Portland, Oregon, is one of the hottest cities in America. Just ask all the hard-working men sweating it up behind the counters of the restaurants, boutiques, and cafés all over town . . .
Newly clean and sober, Todd’s taken a shine to his job at Portland’s most talked about bakery. It’s not just the delicious desserts they sell, but the tasty treats who keep walking through the door. That certainly includes Kendall Rose, a wedding planner with eyes the color of brown sugar and skin to match. Todd doesn’t try to hide his attraction to Kendall’s elegant confidence and unique style, even as he worries about exposing the secrets of his past.
For Kendall, the attention is just part of the anything-goes Portland he’s grown to love. But he’s still looking for that special someone who will embrace all of him—including his gender fluidity. So he takes a chance and asks Todd to be his partner in a dance class leading to a fundraiser. When the music starts and he takes Todd in his arms, Kendall is shocked at how good it feels. Turns out taking the lead for once isn’t a mistake. In fact, it might be time to take the next step and follow his heart . . .
Praise for the Portland Heat series
“A really enjoyable story.” —Joyfully Jay on Baked Fresh
“Sometimes an author just gets everything right…Absolutely perfect.” —Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews on Delivered Fast
“Charming and emotional.” —RT Book Reviews on Knit Tight
“Knit Tight is a truly beautiful novella.” —Smart Bitches Trashy Books
About the Author
Annabeth can be found online at annabethalbert.com, @annabethalbert on Twitter, and Facebook.com/annabethalbert.
Read an Excerpt
By Annabeth Albert
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Annabeth Albert
All rights reserved.
"Are we ready to have our cake and eat it too?" I joked as my clients, Maria and Leah, walked up the sidewalk in front of the bakery. Both of them laughed, which was my intent.
"I'm so nervous," Maria confessed, tossing her long, black hair over one shoulder. "I've never ordered something so fancy."
They were both prone to attacks of nerves about their wedding, and it was my job to reassure them and keep everything running smoothly. I prided myself on taking good care of my clients, so I put on my most reassuring smile.
"This is supposed to be fun. Your cake should be the least of your worries, and Vic's going to take great care of you." I removed their folder from my green Alexander McQueen handbag. Inside the folder, I had all the details for their big day next month, as well as a bunch of design inspiration photos for their dresses, cake, and decor. They might be working on a tight schedule, but these two had definite ideas about how their wedding should go.
I held open the door to the bakery. It was a sunny little building in Southeast Portland, a longtime fixture in this neighborhood, and was recently under new management as Vic, the baker I usually worked with, had become a partner in the business. But the man himself was nowhere to be seen when we entered the storefront.
Instead, the delivery person who had accompanied Vic on the last several weddings I'd planned was working the counter. A cute blond kid, he'd grown a beard since I'd seen him last. I'd assumed previously that he was in his late teens, but the beard made him look older. And yummier. I'd felt guilty macking on him before, but now I could see he was more like twenty-one, maybe twenty-two or -three if I squinted hard. Still younger than me, but a person could look without shame.
"Hi, Todd," I greeted him. I make a point of learning the names of everyone associated with a wedding, even the support staff. It helps that I'm good with names — always have been. That and I enjoy the look of surprised pleasure on someone's face when you remember their name — Todd's eyebrows went up and his mouth quirked. "I'm here with the Ramos-Vienne wedding. Can you let Vic know we're here?"
"Sure thing." He pulled a large glossy binder out from behind the counter. "You guys can look this over while you wait." He had a bit of a Southern drawl and a slow way of talking that made one really pay attention to his words, like each might be extra-important. Not that Todd was much of a talker — our few interactions before, he'd always let Vic handle things.
Thus, I was surprised when a few minutes after we got all settled at one of the tables tucked into the front window area, Todd came back with Vic and took one of the free chairs at the table.
"Hey, Kendall." Vic greeted me with a hearty handshake. I introduced Maria and Leah, who also got handshakes from Vic.
"I asked Todd to join us because I'm training him in more front-counter stuff. I want him to know how we handle a wedding consultation, just in case he has to do one in a pinch." Vic gestured at Todd, who gave a nervous smile that was closer to a grimace. He had a spiral notebook and pen with him, and his expression reminded me of some of my friends facing a test they hadn't studied for.
