One hard-nosed military police officer.
One overly enthusiastic elf.
One poorly timed snowstorm.
Is it a recipe for disaster? Or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for holiday romance?
Teddy MacNally loves Christmas and everything that goes along with it. When he plays an elf for his charity’s events, he never expects to be paired with a Scrooge masquerading as Santa Claus. His new mission: make the holiday-hating soldier believe he was born to say ho-ho-ho.
Sergeant Major Nicholas Nowicki doesn’t do Santa, but he’s army to his blood. When his CO asks an unusual favor, Nick of course obliges. The elf to his Kris Kringle? Tempting. Too tempting—Nick’s only in town for another month, and Teddy’s too young, too cheerful and too nice for a one-night stand.
The slow, sexy make-out sessions while Teddy and Nick are alone and snowbound, though, feel like anything but a quick hookup. As a stress-free holiday fling turns into Christmas all year round, Teddy can’t imagine his life without Nick. And Nick’s days on the base may be coming to a close, but he doesn’t plan on leaving anything, or anyone, behind.
This book is approximately 65,000 words
One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!
|Product dimensions:||4.19(w) x 6.59(h) x 0.71(d)|
About the Author
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 #OutOfUniform series joins her critically acclaimed and fan-favorite LGBTQ romance #Gaymers, #PortlandHeat and #PerfectHarmony series. To find out more visit annabethalbert.com.
Read an Excerpt
The Santa suit didn't fit. It itched. And it tugged against Nick's skin as he drove out of Fort End, heading southeast toward the small town of Mineral Spirits. On the rare occasions he ventured off base into what he still thought of as the wilds of upstate New York, he got on the interstate and went straight to Watertown. He did his shopping or went out to eat and never bothered with these narrow state highways and back roads leading to tiny villages and hamlets, most of which seemed to have Mills or Crossing in their name and were pretty interchangeable as far as he was concerned.
Mineral Spirits was slightly bigger than most of the towns, notable for the covered bridge that his older F-150 creaked over on the way into a downtown that seemed fresh out of the 1950s red- and gray-brick buildings with signs announcing homey businesses such as Nancy's Diner and Pete's Pet Store. And apparently the village was also known for a borderline freaky obsession with the holidays — even now, a week before Thanksgiving, he spied Christmas decorations on more than one storefront and cutouts of turkeys and pilgrims on a few others.
His stupid GPS kept going out — something about the hills around here made cell service spotty — but the Helping Hand Resource Center was easy enough to find, right off Main Street as Commander Grace had told him. The low white building was decorated with giant colorful handprints on the sides and a large cheerful sign that proclaimed its name and All Are Welcome. He parked in the far corner of the lot, backing into the space, as was his habit.
A bitter wind greeted him, but he didn't bother with his jacket. The damn suit was hot enough, the way it clung to his back, plush red fabric anything but breathable. He remembered to grab the beard and wig, but no way was he putting those on until the last minute. He opened the door to the center only to be greeted by an honest-to-God green-clad elf.
"Nick?" The elf grinned at him like they'd been introduced already. And okay, he wasn't a literal elf, just a small young man with curly blond hair in an elf outfit he seemed perfectly comfortable in — green-and-white-striped tights, hat with a bell, curving slippers, and all. "Sergeant Major Nowicki, yes." It had been years since he'd been just plain Nick for someone outside of his own head, and he wasn't about to start with this overly friendly elf.
"Yes, Miriam told us to expect you. I can't tell you how much we appreciate you filling in for Wallace."
Nick couldn't remember ever hearing Commander Grace referred to by her first name. He knew it, of course, but she was his commanding officer first and foremost, even if she had made efforts over the last few months to make sure he felt welcome at Fort End. And when she asked him for this favor, he'd felt unable to say no, mainly because she was kind and generous and wasn't one to abuse her position and ask for special treatment.
"Of course. Everyone at the base is hoping for a full recovery from Mr. Grace." The commander's husband was an elementary school teacher in Mineral Spirits, and they'd made their home here rather than on base as Nick did.
