Thursday, May 17, 2018

Level Up by Annabeth Albert Release Blitz


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.

Approximately 40,000 words. Previously released as part of the Exposed anthology, and loosely linked to the #gaymers universe, this friends-to-lovers, hurt/comfort story stands alone with a guaranteed happy ending. Contains a brief mention of a prior assault, but no on-screen violence or flashbacks.

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Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
~  Available with KindleUnlimited  ~




Bailey was the type who moved a lot as he gamed, biceps flexing, knees wiggling, shoulders jostling. Landon always liked people who got so into gaming, but it was more than a little distracting. His body was quickly coming to associate that orange scent of Bailey’s with good things, and other parts of him apparently liked Bailey’s nearness, which was a novelty because instead of intimidated, as he would have expected, he was more than a little turned on.

“Oh man, that was a rush.” Bailey laughed as both of their health meters dipped to zero. “I’m almost wishing I’d gone into game art, not photography. Amazing how these graphics have held up over the years.”

“Totally. And speaking of art, let me find the Space Villager stuff.” Landon reluctantly stepped away from the game. He headed to the nearby kitchen, where he was pretty the papers were buried with a stack of mail. Paper control was not his strong suit. “You’ll go nuts at the latest screen shots and promo teasers.”

“Cool.” Rather than follow Landon, Bailey went to sit on the couch.

“You want a drink while I’m in here?” Landon called to him after he found the papers under a pile of pizza ads. “I’ve got four flavors of Snapple, soda, and water.”

“Surprise me with a Snapple flavor.” Bailey looked right at home on Landon’s couch, lounging back.

He really did not look at all like any photographer Landon had ever met, and curiosity had him asking, “So why photography? You said you could have done game design?”

“Yeah, I had plenty of friends at the art institute go that direction. But I’ve been in love with photography ever since I worked on our middle school yearbook. I figured out quickly that taking pictures of events and sports was far more fun than trying to do the sports myself, so I did yearbook all through high school, got a photography scholarship to the art institute in Portland.”

“So you don’t play a sport?” Landon had a hard time believing that. With Bailey’s height and breadth, he totally looked like he lived for weekend games of some type.

“Nope. Hopelessly uncoordinated.” Bailey shot him an endearing smile when Landon handed him the bottle of tea.

“Me too.” Landon clinked bottles with him, then held up the papers. “Found the codes. But can I show you some stuff on the TV screen while you have your drink?”

“Absolutely.” Bailey took a long swig of tea, and Landon had to look away before he got mesmerized by Bailey’s full mouth, how it looked when his tongue chased a stray drop of moisture, how pink it was in contrast to his paler skin and brown beard.

Landon queued up the pre-release trailer Josiah had sent him a link to. Bombastic music filled his small living room as on the screen, and a spaceship pulled in for a landing on a planet filled with ruins of a once-powerful civilization. The narrator had an iconic voice and detailed all the special features of the expansion pack. Landon had already watched this a half-dozen times, and it still gave him happy chills.

“Wow. I can’t wait.” Bailey looked suitably awed. “This is even cooler than when War Elf added the mystic raids.”

“I know, right? Now look at the in-game screen shots.” He brought up another video, body relaxing more and more despite Bailey’s nearness. It was just so awesome to have someone new to share this with. He’d been hyped about this all week, but Pike was distracted by his boyfriend Zack’s deployment, Savannah didn’t game much, and the rest of his regular crew seemed to have other things occupying their attention.

Somehow, as he shared more video clips, he drifted closer to Bailey, so that their knees were almost rubbing. It wasn’t a giant couch, so there wasn’t a ton of room to move back, but even so, Landon wasn’t looking for an escape. He was aware of Bailey, very much so, but not nearly as freaked out as he’d been a few hours ago. Instead, his senses seemed to soak up Bailey’s scent and nearness, and it wasn’t until the fourth or fifth video that he realized that he was aroused.

Clink. Somehow Landon’s left hand, holding his drink, and Bailey’s right hand tangled.

“Oops.” He tried to extricate himself without spilling both beverages. Bending to put his on the floor, he hadn’t realized that Bailey had also leaned down until their heads collided.

“Ow,” they said simultaneously.

“Oh my gosh. I’m so sorry.” Bailey reached out, feeling around on Landon’s head. “Did you see stars? Break the skin?”

