic and something to make Landon want to find a way to cope, especially by doing therapy or something. I think the sort of eureka moment at the end when he finally thinks about Bailey's feelings on the whole thing, come a bit too late - and conveniently - for the story to wrap up. In a full length story, for instance, I can imagine the relationship would have more pages to feel it was "maturing" and their decisions to feel more natural.

As for their personalities, I think we got to have a pretty good idea about who they were and all that but to be honest, I still think there was this lack of instant connection which didn't seem obvious in the other stories. I really have to conclude the lack of pages made a difference here. Still, this was good enough to read but it didn't reach the level (snort*) of the previous installments.
Grade: 6/10

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