Friday, April 30, 2021

Up in Smoke by Annabeth Albert

Are they playing house... Or making a family of their own?

Three Men and a Baby meets Backdraft with explosive chemistry and heartfelt feels.

Freewheeling smoke jumper Brandt Wilder thrives on adrenaline. He’s never met a parachute he can’t repair or a dangerous situation he couldn’t wrangle his way out of. He’s popular and fun-loving and not at all looking to settle down or form lasting relationships. It’s a lifestyle that’s served him well… right up until the day he finds a baby on his doorstep.

Shane Travis is used to putting his country music career—and his own happiness—on hold after his sister rolls through his life. Like last spring when she convinced him to try skydiving for his birthday—and she walked away with the hot parachute instructor.

Now he gets to deliver the piece of news that will upend Brandt’s carefree life: he very well might be a dad.

Shane’s niece is safe in Brandt’s strong, capable hands, but too many questions remain unanswered. Co-parenting while they sort it out leads to late-night talks, and soul-bearing confessions lead to a most inconvenient attraction. Still, Shane can’t leave this makeshift family behind—even if it means playing house with the one man he can’t resist.

Don’t miss our reviews of the rest of the Hotshots series!
For book one, Burn Zone, click HERE.
For book two, High Heat, click HERE.
For book three, Feel the Fire, click HERE.


Add to Goodreads


Up in Smoke by Annabeth Albert

Book 4
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
B&N  ~  Google Play  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo
Audiobook (US)  ~  Paperback (US)
Carina Press (HQN)




Brandt’s deep chuckle rumbled straight through Shane. Damn. This was torture. Then the other man wrapped an arm around Shane, positioning his muscled forearm where Shane could see his fancy-looking watch gadget. “Now this is my altimeter. It tells me when we’re at five thousand feet and ready to deploy the chute.”

“Got it.” Shane wasn’t about to study that meaty arm any more than he absolutely had to.

“Okay, it’s go time.” Dallas’s voice echoed though the room. Brandt quickly unclipped them, but as soon as he stepped away, Shane’s pulse kicked up. Maybe he couldn’t do this. Jump out of a plane? Who was he kidding? He was a ground dweller, through and through.

Right when he was about to turn away, though, Brandt grabbed his biceps. “Nerves hitting you? Trust me. You’ll be just fine. I haven’t lost a jumper yet.”

Shane barked out a laugh. “Not exactly making me feel better.”

“Listen, I can tell you all day about how awesome this is.” Brandt looked him dead in the eyes, gaze serious for once, all his charm turned to raw intensity. “But until you do it, you’re gonna think it’s all BS. Sometimes you gotta take a leap of faith.”

“Not very good at those,” Shane admitted quietly as he stepped free of the other guy’s grip. He couldn’t keep meeting his eyes either. Too much power there, like a shot with an extra kick.

“Okay. You want me to tell Dallas you want out?”

A yes was right there on the tip of Shane’s tongue, but then he heard Shelby’s laugh ring out. She’d love it if he chickened out. Not only would she get bragging rights for all of eternity, she’d get what she’d wanted and get to go with Brandt. And for whatever reason, Shane hated that most of all. “Nah. I’m going.”

He white-knuckled his way out to the small plane, spared a nod for the female pilot, and squished his eyes shut until Shelby jostled him into looking at the valley underneath them, the green canopy of the national forest contrasting with the pristine blue sky. Random snippets of lyrics danced through Shane’s head, ways that he might try to describe this view. But then, right as he was settling into something resembling comfort, everyone started shuffling around, getting ready to go. The wind rushed in as the hatch opened, and a full-body shiver raced through Shane.

Then Shelby gave him and Brandt one last coy grin before she and Dallas were away, her whoop echoing across the sky.

“Ready? Here we go.” Brandt nudged Shane closer to the open hatch. Shane wanted to say no, wanted to drag their clipped-together bodies back inside the plane, wanted to both hurl and yell. But in the end, all he could do was nod. Only one way down.

His knees had locked up even as his thighs trembled. Behind him, Brandt was sure and solid. He could push Shane out the hatch pretty easily, but he didn’t. He was letting it be Shane’s choice. And somehow that patience and restraint gave Shane a jolt of courage. One step into nothingness. That was all it took.