Vic talked to Maria and Leah about their wedding, a small intimate affair at the Benson, and what they were looking for in a cake.
"Stunning and elegant," I said, taking out the inspiration photos we'd collected. They liked sugar flowers, which was something that Vic specialized in, but they also liked complex yet modern cakes. I couldn't wait to see what Vic dreamed up for them. He started scribbling in his sketchbook, adding and crossing out things as we talked and flipped through the pictures.
"Memorable," Maria added.
"And tasty." Leah laughed.
"Well, we've got tasty covered. Todd, could you fetch the tasting cakes from the case?"
"Sure thing." Todd stood, then hesitated, forehead creasing. He truly was distractingly adorable, even confused. "Hey, Kendall, I've got a carafe of water and cups ready for us. Could you give me a hand?"
He nibbled the corner of his lip and I had a strong feeling he had more than water to hand me. He had that look — the one people get when they're trying to figure me out. Nevertheless, I nodded and followed him to the counter area.
"What's on your mind?" I asked in a low voice once we were out earshot of the others, who were continuing to look at cake pictures. No sense in pretending that he hadn't wanted to talk to me for some reason.
"We work a lot of weddings with y'all." He pulled two plates of samples out of the refrigerated case and set them on the counter. "And I just ..." He shrugged.
A prickle raised up my spine. This could get uncomfortable fast, but even as I felt my shields rising, I still gave him the benefit of the doubt and nodded stiffly. "Yes?"
"I want to make sure I treat you with respect," he whispered. "You know, when I think about you and stuff."
"You think about me?" Despite myself, my voice took on a flirty edge, in part to see if I could make him as uncomfortable as I was.
"Umm." He tugged on his left ear, a most delicious pink blush staining his cheeks. Yeah, he thought about me, probably in ways he'd rather not. "I just mean, I've heard Vic recommend y'all to people looking for a planner."
I nodded. I'd let him pretend that was it.
"I want to make sure I'm using your preferred pronouns, you know? I never know what to use when I'm thinking about you."
Well, wasn't that adorable. I'd been expecting something more blunt, along the lines of the oft-asked Are you a guy or a girl? But Todd looked so beseechingly earnest standing there, chewing his lip. His eyes were serious, like he actually cared about getting this right.
"Pronouns are tricky bastards, but you can use 'he,'" I said. "That's how I identify — a genderqueer gay man." I laid it all out there for him, in part because people who took the time to ask questions always wanted to know everything, including things that were none of their business, like when I'd first embraced my genderqueerness or whether I identified as both male and female or neither. More than one person had asked for percentages, like I did some complex math each morning when getting dressed. But I also wanted to mess with that little flare of interest I'd seen when Todd said that he thought about me. Did he think about me because he'd read me as female? It wouldn't be the first time. Especially when I left my hair down so that the curls brushed my neck, I got more "yes, ma'am" responses and curious looks. Frankly, I loved rocking my androgynous presentation, even if it did sometimes lead to awkward conversations like this.
Todd's face didn't give away a lot, with his eyes staying serious, but his ears flushed a darker shade of pink. "Good to know," he mumbled, not quite meeting my eyes.
That little bit of avoidance made my spine stiffen and my voice harden. "How about you? You have any labels I should know about?"
"Thought you'd already figured me out." He turned his arm over for me, revealing a tattoo on the underside of his forearm. He'd rolled the sleeves of his white bakery jacket up today, but I had a feeling they'd been down the other times I'd seen him as I totally would have remembered that tat — it was a tribal design with a sun at the center, but the sun was rainbow colored.
"Nice." I'd planned Vic's wedding to his husband, Robin, and I knew he liked to hire along the QUILTBAG spectrum, but unlike Todd's assumption, I really hadn't been able to get a read on him. Why would I ...
For when I think about you. Oh. Maybe this wasn't just the ordinary fishing expedition that curious people liked to hit me with all the time. Maybe —
"How's the cake coming?" Vic raised his jovial voice.
"Coming!" Todd scooped up the cake plates, leaving me with the water and a lot of questions.
When I got back to the table, Vic had sketched out a gorgeous cake — square base, round middle, and top tiers with a cascade of orchid-like flowers down the side.
