Wednesday, May 16, 2018

ARC Review: Level Up by Annabeth Albert

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 ends up being not quite 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.

Dani's rating:

I'm Annabeth Albert's biggest fangirl. Her stories are the perfect blend of spicy and sweet. But, sadly, this book lacked any sort of oomph to make it stand out.

Level Up is a novella about a physics professor and photographer, both gaming geeks, who meet at a photo shoot. Bailey and Landon flirt virtually for weeks before they meet. Landon, about to take his clothes off for a charity calendar, is fully prepared to meet Bailey, the petite, pink-haired girl who often appears on Bailey's Instagram and who Landon assumes is Bailey.

But Bailey is not a girl. He's a guy, a big, burly, bearded guy with a kind heart and infectious smile. Unfortunately for Bailey, who's nursing a massive crush, Landon doesn't like big men. Oh, he likes men; he's bi. But he was assaulted in college and carries a fear of being held down and overpowered.

This is a slow burn story with plenty of heat. Bailey and Landon bond over late-night gaming sessions and nipple play. But Landon is reluctant to go further lest he have a panic attack when Bailey tries to kiss or cuddle him, even though Bailey is incredibly patient and doesn't push Landon into anything.

Honestly, I never warmed up to Landon. I was sympathetic to his past trauma, but his unwillingness to give Bailey a chance was really obnoxious. I was scratching my head wondering what Bailey saw in Landon, who pushed him away constantly and was really kind of a jerk. I kept forgetting that Landon, as a professor, had to be close to 30. He acted more like a college student.

There is a side plot involving Landon and Bailey's best friends, Savannah and Rachel, who begin a romance of their own. I didn't think this added much to the story and got kind of impatient with the whole thing.

For a novella, Level Up has fairly well developed characters and a shiny, if tentative, HEA. It's a cute story, but I wasn't particularly invested in the MCs or their romance. I was missing that zing.

Available soon.


Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?
~Henry Ward Beecher

An ARC of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. Download links are provided as a courtesy and do not constitute an endorsement of or affiliation with the book, author, publisher, or website listed.

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