“I’m fine.” Landon didn’t pull away. Bailey’s hand felt damn nice. Gentle. Soothing more than just the bump on his head. Their eyes met, and he really needed to move back, break this spell, but he didn’t, instead leaning into to the touch. Bailey’s eyes darkened, and he stroked down Landon’s jaw. God, that felt so good, like an extra blanket on a chilly night, warmth he hadn’t realized he was missing. How long had it been since he’d been touched like this? Hugged, sure. He’d hugged Savannah goodnight, and hugged and wrestled around with his best friend Pike at the last LAN party, but neither of those things was touch like this. Caring. Sweet. Arousing.

Bailey leaned in again, way slower this time, all the time in the world for Landon to stop him. But he didn’t. Bailey’s beard tickled an instant before their lips met, a soft slide of mouths. Not aggressive at all, not the on-a-tight-schedule rush of a hookup, Bailey kissed like they had a sleepy Sunday afternoon to kill, like each reaction of Landon’s mattered, like he was trying to memorize something important and was going to take his time learning the lesson.

Landon was the first one to take things further, mouth opening on a sigh, welcoming Bailey’s agile tongue. He tasted sweet, like tea, and minty like the gum he’d popped after the pizza, familiar yet new at the same time. How had he managed to forget how awesome kissing could be? A laugh bubbled up in his chest, but quickly transformed to a groan of pleasure as Bailey nipped at his lower lip.

Not content to let Bailey be the one exploring, Landon sent his own tongue on a quest, tracing Bailey’s full lower lip, delving inside to rub tongues, retreating playfully to earn another nip. Fuck. This was nice. The video switched over to something random, and he barely registered it. He couldn’t say how long they kissed, just that he didn’t want it to ever end.




Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Erica☆☆☆☆
Level Up is a story set in the #gaymers universe but can easily be read as a standalone.

*trying to be spoiler-free*

With a small cast of characters, Annabeth Albert puts the focus solely on the couple, centering on their budding romance, with nothing else muddying up their evolving relationship. This created a full story within a novella.

While there is instantaneous lust on Bailey's part, the story has more of a slow-building friendship, which creates trust and intimacy. Almost a hurt-comfort type read, adding layers of realism to the couple's relationship.

Dark events have caused Landon to have panic attacks, specific to Bailey's 'type.' This adds both layers of angst and emotion to the novella. There's no cure-all for Landon, but Bailey is patient.

Even with a darker undertone, I found Level Up to be light, quick, and warm and fuzzy. Perfect for a hot bubble bath, which is exactly where I read the novella.

What is a pro for me may be a con for another reader: obviously, with the title of the book, one knows to expect gamer-speak. I found this a novelty, seeing games I've played in the past (Gauntlet brought back memories). For those who don't/never have gamed, some gamer-speak may go over their heads or may cause them to skim. I don't know why, but I felt the need to point this out.

I highly recommend for those looking for sweet and heartwarming MM romance.


Sarah☆☆☆☆
This is and quirky addition to the #gaymers series. There are sparks from the start between physicist Landon and photographer Bailey, but distance and past trauma make a relationship between them difficult.

There are so many things I really liked about this relatively short story. I loved Landon’s easy bisexuality. I appreciated the author’s sensitive and realistic approach to the long-term effects of sexual assault. I loved the geeky friendship between Bailey and Landon. I loved the glimpses of Bailey and Landon’s professional lives and I loved their friends.

This is a feel-good romance between two characters who feel very new adult – even if they are actually a bit older. Their West Coast Millennial world is well observed and very familiar. Although it deals with the heavy topic of sexual assault, there is also a light and playful feel to much of the story.


Ruthie☆☆☆☆
This is a very enjoyable novella which has some links to characters in other Ms. Albert's series. It could definitely be read as a standalone but was richer to me for having read the #gaymers books and the first of the Out of Uniform books.

Landon's past has left him suffering from panic attacks and fear of large men, so Bailey is at an immediate disadvantage, given his size and gender, but he really falls for Landon. His patience, caring, and subtle seduction of the nervous but sexy man is very romantic and hot. I loved the honesty with which they spoke to each other, even when they surprised themselves.

I encourage you to read and enjoy the way that their future takes shape; it was refreshing to read a story which does not need a dramatic incident to cement the relationship.




Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer. The Out of Uniform series joins her critically acclaimed and fan-favorite LGBTQ romance #gaymers, Portland Heat and Perfect Harmony series.

Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two active children.

Connect with Annabeth

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Level Up (#gaymers Universe) by Annabeth Albert to read and review for this tour.

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