Title: Off Base (Out of Uniform: Book One)
Author: Annabeth Albert
Publisher: Carina Press
Length: 304 Pages
At a Glance: At a certain point, this book became the book I hoped it would be and I couldn’t put it down.
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: After trading the barracks for a fixer-upper rental, navy SEAL Zack Nelson wants peace, not a roommate—especially not Pike, who sees things about Zack he most wants to hide. Pike’s flirting puts virgin Zack on edge. And the questions Pike’s arrival would spark from Zack’s teammates about his own sexuality? Nope. Not going there. But Zack can’t refuse.
Pike Reynolds knows there won’t be a warm welcome in his new home. What can he say? He’s an acquired taste. But he needs this chance to get his life together. Also, teasing the uptight SEAL will be hella fun. Still, Pike has to tread carefully; he’s had his fill of tourists in the past, and he can’t risk his heart on another, not even one as hot, as built—and, okay, yeah, as adorable—as Zack.
Living with Pike crumbles Zack’s restraint and fuels his curiosity. He discovers how well they fit together in bed…in the shower…in the hallway… He needs Pike more than he could have imagined, yet he doesn’t know how to be the man Pike deserves.
Review: I was drawn to Off Base, Annabeth Albert’s newest novel, because I love her #gaymers series, but also because Navy SEALS. Who doesn’t love a man in uniform? I know I sometimes do. Though, being familiar with some of her other work, I hoped it wouldn’t be the typical macho, alpha military guy you find in some books out there. And, with it being a spinoff from the #gaymers universe—we met both Pike and Zack in Connection Error—I was, of course, also hoping for some cameos. Albert did end up delivering on both counts, but I have to admit I was a bit worried in the beginning.
Finished with his basic qualification training, Zack is sent to Coronado to train with his new team before their next deployment. The new team has some familiar faces, however, and they aren’t all friendly. One of the guys, Cobb, has a little ‘dirt’ on Zack. During basic training, he caught Zack giving his buddy Harper a lingering once-over in the shower, Zack’s body showing obvious signs of appreciation, and has been harassing and blackmailing him ever since. Cobb is a grade-A asshole. The kind of homophobic dickwad Zack does not need feeding all of his doubts and fears, and memories of childhood bullying. But, it isn’t only Cobb bringing the gay jokes and slurs. Zack’s good friend Harper shows his true colors once he finds out that Zack’s new roommate, Pike, is gay. And, Zack’s own internalized homophobia was so strong I didn’t know if he’d ever be able to like himself.
Things start to get better for Zack once he is able to distance himself a bit by scoring off-base housing. He makes a deal with his senior chief: free work on his fixer-upper in exchange for a place to stay. He doesn’t want to admit that the work is overwhelming him, but when he finds out that Pike has taken a new job in San Diego, and not only needs a place to live but has tons of experience doing house renovations, he reluctantly agrees to let Pike stay with him and help with the house.
Pike is fantastic. Known for being fun and flirty and sort of the life of the party, Pike is ready to slow down and show that he can be responsible. He wants to prove himself with his new teaching position, not only to his friends and his mom but to himself. I loved Pike’s character from the beginning. He is so patient and amazing with Zack. Watching him help Zack learn about and ultimately accept himself was fabulous. Zack was so unhappy with who he was, so terrified of anyone finding out he was gay, and had spent so long telling himself he wasn’t, it was sad. Pike wanted to help change all of that for him. I loved this bit from Zack:
“I just know that I’m so tired of hating myself every second of every day, and when I’m around you, I don’t hate me so much. I’ve spent the last year trying to make sense of me, but when I’m around you, it feels like the answer might actually be out there.”
The first half of the book was so packed with homophobia and Zack’s self-loathing and being relentlessly bullied by Cobb that it was tough for me to get into, and I felt like it dragged a little. That all turned around in the last third of the book, however. As Zack started to fall harder for Pike, he realized that he wanted to fight for the life he deserved. And, after a scary incident and some good advice from Ryan, he actually does begin to fight. That’s when things got gooood.
At a certain point, this book became the book I hoped it would be and I couldn’t put it down; I was rooting so hard for Zack and Pike toward the end of the story. I enjoyed what Albert did with the resolution for the trouble Zack had with his team, even though part of it might have seemed a bit tidy, and I really liked the new characters she introduced, one of whom is getting his own book in a few months! I’m glad I hopped on board with this new series, and will definitely be checking out Apollo’s book when it releases in April.
You can buy Off Base here: