The camping trip from hell may be the first stop on the road to happily-ever-after.
Navy SEAL Renzo Bianchi has a soft spot for Canaan Finley, and not only because the man makes a mean smoothie. He’s the first guy to get Renzo’s motor revving in a long time. But when he agrees to Canaan’s insane charade—one all-access fake boyfriend, coming right up—he never expects more than a fling.
Creating a hot Italian SEAL boyfriend to save face seemed like a good idea…until his friends called Canaan’s bluff. Now he’s setting off into the woods with the very man who inspired his deception, and Canaan is not the outdoorsy type. The sparks are already flying when a flash flood separates them from their group, leaving Renzo and Canaan very much trapped…very much alone in the wilderness.
Working together to come up with a plan for survival is sexier than either of them expects. But back in the real world, being a couple is bringing its own set of hazards…
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Canaan slipped on a puddle behind the register, narrowly avoiding hitting the tile floor, before he even got a chance to ogle the latest group of SEALs walking through the Smoothie Palace doors.
"Look out! I'll mop in a minute." His coworker Sage reached around him to add strawberries to the blender.
Fitness Friday was his favorite day of the week. Two-for-Tuesdays tended to bring in the civilian base employees in cheerful clumps, and on Wacky Wednesdays young ensigns and newly minted lieutenants enjoyed one-upping each other's bizarre combos. But something about Smoothie Palace's protein drink specials on Fridays brought out the SEALs.
Sure, Coronado was overrun with SEALs as it was, but Canaan looked forward to seeing the guys come in, many still in PT shorts and T-shirts, all sweaty and glowing from the obstacle course or running. They laughed and joked and tended to tip better than the civilians or the brass. And the eye candy ... Good lord. Biceps and abs and thighs for days. It was no wonder that he worked with a little extra something something in his step Fridays.
"Your eyes get bigger and bigger every week," Sage teased as she worked.
"Shut up." He went back to the register to help the next person in line.
He'd own his SEAL fetish. Just like he owned this job. The wages sucked, even with tips, but the hours fit with his class schedule, and the boss was a nice man who always asked Canaan how school was coming and didn't give him crap. So Canaan did his best, delivered superior customer service, and enjoyed the perks of the job, SEALs included.
He was helping a ripped African American SEAL with a gleaming shaved head, badass biceps tattoo, and shiny wedding ring when some of his favorite customers came in, all wearing camo work uniforms. They almost always came in together — a taller auburn-haired guy with a scorpion tat on his forearm, a shorter burly man, an earnest younger guy, and the muscled Italian stud of Canaan's dreams. They all had fun SEAL nicknames too. Bacon. Curly. Shiny. Rooster. The Italian guy was Rooster, which suited his styled dark hair, muscles that outdid even his built friends, Mediterranean coloring, and endless swagger.
They took their time deciding on their order, so Canaan waited patiently and tried not to look like he was listening in.
"Shiny, you need to put a ring on that girl of yours." Curly was newly married and apparently eager to get others hitched up. "Get out of the barracks."
"Aww, we're not that serious. She just came to your wedding as a favor. I think." Shiny didn't look any too sure, and Canaan felt for the guy. Not knowing how serious a hookup wanted to be was one of Canaan's talents.
"She seemed nice." Rooster had the best voice, deep with more than a hint of East Coast to it. "Just tell her how you feel. Women tend to dig when you're straightforward."
Shiny groaned, and apparently none of them were in any hurry to order, which was fine. More Rooster watching for him.
"Easy for you to give advice. You're the one who brought a dude to Curly's wedding."
Wait. Hold up. Rooster did what now? Canaan had been flirting rather shamelessly with the whole group for months now, and his favorite one was known to bat for his team? Hello. Red-letter day. They could take till next year to order, and Canaan would just bask in this amazing revelation.
"Are we going to order?" Shiny stepped forward, got his usual Power Lifter Pineapple, and seemed awfully eager to move down the counter away from his friends. Curly got the Strong Arm Strawberry, and Bacon got that week's special — a cherry base blended with vanilla protein powder. He was a good tipper, so Canaan made sure he got a wide smile and thanks in return before he moved farther down the counter. Which left Canaan all alone with Rooster, who was taking forever studying the menu.
"Tell me. Is the cherry stuff that good?" he asked Canaan in that voice of his — all confident and commanding but silky smooth like cheesecake.
