Review // Better Not Pout

Title: Better Not Pout
Author: Annabeth Albert
Published: November 2018
Publisher: Carina Press
Readership: Adult
Genre: Romance, LGBTQIA+
Rating: ★★★★★

I received a copy of Better Not Pout from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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.

It’s no secret I like to break up my more complex reading (or, at least, the books that require a lot of brain power to puzzle out the story) with books that are lighter and faster-paced. That’s when I normally turn to paranormal or romance-based books, and even though they’re quicker and easier to read, they oftentimes pack an emotional punch that’s a good way to cleanse my reading palette.

I’m not one for Christmas books. I’m no Scrooge, but Christmas is a holiday like any other for me, and I don’t actively go seeking out Christmas-themed books – during Christmas or any other time of the year – but because it was an Annabeth Albert book I decided to give Better Not Pout a shot, because Albert has not let me down since I first discovered her books over a year ago.

Better Not Pout is about the developing romance between Nick – a retiring Sergeant Major – and Teddy – an irrepressible young man with a heart of gold. Their paths cross when Nick agrees to fill in as Santa to raise money for the community organisation that Teddy runs (and plays elf to Nick’s Santa) during the holiday season. When a snowstorm finds Nick unable to make it back to base, the two men find themselves getting to know one another and deciding to have a casual romance before Nick retires and leaves for Florida. However, things are never quite so simple, and Nick and Teddy find that what they thought could be a no-strings arrangement is more complicated than they first thought.

This was honestly one of the cutest romances I’ve read in a while. Nick is every bit the rough-around-the-edges older guy who’s sad that he has to leave a life he loves, but is trying to make a clean break. He doesn’t want to get caught up in any relationships before he goes, but he can’t help but get entangled with Teddy (and his wonderful clan of McNally relatives). Meanwhile, Teddy is enthusiastic and gives everything he does his all, but he’s not an exuberant risk-taker – he loves his family, his job and the responsibilities that come with both. He also sees how much Nick needs other people around him, and tries to coax him into new situations.

The major plot is really around how these two men develop their relationship, and the complications that come with having a finite deadline on it. How do these characters protect themselves and their hearts from forming attachments that are too strong, or perhaps, is there room to negotiate and compromise where both of them get what the want?

There are a lot of sex scenes, which is not going to be for everyone, but the core of the story – as with all Annabeth Albert’s books – lies in the emotional centre of the two characters and that’s what I really appreciate.

Along with way too many food references that left me wishing it was Thanksgiving (and I don’t even celebrate Thanksgiving here in Australia!).

Also, if I could bundle Teddy up and keep him for myself, I absolutely would, because he was just so relentlessly positive and kindhearted, and I don’t often read a lot of characters like him, so he was a breath of fresh air.

Better Not Pout is being released in November by Carina Press.

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