"We want buttercream frosting, not fondant," Maria said as I settled back down. "I already know that."
"Their buttercream is divine. Try it with the espresso-infused cake." I pointed to a sample on her plate. "And remember, this is your day. Go with what you find absolutely delicious for both of you."
"Do you want a slice of something, Kendall?" Vic asked. "Anything you want in the front case, on the house. Todd can get it."
Vic always offered and I usually declined when bringing my clients in, but some little devil made me look directly at Todd. "I think I'll let my brides handle the cake. What do you recommend?" I didn't bat my eyes, but my tone was plenty flirtatious.
"I ... uh ..."
"Todd doesn't eat much sugar," Vic explained, giving me a stern don't mess with my assistant look. Whatever. We'd known each other long enough for him to give me a little leeway.
"I like the new paleo muffins." Todd blushed. His Southern accent got more pronounced when he was flustered. "No refined sugar."
"You can bring me one of them, if it's not too much trouble," I said.
"No trouble at all." His long, loping strides took him back over to the display case. He ducked behind it to grab a muffin and put it on a plate. His bakery coat was too baggy for me to check out his rearview, which was a pity. As he slid me the plate, his eyes lingered on my sweater. It was butter yellow, with a loose weave and plunging V in both front and back. It was one of those pieces in my wardrobe that made me feel invincible. And hot. The tips of Todd's ears blushed as he sat back down. Yeah, he'd noticed the hot part.
I tried to return my attention to Leah and Maria and what flavors would best compliment the rest of the reception food, but I was still aware of Todd, in a way that I hadn't been in a long time.
* * *
Over the next couple weeks I thought about Todd and his sweeter-than-butter-cream questions more than I would have liked, but work kept me busy — and away from the bakery until a rare lazy Saturday with my bestie.
"I don't want coffee," Freya said once we were already walking away from our building.
"What? Are you feeling okay?" I reached over and touched her forehead. Come to think of it, she had been acting a bit off the last few days. "This is what we do. We get coffee."
And by coffee, I meant fancy coffee drinks at our neighborhood place, which let us get in some great people-watching along with single-origin cappuccinos.
"I know, but I'm hungry. I've been doing that low-carb thing again, and all I can think of is carbs. Which I can't have."
"You doing the paleo thing like half the city?" I shook my head, making my hair tickle the back of my neck. It was an off day for me, so I'd left my hair natural and hadn't tried to tame the curls with product. Freya did not need to lose weight in my opinion, but she was convinced she had too much junk in the trunk.
"That's the one. I miss bread."
"Honey, you're perfect. Exactly as you are. You don't have to starve yourself."
"Thanks." She gave me a wan smile.
"Well, at the very least, let's find you something you can eat. The bakery that handles most of my wedding clients has a new paleo muffin. No grains, no refined sugars. It's not bad." Todd's muffins had come to mind immediately. I had a better chance of cheering her up — and giving myself a boost with a possible glimpse of Todd — at the bakery rather than hitting our usual neighborhood coffeehouse.
"Take me there. Now."
"All they have is drip coffee —"
"I don't care. I want muffins."
"Okay, okay." I lived in the newer part of Southeast Portland, but not too terribly far from the older neighborhood that housed Vic's bakery. "We'll have to take my car."
Freya was already turned around and headed for the underground parking at our building. Something about her still seemed a bit not herself, and not simply her sudden craving for carbs. I licked my lips — terrible nervous habit — and then immediately pulled out my clear gloss to fix the damage I'd done before I followed her.
* * *
Once we found parking on a side street near the bakery, my stomach did this weird rumble. Not hunger. And not unease about whatever was going on with Freya that she hadn't told me about. No, the wobbles were all anticipation — something I hadn't felt since long before Lewis, my ex. I wasn't sure whether I wanted Todd to be working the front or not. I hadn't seen him in the three weeks since our conversation during the Ramos-Vienne planning session. I didn't really have room for a lot of distractions in my life, and I needed a good relationship with Vic's bakery — not some weird, awkward shuffle with his assistant. But my uncertainty didn't matter because Todd was indeed working the front.
"Hi, Todd," I said when we approached the counter.