"Dunno. Do you like cherries?" Canaan reached below him to the fridge where they had a few sample cups made up with the special. "Wanna try a sip?"
Rooster swallowed with the sort of seriousness Canaan imagined wine tasters used, then grimaced. "Too sweet."
"Now that's a complaint I don't hear very often." Canaan winked at him. "You like something a bit more ... complex?"
Rooster's mouth quirked. "Not complicated. I don't like nine million ingredients."
"I can handle uncomplicated." Canaan gave him his real smile, not the one he kept on stock for good tippers, but the one that said he really wouldn't mind another twenty minutes of this banter as long as the line stayed slow. "How about the High Octane — it's coffee, chocolate, protein powder, and energy blend. Not too many ingredients, but really good. It's what I get on breaks."
"Your favorite?" Rooster smiled back, a lazy grin that made Canaan's stomach all warm and wobbly. "Guess I can give it a whirl."
Canaan rang him up, and since Sage was still busy with the other three and there wasn't a line, he started the drink for Rooster, fetching the cold brew coffee from the fridge.
"Big plans this weekend?" he asked while he made the drink.
"Working out with a friend tomorrow. Gonna film some new moves."
"Please tell me you put those clips online." Thinking fast, Canaan grabbed a blank stamp card and a pen and thrust it at him. "I'll fill a stamp card for you if you give me your handle."
"Well ..." Rooster's eyes shifted to his friends, who were deep in conversation. "Navy doesn't exactly approve of me being on social media ..."
"Not gonna tell a soul," Canaan promised. "I just like workout videos and fitness pics." And how.
"Yeah?" Rooster gave him an appraising stare, one that had Canaan damn near preening. "That so?"
"Yup." Canaan set the blender going and returned to the counter. He filled a stamp card and waved it at Rooster. "So how about it?"
"Okay, okay." Rooster scribbled something on the other card and pushed it at Canaan. Their fingers brushed as they traded cards, thick callused fingers rubbing against his, and Canaan swore his toes curled from the contact.
"So how about you?" Rooster asked as Canaan poured his drink into a purple plastic Smoothie Palace cup.
"How about me what?" Canaan was still busy celebrating getting his username and felt a little punch-drunk on the contact to boot.
Here was the opening Canaan had been waiting months for, and no way was he missing it. "Dunno. I get off at nine. Wanna help me find trouble?"
"You make that offer to all your customers?" Rooster studied him intently, and Canaan straightened his spine, trying to pass whatever test he was giving him.
"Just my favorite ones." The more honest answer would be just you, but Canaan didn't want to seem too desperate, so he kept his voice light and easy. "How 'bout it?"
"Rooster!" Bacon called out before Rooster could answer. "Come on. We've got that meeting in ten."
"Sorry. Gotta head out. Thanks for the card." Rooster gave him a smile but no answer before hurrying over to join his friends.
Crap. That was most likely a firm no, which was what Canaan deserved for crossing the line between flirty and inviting with a customer. But it sure as hell didn't stop him from looking up the guy's social media when he took his break a couple of hours later. He'd worked hard for that intel — including using one of his allotted free drink cards that he usually reserved for when he screwed up an order — and he wasn't going to turn down some prime viewing material.
And Rooster was good. His parkour-style workouts where he went through homemade obstacle courses were mesmerizing. There was no mention of SEALs or even San Diego on his social media, and his Philly-Fit handle further obscured his deets. That and he was always in civilian clothing. Usually shirtless, thank you sweet Jesus, showing off pecs that could double as Hummer hubcaps. Tons of selfies too — him posing in various mirrors, commenting on his physique with adorable little quips like "Only angle I really like my abs" or "Think I'm finally getting the triceps definition I wanted." Humble brags from a guy who clearly believed in treating his body like a temple, and Canaan was all about worshiping at that altar.
He was deep into Rooster's videos when his phone rang. Damian. Who could never just text like a normal person, but had to call.
"Yeah?" He paced away from the back door.
"You on break?"
"Yep. Only have a few minutes." That Damian knew his schedule would be more disconcerting if they hadn't known each other for well over a decade. And it went both ways. Canaan knew that Damian and the rest of the band were in Spain this week, finishing up their latest European tour. He hadn't done the time zone math, but Damian's languid, slightly hoarse voice said that they'd just wrapped a show and he was kicking back with a drink in a hotel somewhere. Once upon a time, that voice had done things to Canaan's insides, revved him up, but now all it did was make his back muscles tighten.