And apparently, every year they'd been stationed at Fort End, Mr. Grace had played Santa for this charity. The job entailed letting the local paper get photos of him in unusual locations around town so it could run a contest where readers tried to guess "Where's Santa now?" And then he'd appear at a couple of different town events over the course of the season as part of a campaign to raise money for the charity's holiday efforts. The Graces loved this season and this tiny town. But Mr. Grace had suffered a heart attack two days ago and had been life-flighted all the way into Syracuse for open-heart surgery. Commander Grace had called him from I-81, worried not about making it to the hospital, but about whether there would be a Santa for this year's fund-raiser. And he, fool that he was, had said he'd handle finding a replacement. Except everyone he talked to was already committed to something this weekend and, somehow, he'd ended up being the one in the suit.
A suit that was far too small, smelled vaguely of mothballs, and had probably seen better decades. But he was here to do his duty.
"I'm supposed to see Mr. MacNally," he told the elf, who was still looking up at him expectantly.
"That would be me. Call me Teddy though. Everyone does." Another broad grin. And, of course, Mr. Casual was a Teddy. Despite his small stature and baby face, he had to be at least twenty-five since he was the director of this charity. Far too old and in-charge to be a Teddy.
"Who's the one taking the pictures?" He was eager to get this show on the road.
"That would be my cousin, Rhonda." He beckoned over a younger woman with similar curly blond hair. "She works for the paper. She's got several locations scouted out already. I thought you might like to start with a little tour of our facilities? Get you up to speed on what we stand for, maybe get you more in the spirit of things."
That wasn't possible as Nick didn't have an ounce of holiday spirit left, if he'd ever had any to begin with. But he wasn't out to be rude, so he nodded. "You've got me for the day."
"Excellent." Another megawatt smile, this one worthy of a dental ad, all perfectly gleaming white teeth and wide, full lips. He really shouldn't be noticing MacNally's mouth, full or otherwise. He wasn't here to get sidetracked by pouty perfection.
One more month, he reminded himself. One more month at Fort End, which ironically really was the end for him. End of the line, the army's refusal to let him re-up bringing a twenty-eight year career to a halt at the nation's most remote, northernmost outpost, a place that often felt like the end of the earth, far removed from his desert deployments and years stationed in Hawaii, California, and other warm states. He still wasn't exactly happy about the army's decision to go all-in on a reduction in forces, but he had a pretty sweet plan B waiting for him if he could just make it through this last month. One month and he'd be in Florida, on a boat, no Santa suit in sight, no obligations or distractions ...
Why that vision kept making his chest hurt, he didn't know. It might be the Army's call, but he'd worked nearly three decades to earn the military retirement coming to him. By this time in January, he'd have his own place on the ocean and a partnership with his old Army buddy, who did boat day trips for tourists and made himself a nice little living.
And there would be no snow in sight. Ten months here had been more than enough for him. Even the summer had been unbearable, all muggy and humid with mosquitoes everywhere, and only two really good months before fall hit. And now the weather people were calling for a big storm this weekend. Not even Thanksgiving, and they were already talking snow days. No, Florida would be far preferable to any more time at Fort End.
"So we're a multipurpose resource center here to serve primarily the low-income folks of the village and surrounding towns." MacNally had an unusually energetic speaking voice, all full of bright inflection and exclamation points where a simple pause might do. "We have a food pantry, clothing closet, heating and electric bill assistance, Holiday Giving Tree for kids, and offer a variety of workshops and classes ranging from parenting topics to food preservation to budgeting."
MacNally took him through the large, airy lobby with older couches that managed to look both well loved and inviting. Like the exterior of the building, the room was colorful with a children's play area and library tucked into the far corner. From there, he followed MacNally down a hallway as he pointed out the clothing closet full of warm coats looking for homes, the offices where caseworkers met one-on-one with families, and a meeting room for workshops. Nick tried to make approving noises as MacNally prattled on and on about the work of the resource center. He was relieved when they finally reached the food pantry that took up the rear of the building.
He was trying to listen to MacNally talk about balanced meals and perishable items when he spotted a slight teenage boy struggling under the weight of a huge case of canned goods. The case tottered precariously, and acting without thinking, Nick lunged to save it from landing on the kid's feet.
