Tag Team Review: Squared Away (Out of Uniform #5) by Annabeth Albert

In 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.


Adam - 3.5 Hearts

From the first page it’s clear that Mark and Isaiah are complete opposites. Mark is a one-man fortress - stoic and completely self-reliant. Isaiah has more of a wild personality, preferring fun and living life in the moment.

These differences make it hard for the two to understand each other. Their relationship is made more difficult by the fact that Mark rejected Isaiah at a wedding six years ago, something neither man has forgotten.

But despite this history, the two pull it together for their nieces and nephew. The circumstances that bring them together are heartbreaking, but both men know that they have to put the kids first.

Grief is interwoven throughout the book, though it never becomes overwhelming. It’s a realistic depiction, showing how life has to move forward, regardless of the situation.

In working through their grief and trying to do what’s best for the children, the two MCs begin leaning on each other for support. It’s a shaky truce which slowly becomes a real friendship. Isaiah’s attentive to the pressures of Mark’s work as a SEAL, while Mark’s well-aware of the work Isaiah puts in to take care of the kids.

I really liked seeing how Isaiah and Mark began, and the kids, built a family as the story progressed. The kids play a big part in the book. They’re what bind the two MCs together, and a lot of the page time is devoted to them.

But that doesn’t mean the romance is lacking. It’s mellow and builds slowly, but the two MCs just click, building on years of secret pining.

Part of the reason the romance moves slowly is because of Mark’s sexuality - he’s both demisexual and grey ace. It makes for a different relationship experience, but both men are patient and take things step by step.

However, I could have done with less miscommunication or lack of communication between the MCs. It just got too repetitive at a point. Also, while I could understand Mark’s struggle, the hot-and-cold routine didn’t win him any favours.

That being said, I thought the happy ever after was really sweet. I was glad to see Mark, Isaiah, and their kids get the sunshine and roses they deserved!

Overall, this was an enjoyable read. If you’re looking for a slow MM romance with strong themes of family, I’d give ‘Squared Away’ a try.

SheReadsALot - 4 Hearts

Back in again more Annabeth Albert and I am not tired of this series yet!

Squared Away can be read as a standalone. It features not only an ace MC but a biracial MC as well. If you've followed along in the series, Isaiah (secondary character from book #2 - At Attention) the sex positive roommate has harbored a crush on his cousin's brother-in-law, Mark aka Wizard. The two have a rocky start and years passed. They hear about each other in passing but a tragedy brings them together. Both end up guardians for three kids (Isaiah's cousin's and Mark's sister's kids).

Second chance, sexual discovery, grief and men with kids... the themes are all in the win pile for me.

I loved this blended family. The kids weren't annoying. The love was very apparent for the kids. The men have to learn how to be a family on their own terms while having to deal with grieving, outside opposition from family members. Plus, Isaiah would definitely fall in the new adult category. He's younger and still figuring his life out. Committing to passion is a bit of a problem for him. But the one thing that he doesn't flit from? Those kids.

The romance is a slow burn of sorts. And it fits the characters especially with Mark's background in relationships. Each intimate scene was meaningful and passionate. The kissing was really, really good.

Why not 5 Hearts? Isaiah has no problem with Mark being demisexual and not being out. He said the right words to Mark, he did the right actions...mostly. There was a point in the book where he was upset that Mark wasn't more demonstrative. It was like he took 2 steps forward and 1 step back. He said he understood. Why was he rushing Mark?

The book wasn't too angst heavy. There were more internal struggles and a bit of miscommunication (more of not telling the other the full story/plans regarding the future)

And as I loved Dylan (MC of At Attention), the bits of him showing up again made this reader happy.

A recommended read for readers who enjoy slow burn, kids and second chance.

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