"That's fine. Just wanted to call to confirm we're still on for the trip. Kelly is making the final arrangements with the wilderness tour company, and they want firm numbers. So you are bringing someone, right?"
"I ... Not sure. Do I have to?" He wished Kelly could have been the one to call him — this whole camping expedition with Canaan's old band was Kelly's idea, and he was infinitely easier to deal with than Damian, who had all sorts of rules and requests for what should be a chill weekend.
"Canaan. Baby. Everyone will be coupled up. I'm bringing Eric, and everyone else has someone. I don't want things to be awkward between us."
God forbid they were awkward. Like breaking up in Prague hadn't been bad enough, or Damian taking up with Eric, the replacement drummer, mere minutes later, now apparently they had to socialize like adults because the rest of their friend circle demanded it. And quite honestly, Canaan had lost enough the past few years. He wasn't losing his oldest friends too. "Things will be fine."
"Of course," Damian said, a little too quickly and brightly. "But last time we talked, you said you were seeing someone ... Just bring them. It'll be easier. On everyone."
More like easier on Eric's jealous ass. And had Canaan said that? He supposed it was possible in some vague make-Damian-happy way that he'd alluded to such a thing.
"I ... uh ..." The absolute best thing would be to say the truth, which was that he was exactly as single as he'd been boarding that plane in Prague. As single as he'd been in the three years since, flitting from hookup to hookup, nothing sticking. But what came out was "He's a SEAL. You know, unpredictable hours. Could be deployed anytime. Can't say for sure if he'll have leave ..."
"Well, can he try?" Damian did not sound in the least impressed by the SEAL factoid. "And really, I'm happy for you. About time you moved on."
"Yeah." About that ...
"Listen. Since your guy's military and all, I'll just tell Kelly you're bringing him. I'll cover the fee, and you guys just show up."
"I've got money." Not much, but he did have some, and didn't feel the best about letting Damian float him. Not to mention his imaginary boyfriend.
"My present to you. I insist. Just get your ass to Flagstaff."
"I'll try. Probably by myself though because —"
"Bring. Him. Don't be a loser."
Too late. He already was a loser. Giant L and all. Twenty-six and concocting relationships out of thin air like some sixteen-year-old might. And he'd be showing up alone with some bullshit story, and things would be awkward with Damian and Eric, because of course they would be.
But he'd be with the rest of his guys again, get to catch up on their lives, hear all the tour stories he'd missed. The togetherness would be worth any issues with Damian or feeling like a fifth wheel. Damian might be a class-A jerk at times, but Canaan could still remember when he'd been a brash, confident teenager who'd turned his knees to jelly. And even though Damian had changed, Kelly and Jules and the others had been there for Canaan through some of his hardest times. He missed their old closeness even more than he missed performing with the band. Sure, he had friends locally, but there was something special about hanging with people he'd known since he was fourteen.
As he ended the call, Rooster's workout video resumed playing. He flexed and moved with grace, and simply watching him calmed Canaan's racing pulse.
Man, if he really were able to conjure up a SEAL boyfriend, he'd look an awful lot like Rooster, have that same silky voice and slow smile. And in an ideal world, Rooster would take him up on his offer to meet, and that would be the start of something special ...
Nope. Canaan lived in the real world, one where he lacked superpowers and where he had gotten himself into this mess, and he would have to get himself out.
Renzo wiped the sweat from his forehead. So much for spring — it was hot outside already and hotter still in the dive locker.
"Rooster, man, tell me why we always wind up with these crap jobs?" Even poor Shiny's usual optimism was dipping as they finished up their inventory of dive equipment.
"Because we're not chiefs yet." Renzo went for honesty as he checked oxygen canisters. Maybe if he were a chief, he could shed the stupid Rooster nickname. "Man, I cannot wait. Inventory is the worst."
"At least we had enough time to grab a snack." Shiny gave him a goofy grin. "God bless Fitness Fridays."
You're telling me. "Yup."
