Review: Squared Away (Book #5: Out of Uniform Series) by Annabeth Albert

Squared AwayIn 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.

Review. Text on the string. Conceptual 3d image

Source: Netgalley, Overdrive Audio/Public Library, and Purchase

My Rating: 4½/5 stars

Mark Whitley’s world has imploded, and it didn’t even happen during an op.  Thanks to a great deal of reckless behavior, Mark’s sister and brother-in-law are now dead and their three children are in need of a proper guardian.  As medic for his SEAL team, Mark has no idea how he’s going to balance being a SEAL and a dad.  He’s going to need a ton of help, and where that help comes from is perhaps as exciting as it is uncomfortable. 

Isaiah James simply can’t understand why no one considers him a proper guardian for his cousin’s children.  Even when their parents were alive, Isaiah spent much of his time looking after the kids, seeing to their needs and wants, and falling hopelessly in love with each of the little monsters.  Though Isaiah is technically related to the kids, he is young and his days of partying and playing the field have, unfortunately preceded him, making his case for custody a hard sell.

As expected, the legalities of custody are difficult, but the difficulties are compounded by competing wills and a large, large sum of money that will, eventually go to the children.  Everyone seems to want a piece of the pie with only Mark and Isaiah having any real interest in the welfare of the children.  With virtually no experience around children, Mark is like a fish out of water and would be totally screwed if it weren’t for Isaiah.  Isaiah is patient, kind, and fiercely loyal to the children.  He makes no secret of his desire to continue raising them and is willing to go to any length to secure their custody.  Mark likes the idea of having Isaiah around for the children, but his presence, in every other way forces Mark to confront his own feelings and issues related to his sexuality.  In all, Mark and Isaiah’s lives are one huge, hot mess!

The Bottom Line:  Once again, Annabeth Albert has made me fall in love with her Out of Uniform series!  One of the things I have always, always liked and respected about this series is the number of totally realistic scenarios and obstacles the men in these books must face.  Albert creates real world situations, some truly terrible, that these men must navigate while also trying to sort out their relationship.  Yeah, it’s real life, but with two men, and, in this case, three adorable children.  Mark and Isaiah don’t have an easy road to their HEA, but they do find ways to help one another, to support one another, to rely on one another, and, most importantly to love one another.  This isn’t an easy read given all the drama spawned by the death of Mark’s sister, Mark’s own terribly confused and conflicted feelings, and Isaiah’s desire to be taken seriously.  This story, and the series as a whole still has a variety and freshness I very much appreciate.  Until those qualities wane of disappear, I am absolutely committed to the men of the Out of Uniform series.

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