"Kendall! No consultation today, right?" Todd looked ... well, he was the sort of guy who didn't really look eager about anything in life, but his blue eyes lit up and the corners of his mouth lifted into a not-quite smile. The beard gave him a very roguish air and also made it even harder to read his emotions.
"No, I was telling Freya here about your new paleo muffins, and we'd like two, and two coffees with room for cream."
"For here or to go?"
"Here." I pulled my wallet out to pay.
"That's pretty," Todd said, gesturing to the pink embossed leather. His neck, not his ears, flushed this time. I couldn't tell whether he was uncomfortable complimenting a man who carried a purse and pink Coach wallet or whether he was uncomfortable with himself for liking said wallet.
Regardless, it wasn't my problem. "Thanks," I said and accepted our coffees, passing one to Freya. Todd put our muffins on cute little plates with red flowers on them.
We headed to one of the front tables. "Let me know if y'all need me to adjust the blinds," Todd called after us.
I snorted. Only in the Northwest did we fret over what to do with that strange glowing orb in the sky.
Some of the light in Todd's eyes flickered. "I mean ... let me know if there's ... well, anything I could do."
"We'll do that, honey." Freya reached across the counter to pat his bicep. She gets away with stuff like that. Me, I don't like my personal space invaded, so I'm careful to not do it to other people, Freya being a notable exception. We'd known each other a million years, and had the sort of comfortable friendship that should not have had her shifting around, fiddling with her phone and not meeting my eyes.
I waited until we were seated at a table to say, "Out with it."
"The bakery guy likes you."
"Not that," I said, even though it did make my cheeks heat. "And Todd's simply a nice kid."
"He's maybe five years younger. You can totally fish in that pool."
"Enough about him, or he'll hear you," I whispered, resisting the urge to look over at the counter and see what Todd was doing. "Now out with whatever's bothering you."
I needed her to tell me so that together we could solve the problem. It was what I was good at — helping my friends work through both major and minor crises. I knew I could get her back in a better mood.
"Okay." Freya stirred her coffee over-vigorously. "Here's the deal. I can't do the dance classes with you."
"What do you mean? Classes start in two weeks." Freya and I had planned for months to take West Coast Swing dance classes together in prep for a forties-themed charity dinner dance that I had no choice but to attend.
The charity event for the homeless shelter was sponsored in part by my mother's law firm, for which both Freya and my ex-boyfriend worked, Freya as an admin assistant, Lewis as junior associate. I had to make an appearance, and I'd been planning to show off some new dancing skills. Well, more accurately, I'd been wanting to not fall on my face or end up standing there alone, both of which seemed likely now. I'd had this vision of showing Lewis exactly what he was missing and not getting back, but that wasn't happening if I had to languish like some Victorian spinster without a dance partner.
"Kayla — you know, my sister in Tacoma — her husband's still deployed, and she just got put on bed rest with her pregnancy. I'm cashing in all my leave at work, and taking three weeks to go be with her until her husband gets back. I'm leaving tomorrow."
"That makes sense." I sighed. No way could I compete with a little sister in need. "Give my best to Kayla. You need anything for the drive?"
"I'm good." Freya gave me a tentative smile. "You're really not mad?"
"Of course not." I waved such a notion aside with a flick of my wrist. "But, what am I supposed to do now?"
"You already paid for a couples registration, right? Call around — I'm sure one of our friends will dance with you. Or you never know. Maybe you'll meet someone." Her eyes slid to the counter area where Todd was unloading a tray of cream puffs into the glass case.
Excerpted from Danced Close by Annabeth Albert. Copyright © 2017 Annabeth Albert. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.