He'd let Shiny think he had the idea to get smoothies, when really Renzo had been looking forward to it all week. The guys would razz him hard if they knew that, and he did not need them giving him grief just because he enjoyed bantering with one particular Smoothie Palace employee. Big full lips. Pale green eyes. Lush blond hair. The sort of compact build that always worked for him, combined with infectious confidence. The flirty guy whose name tag said Canaan was just fun, and after a long, boring week, a little pick-me-up was exactly what he'd needed.
While he hadn't intended to give out his social media handle, he wasn't going to waste time beating himself up over it. It wasn't exactly a state secret — plenty of the guys knew about his videos — and Canaan didn't really seem like the sort of guy to go reporting him to the higher-ups, who might have something to say about Renzo's little hobby. And if Canaan dug fit guys? So much the better for the little bit of flirt they had going on.
Not that anything was going to come of it — Renzo wasn't looking to start anything, and he had a feeling that Canaan hit on a lot of customers without being particularly serious about the follow-through. Besides, Renzo didn't hook up with base people. He liked to keep that part of his life as separate as possible, just like his videos. No need to have to give up smoothies just because things went sideways.
"So I took your advice." Shiny wasn't one to work in silence, and Renzo made an encouraging noise to let him know he was listening. "Texted my girl. Told her I wanted to go out tonight."
"Good for you." Renzo straightened another canister. He liked everything facing the same way, straight rows of evenly spaced equipment.
"Think I'll tell her I want to be exclusive." Shiny's cheeks turned more than a little green at the prospect. And this was why Renzo didn't do relationships — too much time being nauseous waiting to see how the other person wanted to drop-kick your heart. "You wanna come?"
Not a chance. No way was Renzo getting in the middle of a state-of-the-relationship talk. "Think I've got plans."
"You sure? I can probably get Mary to bring a friend. Her friend Katie thinks you're ripped."
"I don't need a setup."
Shiny frowned. "Is it because she's a girl? I can ask Mary —"
"Dude." Renzo rolled his eyes at Shiny. "I go all ways, but I don't need help getting laid."
Setups like what Shiny was proposing were particularly challenging. Tons of people were SEAL chasers — only interested in him for his trident and potential as arm candy. And while appreciation of his physique could be fun, it got old after a while.
"Fine. Suit yourself." Shiny sighed. "So what are your plans for tonight?"
Unbidden, an image of Canaan popped into Renzo's head. We could get into trouble. Wasn't that what he'd said? And trouble sounded damn good. An antidote for the restlessness that kept sneaking up on him. He did not deal with downtime well, and the lull their team was in wasn't helping and neither was his sorta-self-imposed dry spell. Maybe he did need something, but not an evening watching Shiny dance around talking serious to his girl.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Rough Terrain"
Copyright © 2019 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
A true love story. Canaan and Renzo are awesome! They are such a compliment to each other. I look forward to, maybe, an update to these two.
I really enjoyed the freak out of this book. I have not read the rest of the series, but I don't feel as though I missed any vital information, so I'm confident in it's ability to be read as a stand alone. Canaan Finley is in nursing school by day, a smoothie king by night. He lives with his grandpa and he wouldn't have it any other way. The best part about living in San Diego? There's no shortage of Navy SEALs. And he's got a group of 4 that are regulars, but only one has caught his eye. Renzo Bianchi is in a holding pattern. He's living in California, doing the SEAL thing... waiting to get sent on a mission, waiting for a transfer back home to Virginia. When Canaan catches his eye and offers him a bit of trouble, he's taken on a mission he can't forget...and doesn't want to. Oh, man. THE FEELINGS! Annabeth Albert seriously got me in this one. I couldn't help feeling the gamut of emotions for both Renzo and Canaan, but also for myself. I wanted EVERYTHING for them. Things I loved best about Canaan: --He was a talker, especially about his plans and what he wanted --He stood up for himself fiercely --He was a total romantic and planned ahead --He didn't compromise even when it would have been the easy way Things I loved best about Renzo: --He just cared soooooo much. So much. --He wanted to earn the title of hero --He put his family first --He was sweet and funny and unafraid when it mattered Together, they just worked. Vastly different backgrounds and personalities. I loved the juxtaposition of their personalities as well. I was expecting Renzo to be a cocky jerk, honestly, but he was almost shy and reserved, especially when it came to sex. And Canaan was the one with the wild sexual past, which I kind of enjoyed. It made his character more real. Loved the characters, loved the story, loved the writing. Totally recommend. And now I've got 6 more books to catch up on!