Brandt was right behind him, smooth as if they were on a dance floor, not open sky. And now they were fall¬ing. Falling so fast. Faster than a car on the interstate with the windows all down, faster than a dirt bike on a steep incline, faster than the whoosh down a water slide. There was no describing the feeling of the wind on his cheeks, the roar in his ears, the shout that probably be-longed to him, the adrenaline that crashed through him as he tried to remember what they’d practiced about po¬sitioning. Damn. Hard to think.

Which was funny because that was the one thing he was good at. Shelby was forever teasing him about overthinking. But now, his brain couldn’t even pull two words together as they rushed through the air. Brandt yelled something, but Shane was too busy hurtling through the sky to focus on it. And then he was pulled backwards, a hard yank as the parachute deployed. No more freefall. And the oh-my-God-about-to-die adrenaline quieted enough that he could look down, really look.

“Oh my word. It’s…”

“Beautiful isn’t it?” Brandt’s voice was deep and rich, like warm honey over Shane’s still jangling nerves. Now that the air wasn’t rushing so fast, he could hear him better. Almost too much better, because it felt like they were soaking up each other’s awe and wonder. Sharing something warm and tender and perfect.


“Nothing like it.” Brandt whistled low, a sound that hit Shane somewhere soft. “Never gonna get tired of this view.”

“Me either.” Shane almost didn’t recognize his own voice, up this high, this far removed from everything that usually weighed him down.

“Hey, Superman. You want a turn steering?” Brandt didn’t wait for Shane to reply, grabbing his arms, guid¬ing his hands.

“Whoa. Wow. I’m doing it. Look at us.” They swooped gently from side to side, and it was quite possibly the best feeling Shane had ever experienced.

“Look at you. Didn’t know your smile muscles even worked.”

“Screw you. I can smile.” Shane was feeling so good that he had to laugh.

“Well, then get ready. The landing crew will snap your pic as we land. It’s your rock-star moment.”

“Feels like it,” he said right before Brandt took over and set them down softly in a clearing, barely even jarring Shane’s knees. “Damn. That was…”

“It was something.” Brandt was looking right at him, like he could see straight through Shane’s layers, strip him bare. And Shane held his gaze, held the moment as long as he could.

Copyright © 2021 by Annabeth Albert




Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Up in Smoke is the fourth installment in the Hotshots series. It can be read as a standalone without issue.

Brandt and Shane met previously when Shane's sister takes him tandem skydiving for his birthday. He notices Brandt and the way he feels while they are strapped together. Shane knows nothing is going to come of the encounter considering the way his sister is flirting with Brandt.

When Shane's sister skips town almost a year later leaving a newborn with a birth certificate with the father's name. Brandt is shocked when Shane and a baby show up at his doorstep. Brandt's a fire jumper and knows he can't do this one his own. Luckily, Shane decides to stay, at least until they get the DNA test results.

I loved watching the slow burn between Shane and Brandt. I really enjoyed these characters and was so invested in their journey! I can't wait for more from this series!

This is the fourth book in the series, and this one is a slight outlier to the others, and so could be read as a standalone I think. Each book deals with forest firefighting, but each is unique in its setting and style, so they have all been engaging reads.

In this installment we meet Brandt, who loves to being a jumper, and who has a nomadic lifestyle, staying wherever he is posted and then next season moving on. He didn't have a stable home as a child, and so has no real understanding or need of steady. Then Shane comes to his door with his sister's baby, claiming Brandt is the father. It was so well written that I could feel the shock coming off the page!

As the story unfolds and we get to see how it may have transpired, we get a sense that Brandt will do the right thing by the baby and by Shane, although the errant sister is inevitably going to cause more drama. That said, the drama levels are thankfully low (compared to earlier books) and even these are enough to make Brandt rethink his lifestyle now he has responsibilities.

I enjoyed the juxtaposition of hotshot and not yet famous country singer, both having to care for a small baby who always came first, and had the very worse timing when it came to them thinking about making out!

A good addition to the series, and a reminder of just how quickly things can go wrong, or right!

I was so excited to read this book; then once I started reading it, I found myself to be skimming and bored. The burn was too slow, and I couldn't connect with Brandt or Shane. I honestly kept skimming hoping it would get steamier or less boring, no such luck. Miss for me but I'm sure some will love it.

Up in Smoke is the fourth installment in the Hotshots series. It can be read independently as a standalone with little to no confusion.

Brandt and Shane meet briefly nearly a year before, when Shane's sister takes him skydiving. Brandt was using his off season as an instructor, when his main profession is putting out wildfires on a smoke jumper team.

I need to be quite honest here. The beginning portion truly threw me off of their budding romance. Had I not read that at all, learned of Brandt and Shane's connection versus saw it firsthand, I might have enjoyed the story more.