Table of Contents
CHAPTER 1 - Kendall,
CHAPTER 2 - Todd,
CHAPTER 3 - Kendall,
CHAPTER 4 - Todd,
CHAPTER 5 - Kendall,
CHAPTER 6 - Todd,
CHAPTER 7 - Kendall,
CHAPTER 8 - Todd,
CHAPTER 9 - Kendall,
CHAPTER 10 - Todd,
CHAPTER 11 - Kendall,
CHAPTER 12 - Todd,
CHAPTER 13 - Kendall,
CHAPTER 14 - Todd,
About the Author,
LOVE ME TENOR,
ALL NOTE LONG,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I’ve missed a few of the titles in this series, most notable to me for showing the ordinary lives of people looking for love, even when those people happen to be looking for someone of the same sex. Annabeth Albert manages to highlight those moments that are familiar to us all, bringing us closer to her characters and easily engaged and involved in her stories. Todd is settlng into his life as a sober man with a plan, working every day to keep his life on track and not allow the demons that erode his self-esteem to run him off track. Even with encouragement from the boss at the bakery, Todd isn’t interested in taking more responsibility or chances, and is happy to be the ‘guy at the counter’. Until Kendall comes into the bakery: gender fluid, Kendall is a wedding planner with a solid niche in the LBGTQ market, even as he’d like to have more. Sure, Todd is cute but his last relationship ended badly, as his boyfriend had little interest in accepting his style and his lack of concern with gender labels. Together, these two are sweetly adorable, even if I was wishing for more to happen to push their growth further. Let me explain. Todd is very “Portland” – plaid shirts, ripped jeans, beard. His demeanor, however, is reticent and retiring. Until flirting (tentatively) with Kendall. Kendall for his part has no interest in being pigeonholed by the typical ‘gender rules’, he prefers to dance on the edge – more feminine one day, more masculine the next, but never predictable. This has, however, caused him issues in relationships. But, when these two finally start to build a relationship through Todd agreeing to join Kendall in a series of dance lessons that Kendall had planed to attend with his ex, the two of them start to show their true colors. We see that Todd’s experiences and life lessons haven’t hardened him, but made him more accepting and unwilling to judge people by any impressions, simply by their behavior toward him and others. Never having felt true acceptance, Kendall isn’t one to walk away from someone as special as Todd, especially if he can convince him to take those chances he so willingly gave him and expend them on himself. A bit heavier in tone than other books in the series, Albert devotes much time to Kendall’s gender fluidity and his issues that surround it, and it often felt as if this moment to teach readers (which was needed) and build a sense of this issues this could create did take away from Kendall and Todd actually making a connection that felt as strong to me, or as joyful, as others she’s written. That doesn’t make this a bad book, in fact I learned plenty and have come away with a new understanding as well as hopes that Todd and Kendall, in all their couplehood glory, will get their time to simply enjoy one another. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Warning: Addictions and Illnesses This might have been my favorite one so far in the Portland Heat series (I’m torn between this and Delivered Fast) and I’m glad that I read it. Kendall and Todd were absolutely wonderful together and I’m always impressed by Albert’s ability to write such emotional and beautiful love stories. Both of these characters have been hurt by past experiences and they really needed someone who could be gentle with them and understand who they really were. Todd may have never dated someone like Kendall before, but that didn’t stop him from embracing all parts of Kendall’s personality and life. Every time Todd wanted to stand up and defend Kendall against a judgmental person just made my heart squeeze. I have loved all of Annabeth Albert’s other books but the Portland Heat series has just been enjoyable but ok for me. Part of the reason behind this is that the Portland Heat series is written in the first person POV of only one character and this is my least favorite format for romance books. So I couldn’t be happier to find that this one was written in both Todd and Kendall’s first person POV. This really made a significant difference for me, because I always like to know what both sides of a relationship are thinking and feeling and what struggles they’re going through. I feel like there was a greater depth of character for both Todd and Kendall because of this. I also liked that Kendall knows when to be diplomatic and when to really make a stand. He knows that people are going to judge him but when it comes to really compromising his respect for himself, he doesn’t get pushed around. He struggled with claiming Todd as something more than a friend, but he never doubted that Todd could succeed in life and that he was a good person, even with his hard past. This book offered some new reading experiences for me that I haven’t come across before, namely Kendall’s gender fluidity and Todd’s secret that affects any relationship that he wants to have. These topics gave me some new things to experience, think about, and learn from and that’s always something that I can appreciate when I come across it in a book. The majority of what I read is M/F romance, with some M/M, so this was the first time that I’ve come across a genderqueer character. I loved Kendall’s character and I absolutely loved the way Kendall and Todd were together as a couple and how accepting they were of each other.