Another one in out of uniform series that I absolutely loved. I loved seeing Renzo and Canaan grow together as couple and individually. I loved Canaan and his grandfather is simply amazing. Renzo is under a lot of pressure especially by his parents expectations. Honestly I didn't like his mother that much. Overall I really enjoyed this book and I'm a bit sad that this is the last in the series. Annabeth albert has always written stories that I don't want to put down and this one is not anydifferent. *ARC kindly provided by a NovelTake PR via NetGalley in return for an honest and unbiased review
Rough Terrain was bittersweet since it's the last book in the Out of Uniform series and I've grown really attached to these characters. But either way, Annabeth Albert has written a wonderful and emotional romance about two people who seem like opposites but actually work perfectly together. Canaan loves life and he embraces all parts of it but lately it's been pretty tough -- he's finishing his degree, working, and taking care of his grandfather. He might have a free-wheeling past in a rock band but Canaan is ready to settle down and get a steady job. I really loved Canaan and how enthusiastic he is about life not to mention how incredibly sweet he is with his grandfather. Renzo was also really enjoyable and I loved the dichotomy between his confidence and his awkwardness about sex. You see Renzo has a bit of an issue...he's larger than your average guy, down below, and sex hasn't always been easy for him or his partners. But Canaan is open and frank about sex and what he likes and he slowly starts to show Renzo that sex can be fun and great as long as both parties communicate. Renzo is a natural born protector and he's used to being the hero in his family. But that's also put a lot of pressure on him to be perfect and strong and the best he can be. Together and individually, Canaan and Renzo are great characters and I loved reading about them. Their chemistry is off the charts but they're also really sweet together. There's plenty of obstacles for their relationship but they aren't insurmountable as long as Renzo can learn to trust that Canaan is in it for the long term. I'm sad to say goodbye to all these characters but it's been a wonderful journey.
Every time I think Annabeth Albert can't possibly come up with another couple that challenge while also complimenting each other, she proves me wrong. On the surface, Renzo and Canaan seem like they're a case of opposites attract. Once they start getting to know each other, though, the similarities in what they want out of life are so similar. I developed a soft spot for Renzo right away, with his confidence as a SEAL coupled with his shaky self-image. I love that Albert is able to write characters who are strong and confident while also showing that they have real insecurities and doubts. As always, the conversations about consent were a highlight of the book for me. Completely in-character, appropriate and endearing without being heavy-handed. The fake-boyfriend trope is one of my least favorites, but I did enjoy it here. Canaan's bandmates are kind of tools, so I didn't enjoy the parts with them as much. Canaan's grandfather is a joy, though. Overall, as sad as I am to see the series end, I'm very happy with the connection between Renzo and Canaan. It was a fitting send-off.
Rough Terrain is the final book in the Out of Uniform series, though I understand there will still be occasional shorts and novellas within the universe. The great thing about this series is it’s easy to jump around and out of order as I’ve done. Although characters from previous books often make appearances, their roles are such that each book is a true standalone. While I have yet to read the series in full, it has yet to disappoint and Rough Terrain proved to be another enjoyable and entertaining story featuring great characters. It was impossible not to like Renzo and Canaan from the start. Their opposites attract romance was cute and I liked how Canaan’s boldness steadily pulled the quieter Renzo from the background. I also loved how the author worked the fake boyfriend trope into Rough Terrain. It made for an interesting and entertaining story while pushing the romance along at a faster, but still believable, pace. Though Canaan and Renzo were certainly different in many respects, Miss Albert also highlighted their similarities, such as their admirable devotion to their families, making it easy to see just how well these two fit. Between the trouble Renzo and Canaan got into on the camping trip, the flirty and often sexy banter, and characters you couldn’t help but love, this sweet, fun romance easily kept my attention and made for a very enjoyable read I’d recommend. *eARC received via Netgalley. The author and publisher had no influence over this review*
I truly enjoyed this contemporary M/M story. I found both Renzo and Canaan extremely interesting and watching their story unfold was a real treat. Everyone knows that Canaan has a thing for a man in uniform and Renzo Bianchi fills his out better than most. Too bad relationships aren't for Renzo so friends it is. That is until Renzo needs a fake boyfriend to meet the parents and put their worries to rest. On a crazy trip home there is lots of fun, flirting and even a near death experience. Will Renzo finally let his heart go? Great read and one I highly recommend.
