Tough Luck
Grade : B-

The first in her new A-List Security series, Annabeth Albert’s Tough Luck contains many of the elements I enjoy about her stories – well-crafted principals with depth and charm, steamy, well-written sex scenes ,and wonderful communication - yet despite all those things, the book and I didn’t quite ‘click’.  It’s a quiet , low-angst story about two people figuring out who they are and who they want to be – and it’s superbly done –  but I think I’ve read so many low-angst books over the last couple of years that I’m starting to feel kinda ‘fluffed out’.  So YYMV.  I remain a big fan of the author’s, I enjoyed the book and will continue with the series, but it’s not one of my favourites.

Thirty-eight-year-old former SEAL Cash Ewrin is at something of a loose end.  After twenty years in the service, he’s still finding his feet in Civvy Street and is temporarily staying with his best friend and former lieutenant Duncan Lubov while he works out what he wants to do next.  Cash is erring on the side of taking a long road-trip, although Duncan is trying to persuade him to work for A-List Security, the firm he founded with another buddy after leaving the military.

Duncan’s younger brother (half-brother) Danny Love is twenty-five and has spent most of his life in front of a camera in one way or another.  In his teens and early-twenties, he was the star of a hugely popular TV show, and the years under the spotlight and rigid control of his parents took their toll and saw him  eventually running with the wrong crowd and headlong into addiction.  Now though, he’s sober and working hard to stay that way; he’s given up acting and is taking some time to breathe and to figure out who he really is and what he wants to do with the rest of his life.

But fame is never all it’s cracked up to be, and despite his ‘retirement’, Danny is being stalked.   He’s  trying to play it down as just some daft superfan, but Duncan isn’t about to let it go; he’s off to Toronto on a job though, and asks Cash if he’ll keep an eye on Danny while he’s gone.  Of course, Cash agrees, although he makes it clear to Duncan that this doesn’t mean he’s ready to sign up for a regular gig as a bodyguard.

Cash arrives at Daniel’s house (to find him doing naked yoga in the back garden!) and is dismayed at the lack of security measures around the place.  He’s also dismayed – or maybe confused – at his reaction to his best friend’s little brother – who isn’t so little any more.  After finding a dead rat in a trap, with a note saying “Miss me?” on the front porch, Cash decides a trip to the home store to buy some basic home security equipment is a must – at least until Duncan’s guys can fix up something more state-of-the -art.  But on returning home, Danny receives a DM full of photos taken inside the house while they were out – and that’s it.  Cash needs to get Danny out of there while the police try to find whoever is responsible, so they make for the remote cabin belonging to Harley, another of Cash and Duncan’s SEAL buddies.

Spending time in close proximity gives Cash and Danny the opportunity to find out things about each other – and themselves – that they hadn’t known or had the chance to find out before.  Following a difficult childhood where he never felt safe enough to do anything other than survive from day to day, Cash went straight into the Navy, where he made a point of never thinking about his sexuality – too difficult and too risky.  But being around Danny 24/7 heightens the pull of attraction he’s been experiencing since they met, and Danny is only too pleased to help Cash to figure himself out; encouraging but giving him space when he needs it.

Even though Danny has always known he’s gay and has had plenty of sexual partners, being with Cash is new for him, too, that thing, that sense of connection he always felt was missing suddenly slotting into place when they’re together.  I liked that he finally gets to experience so many of the mundane things we all learn to do as we grow up – cooking, laundry,  learning to drive, going shopping;  growing up as a child actor meant Danny never got to do all the ‘regular stuff’ and it’s fun watching him learning to adult.  He’s only recently been diagnosed with ADHD and Cash struggles with insomnia; both of them work on finding healthy ways to deal with their conditions and the way they help and support each other – and especially how Cash helps Danny to see that he doesn’t need rescuing, that he’s strong enough on his own – is lovely.

One of the other things I always appreciate about Annabeth Albert’s books is that she often writes about characters who are discovering their sexuality at different times of life or adapting to significant life events and changes; couples who put in the effort to communicate and work out what intimacy means for them, and those elements of the story work very well.

But with all that said, I liked – but didn’t love – Tough Luck.  As I said at the beginning, I’m sure there are readers for whom this insightful and well-executed blend of bodyguard/best friend’s little brother romance will work really well – I was just hoping for something with a little more grit. But that’s on me; if you’re looking for a low-conflict romance that’s both sweet and sexy,  it’s worth checking out.

Buy it at: Amazon

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Reviewed by Caz Owens
Grade : B-

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : March 25, 2022

Publication Date: 03/2022

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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