This is my first Portland Heat book and I’m sold! This is another series that follows individual couples, and each reads as a standalone. --I quickly fell in love with Kendall and Todd, together and apart. --Love switching perspectives between them. --The dealing with addiction and meetings rings true as someone who’s been around recovering addicts. --Love how it deals with pronouns, gender roles, misogyny, and discrimination within the rainbow community. --Love how Todd starts catching himself with gendered thinking and speech. --Love how Kendall has to catch himself about assumptions with food and money. --There is no dramatic meet-cute for them because they meet through work, which I appreciate as more realistic and endearing. --They start slowly physically, before ramping up to hot, perfect, explicit sex scenes. Don’t worry, they don’t forget the sweet, the cuddling, and the fun along the way. --There is the commutative failure to sow drama and discontent between them, so they can come together stronger in the end. --Things do go predictably, but that’s a feature rather than a bug. Absolutely perfect for contemporary romance fans looking for m/m couple and progressiveness.
Todd is a twenty-two year old starting his life over again. He’d struggled with weight issues, and addiction in his childhood, but he’s clean and sober, now. Still, it’s not easy to make his way in the world. A former runaway/homeless teen, he’d seen the worst of life on the streets. He doesn’t have a fancy degree–or even and unfancy one–but he’s a true blue spirit, willing to go the extra mile and work twice as hard as the next guy. He’s currently working in an upscale bakery, and that’s where he meets Kendall. Kendall is a genderqueer man who is definitely gay, but unhappy in his usual “role” due to his feminine-leaning fashion and slighter stature. He’s met Todd on several occasions when he brings wedding-planning clients to the bakery. And, there’s a spark, for sure. Todd has old-fashioned manners, and treats Kendall with respect. When Kendall’s partner for ballroom dancing classes cancels, he asks Todd to stand in–delighted to learn that Todd was a champion dancer in his early childhood. Todd isn’t a spotlight kind of guy–not anymore–but he agrees to be a partner to Kendall when he learns it’s all part of a benefit for the homeless shelter that rescued Todd from the streets. I really liked the slower pace of this romance, because Todd’s history isn’t like those of the men Kendall usually dates. Todd wants a partnership, more than a casual partner. They have dinners together, and talk, and dance, and have some shenanigans. But that’s only after some very frank and honest discussions about risk. Because those conversations are necessary for these guys. I also really liked the way that Todd accepted Kendall’s genderqueer identity. Kendall has had many experiences of being belittled for his outre habits, yet, Todd admires him earnestly. This is a sweet tale, and the love story spoke to me–for all of it’s challenges. For series fans we get a little bit of Vic from BAKED FRESH, as Todd works in his bakery. I liked how close Todd was with his Gran, and how hard he works to remain sober. It’s interesting at the beginning when Kendall teases Todd about his age, and Todd thinks about how aged he is for such a “young” person. He’s a guy who thought his life was mostly over before it had even begun, and considers himself unworthy of love. But, Kendall’s insecurities fit him–they fit each other in the right ways. They are able to support one another emotionally, and that means a lot to these two guys who really do want a solid love. It was an interesting and engaging read in this novella series, and I devoured it in one night-time gulp.