Riiiiipppp. An awful, foreboding sound happened at the exact instant he steadied the case. He immediately felt a draft on his ass where there had previously been scratchy material. The teen started laughing before scurrying away under the force of Nick's glare.
"Oh dear." MacNally's mouth opened and shut as if his bottomless supply of good cheer didn't have an answer for this turn of events. He wasn't even subtle in how he twisted around, checking out Nick's backside to verify that yes, indeed, the borrowed suit had split. "I guess you are a great deal ... larger than Wallace, aren't you? But no worries, Santa, I've got you covered." Laughing, he dragged Nick into an office off the food pantry, yelling over his shoulder, "Rhonda, we're going to need your assistance."
"I don't think —" Nick really didn't need even more of an audience for his humiliation.
"It's no bother." MacNally patted him on the arm. "Do you have spare pants in your car?"
"No." He suppressed a groan. On his way he'd dropped his uniforms off at the cleaner's, so he didn't have a spare in the truck as he sometimes did.
"Hmm. No way are you fitting into anything of mine." MacNally sighed dramatically. "Rhonda, can you check the clothing closet for men's XL or XXL anything? Sweats would be perfect."
"Now, I know I've got some red thread here ..." MacNally started rustling around a cluttered desk. The small office was busy — desk laden with framed pictures, walls covered with inspirational posters, open box of holiday decorations in the corner, stack of kids' handprint turkeys on the visitor's chair. "And a needle. We don't want to have to staple you shut."
"You are not coming anywhere near me with a stapler." Nick put all his years of MP experience into his voice. As a military police officer, he took no guff, and he wasn't about to start with this ... elf.
But MacNally just laughed. "We'll hope it doesn't come to that." He leaned in close enough that Nick could smell some sort of fruity aftershave. "But I'll be honest, I had to alter my costume to get it to fit, and I totally used a stapler on the shoes."
"Were your feet in them at the time?" he demanded.
"Of course not." MacNally's laugh reminded Nick of the fresh-picked peaches he'd loved when he'd been stationed in Georgia — warm and fresh and far too tempting. "And you're not going to be in the pants either."
Right as he delivered that alarming bit of news, Rhonda returned, hands empty. "Sorry. I couldn't find anything that might fit." Her eyes flashed with appreciation. She didn't make a secret of checking him out, gaze roving over his frame to the point that he felt his skin heat. "It's mainly kids' clothes right now, and Saint Nick here is definitely not in the juniors' sizes."
"Sergeant Major Nowicki," he corrected, even though it felt somewhat like spitting into the wind with these two. "And perhaps we should just reschedule. I can go back to base, change, and then go see if I can find a costume shop in Watertown that might have something more suitable."
"Costume shop there closed after Halloween — the owner retired, and a new one hasn't popped up yet," MacNally said breezily. "And no need for that. Here's thread and a needle. We'll just step out, you'll pass me the pants, and I'll have you done up in a jiffy."
Jiffy? Who used words like that anymore? Nick was forty-six, and he was pretty sure he'd never done anything in a jiffy.
"Fine." He waited until MacNally and Rhonda had left the room to shed the pants. Even with his black boots on, they'd still been a bit short in the leg and the gaping hole in the seat wasn't helping anything. He set the boots aside along with the wig and beard and shucked off the pants, feeling ridiculously exposed in just a Santa coat and his black boxer briefs, which — because it was laundry day — were the ones that probably should have been retired a few years back. Like me. He passed the pants out the door, and then paced the small space, not wanting to sit in MacNally's chair in his underwear and not wanting to move the kid drawings from the other chair.
"Can I get you some coffee?" Rhonda's voice filtered through the door.
"No, I'm good," he said, even though he wasn't. But coffee would mean opening that door again, and he wasn't doing that more times than necessary. He'd held formations, had platoon sergeants under him, trained hundreds of enlisted men and women, and advised a string of commanders as he worked his way up to sergeant major. And in all his years of service, this ranked right up there for most humiliating moment.
"Okay, I think I've got it." MacNally rapped on the door. "I'm no seamstress, but I've put buttons back on coats and closed up rips on donations before."