Renzo...loved him. He frustrated the hell out of me with his holding back, but he's so giving and kind. He fights against falling for Cannan so hard I wanted to just shake the crap out of him. I was disappointed that he kept passing Cannan off as "all right" in his attempt to keep his feelings at bay. Cannan, was just, WOW! That man just laid it out there; what he wanted, what he was offering, what he liked. It attracted and repelled Renzo at the same time. It was impressive that Cannan saw that the choices he made for his life were the best ones for him. There was no longing for returning to 'life with the band' other than missing his friends. How he treated others made him wonderful. I loved his declaration that his grandfather was part of his future life. His kindness to Renzo's brother and parents made me smile. His stubborn determination to keep Renzo no matter what made me cheer. Loved the ending.
This is only the second book of this series I’ve read and it was great. The fake boyfriend trope doesn’t always grab me, especially when circumstances feel too contrived but this one felt pretty natural. The d-bag ex boyfriend role didn’t include any drama and he just slinks away into the distance. I did think that Canaan (great name!) was a bit too whiney, questioning everything Renzo said even before the dangerous part, as if he knew nothing about SEAL capabilities. It didn’t seem like it fit, making Canaan feel too timid. The relationship build was excellent along with Canaan helping Renzo overcome his performance anxiety, showing him that good sex wasn’t all penetrative. Hot, hot frottage and intercrural scenes, along with the rest! Showing how both men struggled a bit with being part of a couple, navigating all the meet the friends and family obstacles only to find there were others they might not get past. I really felt for Canaan and Renzo and loved how they reached their HEA. Mostly I was happy that the drama was kept low while believable conflict built the anticipation high. Happy to recommend it. #NetGalley #RoughTerrain *An ARC was provided by the author, publisher or a promotional service and I have chosen to publish a fair and honest review*
I hate to see this series end. Well, someone once said "all good things must come to an end" but that doesn't mean we have to be happy about it. I have loved the Out of Uniform series so much! Each book in this series can easily be read as a standalone story and each one has been special in its own way. Rough Terrain is now tied for first place as my favorite in the series; my other favorite was On Point. I think there must be something about two guys getting stranded together with no one else around that really works for me. Canaan and Renzo's relationship starts out pretty slow but Renzo is as attracted to Canaan as Canaan is to Renzo – Canaan just doesn't know it. Canaan Finley has a bit of a reputation for lusting after Navy SEALs and Renzo Bianchi sure caught his attention when he and his fellow SEALs came into the smoothie shop where Canaan works. Renzo's attracted to Canaan but doesn't intend to lose his heart or get burned again. His last relationship ended badly when his now ex-boyfriend used him to make *his* ex jealous. I always enjoy a good fake-relationship story and this one is really great. Canaan's former bandmates are going on a camping trip and insist that Canaan bring his current boyfriend. Canaan might have made up a Navy SEAL boyfriend just to get his ex-boyfriend/ex-bandmate off of his back. So Canaan is happily shocked when Renzo agrees to pretend to be his boyfriend for the weekend. I felt so bad for Renzo that his few sexual relationships didn't really go well (you'll find out why when you read the book). He likes to cuddle and kiss but doing much more hasn't really worked for him in the past. Canaan is determined to show Renzo that there is nothing wrong with him and that he just hasn't met the right person yet (Renzo is bi). This story has lots of feels in it. Canaan left the band he was in to be there for his Grandpa when his Grandma got sick. After Grandma died, he's continued to stay in the small apartment in back of Grandpa's house so he can keep an eye on him. Renzo lives across the country from his parents and brother but has requested a change of duty station in order to be closer to them. Family relationships are complicated but important in this book. I could go on and on about this story but you really just need to read it for yourself. If you are a fan of this series you won't want to miss it. If you haven't started the series yet don't be intimidated by the fact that this is book 7. While I almost always like to read a series in order, I can tell you that you won't feel lost or like you're missing anything if you start with this book. Characters from previous books do make an appearance but they are very brief and not really integral to Canaan and Renzo's story. While this series is now complete, don't despair; Annabeth has a new one coming up soon called Frozen Hearts and I'm really looking forward to reading it. 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***