I enjoyed the absolute acceptance that Kendall and Todd have for each other. They have negative views of themselves unfortunately. Both are sure that the other is going to figure out their broken parts and baggage and run. I liked that Kendall had reached a point that he accepted who he was regardless of others opinions. Todd's protectiveness towards Kendall made me cheer. Todds Gran was a wonderful side character and I loved seeing Vic and Robin again. Recommended author and series Adult read
The Portland Heat series by Annabeth Albert has been a consistent favorite of mine, with small shop workers finding love and companionship in the busy city. Each story has had unique likable characters and situations, and Danced Close is another sweet and sexy novella worthy of the series. Kendall is a wedding planner, a genderqueer gay man who has found his niche and loves his work, bringing couples together and helping them plan their perfect wedding day. His favorite wedding cakes come from Vic's bakery, where Vic's new assistant Todd is learning the ropes. Kendall feels an instant attraction to Todd, and that feeling is mutual. When Kendall's partner for a swing dance class falls through, he asks Todd if he'd be willing to partner with him, in preparation for a charity dance fundraiser his mother is involved with. Kendall's last partner will be at the dance, and Kendall really doesn't want to show up solo. Todd's attraction to Kendall is as much for his looks as it is for his character and his comfort in his identity. But Todd is a recovering addict and HIV positive. Though his viral count is low, since he found out he's limited his interactions to other HIV positive men and kept himself from getting in too deep. It's easy to be swayed by Kendall's easy manner and obvious attraction to him, though both are gun shy about getting too involved. When their attraction leads to a stronger emotional connection, will they be willing to take that next step together? This is one of the few books I've read with a gender fluid character like Kendall, who embraces both his masculine and feminine sides. I found him to be very intriguing (he identifies as 'he') and appreciated that Todd found all aspects of his character to be appealing. There are several sweet and sexy scenes between them as they navigate a sexual relationship being mindful of the reality of Todd's status. The dance scenes are fun too. Todd's past is the darker of the two, including his HIV status and drug addiction problems. He is in AA and goes to meetings regularly. Though these are serious topics, the overall feeling of the story is quite light and low angst. Todd lives with his grandmother, a lovely and caring woman who has supported him through his recovery. In contrast, Kendall is quite wealthy, with his own well furnished place. They are opposite in nature but complement each other well. The story takes place over several weeks, and we get some cameo appearances from other characters from the series, as Kendall is planning the wedding for Robby and David from Served Hot, the first book in the series. All in all, it's an enjoyable read with a satisfying happy ending.
Another Great PH story from Ms Albert! ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩ FOUR-STAR ✩ REVIEW ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩ > > Judging a Book by it's Cover > Looking Deeper Alternating first person. Clearly defined, easy to follow. Kendall identifies as genderqueer. He's confident and comfortable with who he is, whether wearing sweatpants, a vintage suit or a sheath dress and heels. As a wedding planner, he loves providing the magic for a couple's special day; however, he is wary of relationships thanks to a bad prior relationship. Todd works at the bakery. He has some baggage and a load of insecurity issues. It's not until Kendall needs a replacement dance partner for an upcoming benefit that these two men begin more of a meaningful friendship with mutual attraction. Their chemistry is a bit awkward and their progression is almost painfully slow. The secondary characters were varied. Dialogue and cast interaction was good: believable. The plot was enjoyable and the flow was evenly paced and smoothly written. Although the story contained mention and bit roles from previous couples and/or characters, this book could stand on it's own well enough on it's own. Conflicts are internal and eventually worked through. The conclusion was solid with a "flash forward" style ending. I wish Todd's grandma had been included in the epilogue, since she played such a big part in is life, but other than that, it was another wonderful addition to the Portland Heat series. . Rating: [R] ~ Score: 4.025 ~ 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". ***** ⭐ ⭐
Short and super super sweet story about Kendall and Todd, if you haven’t read the other books in the series do not worry because this novella can read as a standalone and I promise you will really enjoy it. I seriously just wanted to hug them both and tell them everything was going to be alright and to please just be honest with one another and be happy already!! On one side we have Todd who doesn’t feel like he is good enough for Kendall, and then we have Kendall who is positive that he isn’t Todd’s type. They both struggle with this throughout the book and it was excruciating for me to read about it because they are so beautiful individually and together, they accepted each other for who they were and somehow still found themselves having doubts. Like, he can’t possibly like me! And he can’t possibly think I’m enough for him! Annabeth has the ability to write heartfelt stories that break my heart a little bit but that always leave my heart happy at the end.