Nick opened the door just wide enough to stick his arm out for the pants. MacNally laughed, more of that summer warmth hitting Nick square in the center of his chest.
"You are a shy one, aren't you?"
No, I just don't want you seeing my worn drawers. But of course he wasn't saying that, so he simply grunted and took the pants. If possible, they were even tighter now, and they were going to be a devil to get off, but they were better than letting the chilly air continue to batter his bare legs.
"They fit." He opened the door, pulling his shoulders back, straightening his spine, just like he might for an inspection. "Let's go get your pictures."
"Sure. Just let me see —" MacNally craned his neck to see Nick's backside, seeming like he might get in there and inspect his stitches next. Nick quickly moved so that his back was to the poster-covered wall. "Okay, okay. But I'm bringing the needle and thread just in case."
"Where do you want the first picture? My GPS keeps going in and out, so I might need directions, but I'll meet you at the site." Nick was more than ready to get this show on the road.
"Don't be silly." MacNally waved his hand. "I'm parked right out back. My Forrester can easily hold all three of us. Rhonda and I already mapped everything out. I'll drive."
No way in hell was MacNally driving him anywhere, but Nick still searched for some manners. "I don't want to trouble you —"
"It's no bother at all. I cleaned out the car this morning and everything." MacNally grinned up at him.
Fuck. Nick did not want a ride — or anything else, those kissable lips included — from MacNally. However, he was also a realist and wasn't going to waste time arguing or risk stomping all over the other two's feelings.
"Come on." Rhonda led the way through the food pantry.
This is simply another mission, Nick told himself. He'd been on patrols in roasting-hot desert temperatures, conducted murder investigations, dealt with bomb threats and more disorderly conduct than he could even remember. Surely, he could get through one day in this blasted suit with the too-perky elf for company and then be on his way back to base, back to his holiday-free orderly life with its countdown to his retirement.CHAPTER 2
Teddy's dependable Subaru had never looked tinier than with Jolly Old Saint Nick crowded in the backseat, looking ready to murder someone if Teddy so much as took a turn too fast. He'd insisted that Rhonda take the front seat, some sort of chivalry Teddy found both exasperating and cute. This was Rhonda. She'd made him eat a dandelion once. With a ladybug still on it. She'd dared him off the rope swing down by the river, resulting in a dislocated shoulder for him and a month's grounding for her. She could totally ride in the backseat, let the sergeant major and his ample legs take the front, where, not coincidentally, he could also talk more easily with Teddy.
Not that this cranky Santa seemed particularly enamored of him or easy to get to know, but Teddy was determined to give the guy a pleasant day, especially after the disastrous start. Not that he'd call it a disaster — any time he got a glimpse of a muscled ass that spectacular was a win — but Nick's discomfort had been almost palpable. And yeah, he seemed to be rather attached to his rank and title, but Teddy simply wasn't that formal. Commander Grace had always insisted that they call her Miriam, and he was on a first name basis with plenty of other military personnel.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Better Not Pout"
Copyright © 2018 Annabeth Albert.
Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 .5 Stars for Better Not Pout Annebeth Albert is a new author to me but after reading this book that’s about to change. This story will give you all the feels you could wish and it will leave you feeling all warm and cozy inside. A classic Christmas tale with a twist this time it’s a bossy elf who has a heart of gold and a grumpy Santa that need to save the day....... Nick and Teddy are complete opposites and once you add in the twenty year age gap you start to wonder if they are meant to be together but as the saying goes opposites attract and there is an instant attraction as well as some sizzling chemistry going on between Santa and his bossy elf. A perfect mix of love and humour with just a sprinkling of angst makes this a wonderful holiday read I love Christmas and I loved this story if love M/M and holiday love stories with HEA’d I can highly recommend Better Not Pout.