Why was I thrown?

Brandt met Shane and his sister on the same day, felt sparks when helping Shane skydive, and still he chose Shane's sister for a night of fun. Nothing like reading a couple hundred pages in a novel when I felt as if Brandt saw Shane as second best. If he liked him so much, he would have chosen him from the get-go. I realize this takes away the entire reason for the novel to take place, but it left a bad taste in my mouth.

A musician, Shane hunts Brandt down with some precious cargo, needing to pass his niece off to her father, after his sister took off and left the baby with him. This is a good setup for an angsty romance. As I stated above, had Shane and Brandt never met until he shows up with an unexpected baby, I would have enjoyed it more. The fact that Brandt chose Shane's sister, someone who wasn't quite mentally stable, I ended up feeling as if he truly wasn't into Shane nor was he perceptive or responsible enough to raise the baby if he would sleep with such an unhinged woman.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate when a writer in the MM genre doesn't vilify the female characters. Had that prologue not occurred, I wouldn't have batted an eyelash nor been so focused on the fact that Brandt picked Shane's sister over him. Just annoyed me.

I need to state that I am not an MM reader who cannot abide by a woman in the story – this isn't a case of that. I just wish Shane and Brandt didn't meet until Shane showed up with the baby, that's all. Meeting both siblings on the same day and choosing the sister made it difficult for me to see Brandt as actually wanting Shane versus being with him because he was "there." Convenient and helping to take care of the unexpected baby that was related to both of them.

Two single men and a little lady. The romance is centered around raising the baby. If you adore a child taking center stage, then Up in Smoke is for you. If you enjoy kids in the novel for a realistic vibe but need the main characters to control the story, then you may find the vibe too far into the baby fever realm. While I adore children in novels to round out the realistic feel, I never got into the headspace where I gushed over the "Diva."

That drove me bonkers, calling the baby Diva because she is demanding, when she is no different in her needs than any other infant. It's not demanding – it's survival. While empathetic when it came to the baby's mother, I thought calling her Diva was in poor taste, as if all women are demanding and spoiled for asking for their needs to be met.

As you can see, the book just rubbed me wrong in all directions because I took it too seriously. Probably my mood, no doubt. I do believe fans of MM romance, particularly single dad romances, will enjoy this warm and fuzzy story.

I need to warn that this doesn't have the same vibe as its predecessors, not truly having much to do with smoke jumping and firefighters. Another warning, Shane isn't the most likeable character, difficult to warm up to for the reader. I felt his serious personality belied what I envisioned for a country musician, which I saw as more of a go with the flow personality.

On the romance front, slow-burn featuring close-proximity situations. Shane and Brandt make the baby their focus, where she is the one who brings them together. I never felt as if their personalities were a good balance, never felt a spark (perhaps because it was stuck in my head how I saw Brandt as being more into Shane's sister after the beginning). Everyday situations, where they learn to take care of a baby, roommates turned friends turned lovers with barely a spark. I felt as if they were merely choosing to be together versus feeling the desire and drive to "need" to be together.

Overall, this was probably my least favorite of the series. I'm glad I read this installment, but it won't be on my reread list.

Avid Reader☆☆☆
2.5 stars
M/M Romance
Triggers: Click HERE to see Avid Reader’s review on Goodreads for trigger warnings.

Brandt loves his job as a smokejumper. He has always looked for adrenaline challenges and this is right up his alley. When he is helping a buddy out with regular old skydiving, he meets Shane. While Brandt is sexually fluid, he doesn't advertise that much.

Shane is an up-and-coming singer who wants to make it big, but also has a troublesome sister and a career that isn't taking off like he hoped. When his sister shows up with a baby in tow, Shane isn't quite sure what to do.

As Brandt and Shane figure their new reality out, they also have to see if their attraction is something they want to pursue.

This was a VERY slow burn. So slow that sometimes, it felt backwards. I didn't really feel that they had great chemistry, nor did it seem like they were more than just friends who happen to be lovers. The baby aspect was good, but it felt that it was what held the couple together.

Overall, I was underwhelmed with this book.



Author Bio

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.

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 children.

Connect with Annabeth

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Instagram  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads
Facebook Group: Annabeth's Angels


ARC provided by

Carina Press

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Up in Smoke (Hotshots #4) by Annabeth Albert to read and review.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments are reviewed by a blog admin before being published. We thank you for visiting our blog & leaving a comment.