Danced Close is the sixth book in the Portland Heat series but each of the books can be read as standalones with no problem. This isn’t my favorite story by Annabeth Albert but I still liked it a lot. I just didn’t seem to feel the connection between Todd and Kendall and that’s super unusual for me with an Annabeth Albert book. I have loved every single one of her stories and I’m pretty sure that I’ve read them all. I hate it when I can only give a 4-star review to one of my favorite authors. Now a 4-star review is still great IMHO, but it still pains me when I feel that I just can’t give 5 stars and still be honest about my feelings when I read the book. Opinions on books can be affected by so many things like what else is going on for me when I’m reading a story or maybe I was too tired when I tried to read it? I wish I could pinpoint the exact reason. I still think the writing is superb and I really suspect that it was the characters that I couldn’t connect with as easily and I have with the characters in the other books in this series. (Knit Tight is one of my all-time favorite books.) It's also a fairly short book so that might have been part of it. A bit more detail about both of the MCs would probably have helped me feel more connected. This may sound weird but I tend to judge a book by whether or not it makes me cry. If a book really gets to me I invariably shed tears, it’s just the way I am. I didn’t shed any tears reading Danced Close; another first for me with an A.A. book. I’m not going to restate the books blurb because it’s great and I couldn’t say it any better if I tried to summarize the book in my own words. I will say that if you are an Annabeth Albert fan you definitely should read this story and I think you will at least like it as I did. I just can’t say I loved this one. A review copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley but this did not influence my opinion or rating of the book.
Having missed out on Wrapped Together because of scheduling issues, I was delighted to be able to squeeze Danced Close in as I adore the Portland Heat series. Albert does a great job of striking the balance in these novellas by penning believable connections that aren’t insta-love, yet propel the story forward in such a way that the reader gets to see the spark, the deepening of the connection, and the beginning of the relationship. Even when obstacles surface and the sailing isn’t smooth, the author guides the couple (or gets dragged along by them) toward the happy for now ending that is right for the men involved. That she accomplishes this in less than 150 pages is quite a feat because I’m left feeling happy and invested in the couples’ future, hopeful that they’ll make a cameo in a future installment in the series so I can see that they are still in love and working toward their happily ever after. As expected, Danced Close delivered all this and a bit more for me personally as I watched Todd struggle with the baggage I’ve witnessed friends deal with when navigating a new relationship – and no, I won’t disclose what it was since it wasn’t mentioned in the blurb. Because of it, I felt particularly invested in Todd’s character and how he not only found love, but he reclaimed a part of his past that he had closed the door on during his recovery and discovered new things about himself. I absolutely loved Todd; his earnestness, his openness, and his absolute acceptance of Kendall’s gender fluidity made him a breath of fresh air. It also made it impossible for me not to adore Kendall. I won’t lie, I find gender fluid characters absolutely fascinating. I am in awe of the person who comes to realize that they don’t “fit the norm” and is able to be true to who they are, especially in our current climate. So, seeing characters like Kendall take center stage and find that person who sees them for who they are on the inside, while wholeheartedly embracing who they are on the outside is wonderful. Equally enjoyable for me, was that Todd and Kendall discovered a new level of intimacy in their role reversal. I particularly liked the scene where Todd discovers that he’s not eager to give up the lead to someone who isn’t Kendall. Unsurprisingly, my heart broke for both characters when they faced an insurmountable obstacle (in their opinions), but I had faith that Albert would make everything come together in the end and she proved my belief in her writing to be justified. I absolutely loved Danced Close and look forward to backtracking to Wrapped Together, while awaiting the next installment in the Portland Heat series. I received a free copy of this book to read and review for Wicked Reads. Please note: My review is of an unedited, pre-release copy of this book and assumes that errors were corrected prior to publication.
Danced Close by Annabeth Albert Portland Heat Novella #6 A sweet love story set in Portland that tells of a bakery shop employee and a wedding planner who don’t expect a HEA but find one anyway. With genderqueer male Kendall always worried that people don’t get or appreciate him for himself and Todd who is carrying his own load of history while maintaining sobriety there shouldn’t be much for the two to have in common. That said, Todd does seem to see Kendall in ways others have not and Kendall appreciates this. Later, setting up for a wedding, Kendall sees Todd feeling the rhythm of a musical number and thinks, “Why not?” He then asks Todd to be his partner at the class he has signed up for explaining that the person he signed up to attend with him has had to bail for family reasons. As they get to know one another they share their pasts and learn one another’s preferences. There is eventually about a week of questioning and angst but eventually things are made right and life moves on in a very pleasant way for both of them. This is the type of book you might enjoy if you are looking for a quick MM read that is fun and sweet and not too deep. It does deal with issues of sobriety, addiction, genderqueer identification, stereotypes, families, trust, etc. tactfully without going into depth on any of the issues. Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Publishing for the ARC. This is my honest review. 4 Stars