Wow, the best holiday read of the 2018 Holiday Season. This was a truly wonderful story, complete with all the romance, humor, and hot, sweaty sex Annabeth Albert does so well. I fell hard for gruff and grouchy Sergeant Major Nicholas Nowicki, he was so ready for a bit of loving - and sweet, chipper Teddy is the perfect solution. They're adorable together and hot damn smokin' hot chemistry! I'm happy to say the ending was absolutely perfect. a copy of this book was provided by NetGalley for the purpose of my review
Better Not Pout by Annabeth Albert is Teddy and Nick’s story. This is a sweet May/December romance. Teddy and Nick’s paths cross when Nick is filling in as Santa as a favor for a friend. The attraction between them was apparent from the start. But Nick is retiring soon and moving to Florida plus he is a lot older than Teddy so this can only be a holiday romance. I enjoyed Nick and Teddy’s story and characters. Teddy’s character is such a caring person but is lonely. Nick’s character is lonely too but doesn’t think he deserves true happiness. Will Teddy and Nick drop their walls of comfort and take a chance on love? FYI, contains mature content. This is a M/M gay romance.
Love this Christmas story, It was sweet, funny, and sexy at the same time. Annabeth always writes tremendous books and this one didn't 'disappoint. You can tell Teddy and Nick are opposites but they are the perfect couple. You can tell they have a great connection from start to finish. I love Teddy's family they had me laughing out loud, and I was smiling the entire time I was reading it. The book seems so real even though it's fiction. Looking forward to the next book.
I am a HUGE fan of Annabeth Albert's especially her HOT military romance - Out Of Uniform Series, I felt this story was a mix of that series as well as her sweeter romance, Portland Heat Series. Nick is enlisted by his Commanding Officer to play Santa for the rec center since her husband isn't able to do it this year do to medical reasons, and of course Nick cannot say NO even though the thought of it doesn't sit well with him. Teddy is the cutest elf going, so full of holiday spirit I need him to come to my house and help get me in the mood this year. Honestly he goes above and beyond what most would do and it warmed my heart to see that everyone loved and respected him because of his giving nature. Nick and Teddy are about as opposite as you can get when it comes to the holidays, but a little time with Teddy and he can even turn a Scrooge into Santa. This was a sweet holiday romance with plenty of steamy moments that will surly get you into the spirit of things no matter which holiday you celebrate. Annabeth's books are always highly recommended by me and this one is no different, in Better Not Pout we have a Sweet and Sexy May-December Romance, Holiday Themed, with two likable Male leads. Happy Reading!!! **I voluntarily reviewed an Advanced Readers Copy of this book**
I really enjoyed this holiday story. Nick is older, about to retire from the military, while Teddy is young and cute and working a social service job. Nick has to serve as Santa, which brings them together, and the romance that develops is sexy and believable.
4.5 Jolly Stars! Review by Nancy Late Night Reviewer Up All Night w/ Books Blog Better Not Pout by Annabeth Albert was phenomenal. It made me wish I could skip right into December. A slow burn opposites attract romance. This book was heartfelt, sexy, sweet and full of holiday cheer. I, for one, can read holiday novels year round, I know that’s not the case for everyone but this one is worth the read. Nick has dedicated his entire life to the military but is now being forced into early retirement. He has decided to retire to Florida were he will go into business with other veterans. Before he can fully retire, he is will play Santa for the town’s charity foundation. A little grumpy and a lot sexy, he reluctantly makes his way to the charity foundation where, low and behold, he bumps into a very handsome elf. Teddy, the director of the charity foundation, is young, good looking, funny and a family man. He is an extremely busy man with very few opportunities to find love. That is, until he meets the volunteer who will be playing Santa. Despite Nicks grumpy personality and their age gap, Teddy is going to take a leap and ask Nick out on a date. He knows he has about a month before Nick leaves for Florida but is willing to give it a go anyways. The book starts off a little slow but quickly captured my full and utter attention. Nick and Teddy are perfect for each other. It's very cliche, but they are the definition of opposites attract. Nick thinks he is way too old to be feeling an attraction towards Teddy, but Teddy is resilient and determined to make Nick see the beauty of the holiday season and hopefully along the way find love. What started as a fling with a deadline, soon becomes an undeniable, full forced, steamy happily ever after. This book had it all! It was bittersweet, tugged at my heart, gave me all the feels, was a little bit angsty and very cheery. It was the perfect holiday novel!
