Status Update
Grade : B+

I was a bit stuck for a book for this month’s “Furry Friends” prompt because I’m not really drawn to novels that feature animals as part of the storyline. I don’t avoid them or anything like that, but they’re not what attracts me to a book so I was starting to think that I might have to just pick a random title this month, when I realised that the book I was reading actually featured two dog-owners – Bingo!

Geoarchaeologist Noah Walters is coming to the end of his sabbatical from the small, ultra-conservative West Texas college at which he teaches. His home is his RV, which he shares with his dog, Ulysses, and when the story begins, he’s been parked up at one of his favourite sites in Utah for a couple of weeks while he finishes work on his book. The place is normally pretty peaceful, especially in winter, so he’s a bit irritated when the spot next to his is taken by another RV, and even moreso when he hears angry, raised voices coming from it one evening. He’d met one of its inhabitants – a bespectactled hipster type with broad shoulders and messy dark hair (whom Noah definitely does not find cute) – and his dog earlier in the day when he’d taken Ulysses to the dog park area.

California-based game designer Adrian Gottlieb is on his way to his sister’s wedding in Denver, pleased to be able to show up at a family event with a date in tow for once. But his plans hadn’t included a row with his new-ish boyfriend that ended with said boyfriend throwing him – and Pixel - out and driving off in a hissy fit. Everything – his wallet, his phone charger, his clothes, hell, even his shoes – are in the RV and he’s left in a field in the middle of November with only his shivering dog for company.

Noah freely admits he’s not great with people and much prefers his own company, but he’s not about to let Adrian (or his dog) freeze and invites them to stay with him and Ulysses overnight. Adrian had hoped that maybe his guy would return in the morning so he could at the very least get his stuff; when he doesn’t show up, Adrian realises he’s going to have to call his folks and mess up everyone’s Thanksgiving and wedding plans because he did something dumb and needs rescuing. It’s the last thing he wants to do; he’s already the oddball in his family of lawyers and accountants and doesn’t want to provide any more evidence that he’s one step away from a screwup. But he can’t put off the inevitable any longer and is preparing to make the call - when Noah (clearly surprising both of them) offers to take him to Denver.

There’s an immediate attraction between the pair and their relationship develops quickly – over a week or so – but because the author builds their connection so skilfully, there’s no whiff of the instalove about Adrian and Noah’s romance. Noah is deeply closeted, having sacrificed any prospect of love and happiness in favour of keeping his tenure-track job at a very conservative college, and has spent most his life (he’s thirty-five) ruthlessly ignoring the fact that he’s gay. He immediately recognises the threat Adrian represents to his peace of mind and ordered life, and is unsure how to act around him; the man’s upbeat, chatty confidence is somewhat overwhelming and his openness and obvious comfort in his sexuality is completely outside Noah’s experience. But they find common ground in a mutual love of classic sci-fi and video games, and it turns out that Adrian is one of the developers on Space Villager, which is one of Noah’s favourites. This eventually leads to them opening up more, talking about themselves, their lives, jobs and families, and when Adrian realises that Noah is attracted to him (but is working hard to suppress it), he starts to very gently coax him out of his shell, suggesting that maybe they could make the most of the privacy offered by their road trip. Noah has never acted on his attraction to men and never thought he would, but realising this short time with Adrian could be his only chance to make some memories to keep him warm for the rest of what will undoubtedly be a solitary, celibate life, he decides to go for it. The sex is everything he could have imagined and more, but just as importantly, he enjoys the companionship of being around another person, finally admitting to himself how much he would love to have someone in his life to wake up to, cook for, walk the dog with and just… be with.

Adrian describes himself as the “king of the long-distance relationship” – his few serious boyfriends have all lived far away, so the physical closeness he’s sharing with Noah is new to him, too. This is what he’s always wanted from a relationship – not just sex (although having that is great, too!) but having someone around who shares his passions and interests and who just… gets him. But very soon – too soon – they’ll have to go their separate ways, and even if Adrian is prepared to do the long-distance thing again, there’s no way Noah can have a boyfriend and keep his job.

Annabeth Albert is one of my go-to authors when I’m after a lower-angst read with a strong focus on the characters and the central relationship. Her books aren’t ‘flashy’ or action-packed, but they’re never dull; there’s warmth, humour and real people with real life problems to be found within the pages of her stories, and the conflict is organic to who her characters are and the situations in which they find themselves. My heart broke for Noah, that such a good, kind man felt he had no alternative but to live a half-life because of the intolerance of others, and for Adrian, too, as he finally works out what he really wants only for it to seem unattainable. But I loved how persistent he is – he’s never pushy and always makes sure Noah is 100% on board with what’s going on in the bedroom – and how, when he realises that slow and steady is the way to conquer Noah’s heart, he’s absolutely determined to win the battle, “one millimeter at a time.”

The personalities of the two furry friends in this story – Ulysses and Pixel – are fun reflections of their owners. Ulysses is an older, large dog (I don’t know if his breed is ever mentioned) who is a bit nervous around other dogs while Pixel, a ‘teacup’ breed, is outgoing and exuberant. They’re on the page a lot and its clear they’re very well-loved, but they never overwhelm the story.

Status Update is a charming, heartfelt and sexy romance featuring two likeable characters who, while very different, are clearly perfect for each other. I don’t know how I missed reading this series when it first came out, but I’m definitely going to be making time to read the other two #gaymers books.

Reviewed by Caz Owens
Grade : B+

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : February 21, 2024

Publication Date: 12/2015

Recent Comments …

Caz Owens

I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two gorgeous young women who are without doubt, my finest achievement :)I’ve gravitated away from my first love – historical romance – over the last few years and now read mostly m/m romances in a variety of sub-genres. I’ve found many fantastic new authors to enjoy courtesy of audiobooks - I probably listen to as many books as I read these days – mostly through glomming favourite narrators and following them into different genres.And when I find books I LOVE, I want to shout about them from the (metaphorical) rooftops to help other readers and listeners to discover them, too.
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