4.5 stars- Better Not Pout is a comfy cozy holiday romance that was the perfect way to start my November. This May-December, opposites attract romance was relatively low angst with surprisingly high heat, and an easy read that was hard to put down. As I expected, the writing was smooth and well developed with a good flow between the narrative and dialogue. The characters had sufficient depth without getting too heavy, and the plot was well-rounded with a solid resolution that left me with a smile on my face. From the outset I liked how Nick’s gruffness masked a tender, thoughtful soul, and I enjoyed watching his walls steadily come down as he fell in love with Teddy and the town of Mineral Spirits. Likewise, Teddy’s effervescent and giving spirit was contagious and simply made me happy. I loved the men’s exchanges and the romance was oh so sweet. It was lovely sort of different to have those languid moments between them drawn out. I especially loved how their opposite personalities parried back and forth, even in the bedroom, lending a fun, light-hearted vibe to their relationship. If you’re looking for a sweet love story to kick off this holiday season, I’d definitely recommend Better Not Pout. *Received via NetGalley and reviewed for Alpha Book Club*
Annabeth Albert has done it again! She's written a wonderfully touching story about two very different people managing to find their HEA in spite of their differences. Better Not Pout is a very sweet, yet sexy, holiday story with a just the right amount of conflict/angst. Nick Nowicki is being retired from the service due to downsizing. He has one month left at his duty station in the wilds of upstate New York where it's cold and snowy! He's anxious to join his friend in Florida where it's warm and there's no snow. Teddy MacNally loves Christmas and runs the town resource center that caters to those in need. He's in charge of fund raising and Nick has agreed to stand-in and play Santa because their regular Santa is recovering from a heart attack. While Nick is attracted to Teddy, he knows that it can't go anywhere. For one thing he's way too old for him and he has plans to head for Florida as soon as he finishes his last day on base. Teddy also wants Nick and convinces him that they should enjoy each other while they can. But Teddy soon realizes that he can't keep his heart from getting involved but he won't beg Nick to give up his plans and stay for him. Teddy has a great family that features heavily in Better Not Pout and in contrast, Nick is somewhat estranged from his family. These dynamics contribute to the story and provide an interesting backdrop for Nick and Teddy's budding relationship. This book has all the feels; just what I expect from an Annabeth Albert story. I laughed and I cried and I loved it to pieces. Better Not Pout is one of the best holiday stories I've read this year. A review copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley but this did not influence my opinion or rating of the book. ***Reviewed for Xtreme-Delusions dot com***
When Sargeant Major Nicholas Nowicki is sent to a local community center to fill-in as Santa he's about as happy as you might expect someone who is being forced to retire from his job early and into a Santa costume would be. Teddy MacNally, the community center director is full of enough Christmas cheer for the both of them in Better Not Pout. When a snowstorm forces them into close proximity, Nick's walls start to crumble as he finds it hard to resist the relentlessly optimistic younger man. But he's moving to Florida, and he's too old, too set in his ways to be anyone Teddy would want to settle for. But the ever-cheerful Teddy has hidden depths and he is head over heels for his grumpy Santa. He just has to convince him that in spite of the age difference, in spite of their personality differences, they are meant to be. I really enjoyed this holiday read, which I found to be the perfect amount of sweet and angsty. **Better Not Pout will publish on November 12, 2018. I received an advance reader copy courtesy of Netgalley/Carina Press in exchange for my honest review.
I LOVE this author's writing and combined with sexy guys at Christmas... I'm in heaven. Teddy's a giver, that's who he is. He's also smart, funny and insightful and very persistent. Teddy's family is wonderful, but he's lonely. Nick has had too many losses to believe in happily ever after. He doesn't want to put his heart on the line anymore. I was impressed that Nick acted on his realization that his life was better with Teddy instead of allowing his cynical side to win. This one was a huge win for me. Adult read
Warm, romantic, and festive! Better Not Pout is a sweet, tender, captivating novel that features the kindhearted, fun-loving Teddy, and the grouchy, mature Nick as they discover that the heart wants whom the heart wants, and sometimes opposites really do attract. The writing is heartfelt and comforting. The characters are winsome, dependable, and genuine. And the lighthearted plot is a charming mix of undeniable attraction, sizzling chemistry, Christmas celebrations, charity, patience, understanding, new journeys, and taking chances. Overall, Better Not Pout is a delightfully merry, passionate, humorous tale that reminds us that the holiday season is truly a time for family, magic, love, and giving.
3.85 > Blah Humbug. Another Age-Gap Romance but, this one, with a Holiday Twist ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩ 4-STAR ✩ REVIEW ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩ > > Judging a Book by its Cover > Looking Deeper Third Person Grouchy, Grinch-like 46-year-old Army Master Sergeant, Nick, is in his last month of service as an MP when he is wrangled by his CO into posing as Santa for a few events in a nearby small town. Outreach Resource center director, Teddy, is an energetic, charming 28-year-old that loves his town, the people in it, and LOVES the Holidays. Together, they need to fulfill “Santa’s” obligations and raise enough donations for the various holiday programs that Teddy provides through the center. Nick is stoic and stubborn; feeling too old, washed-up, and many other self-doubting things, believing Teddy deserves much more than he’s capable of giving. Teddy is cautious in most things but wants Nick, consequences be damned. He may be young but he’s mature and knows what he wants and refuses to play games or be coy about it. Though the relationship developed at a steady pace, I had a difficult time bonding with these guys. I’m not sure if it was the “Dad/Son” age difference (Annabeth Albert has used the age-gap storyline frequently recently) or if it was all of the dang over-analyzing/exhausting internal monologuing – even during SEX! I just did not feel their connection, at all. The secondary cast was alright but, at times, some of it felt “over the top” or unnecessary. The story in and of itself was okay for a holiday story, I would have liked to have read more antics of Nick fulfilling his Santa duties. Some parts of the story felt like déjà vu, that I’d read that somewhere before. Writing quality was very good and the pages flowed smoothly. The conflicts were all fairly easy to resolve and would not have been an issue to begin with if the men had better communication skills, with each other and others. Predictability was low. The conclusion is solid enough to be satisfying. Overall, I’d have to say that this was not one of my favorite books from this author but it was well-written and still entertaining. . Rating: [R] ~ Score: 3.85 ~ Stars: 4 ========================== ⭐ ⭐ **** Disclosure of Material: I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and the Author/Publisher with the hope that I would voluntarily leave unbiased and unsolicited feedback. I was not asked, encouraged, or required to leave a review - nor was I compensated in any way. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising". ***** ⭐ ⭐
Better Not Pout starts out a bit slow but things pick up as Nick and Teddy spend more time together. I loved the sense of community that Teddy's town has and the McNally family seems like a lot of fun if a bit overwhelming (I'm an only child). From the very beginning I loved Teddy's character -- his enthusiasm for the holidays and helping people, his welcoming attitude and his dedication to his town. It's clear that Teddy has made a home for himself and he's truly loved by his community. It was refreshing to see a small town not be critical of an LGBTQ character and instead love them for exactly who they were. While I really enjoyed Teddy, I struggled more with Nick who I felt was somewhat flat throughout the story. Initially he's set up as a bit of a grinch -- he doesn't really want to play Santa, he's set in his ways, used to being in control, and he keeps others at a distance, especially since he's leaving town in a month. As he starts a fling with Teddy he begins to open up and realize just how lonely his life has been since his last serious relationship. While we understand his background and I thought his history was well developed, Nick's personality remains so steady that it was like he paled in comparison to every other character; he just didn't feel all that dynamic. Overall, this was an enjoyable read but I didn't feel myself all that invested in Teddy and Nick's relationship.
I'm not a fan of Christmas. In fact, I dislike the holiday so much I tend to avoid books set at that time of the year. I'm really glad I didn't skip this book. Everything about Nick pushed just the right buttons for me. From his dedication and loyalty to the gentle and slightly battered heart he hides from the world, I wanted Nick to have the happy ending he deserves right from the beginning. Teddy Hamilton was exactly the man to give him that. The perfect mix of young and idealistic, but mature and steadfast, Teddy was the perfect remedy to Nick's downward spiral. Being a lot closer to Nick's age than Teddy's, the way Nick looked at his retirement and his place in the world was especially disheartening for me, so the way the two of them came together and compromised to find happiness in the end was perfect.