Review: Sink or Swim by Annabeth Albert (2022)

Shore Leave, Book #2

Review of Short Leave, Book #1

Heat Factor: So tender! There’s not a lot of sex in this book, and it mostly occurs relatively early on.

Character Chemistry: “I don’t trust you, but you’re definitely hot, and we’re stuck together in this cabin.” → “OMG, feelings!”

Plot: Calder “wins” a cabin from Felix’s mean ex-husband, they end up stuck together there for a weekend, and why wouldn’t that result in a friends-with-benefits-but-actually-dating situationship?

Overall: If you are looking for Big Hug Energy in your romance, this whole relationship is that

I have been waiting only somewhat patiently for this book to come out. I really enjoyed Sailor Proof, and also there were keywords: Silver Fox. What can I say? I know what I want. 

Calder is a chief in the Navy, and he’s been stuck ashore since getting a concussion because of something that happened on his sub. It’s only important insofar as it comes into play re: Calder’s life goals (and how they change(?)). So when he wins a cabin in a poker game, he’s all, “Yay! A win!” (He really likes to win.)

Fun story, the guy who bet the cabin is the ex-husband of the cabin’s real owner, Felix. And guess what? Felix ends up at the cabin with his nieces (for whom he has sole custody) on the same weekend that Calder goes to check out the cabin. WHAT ARE THE ODDS?!

Oh, and it’s snowing. 

I’m so tickled by this whole thing that I’m chuckling about it as I’m writing. 

Albert’s books usually start with the blurb and then a whole bunch of stuff happens after that, so the whole book doesn’t take place at the cabin. They’re only snowed in for about 48 hours. Instead, relationship averse, married-to-his-job-at-sea Calder and post-divorce, I-have-to-mind-my-priorities Felix find excuses to see each other until they’re dating in everything but name after the cabin situation starts the ball rolling. It’s so totally charming. 

Please note that this is a single parent book and the kids occupy a meaningful space in the story. Albert doesn’t always include kids in her stories, but when she does it’s usually pretty well done. The kids are three-dimensional characters, and they’re not really plot drivers except as relates to Felix needing to prioritize being a responsible parent. I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed a lot of things about this book. It’s a snuggly blanket on a cold day. 

But my favorite aspect of this book relates to Calder’s relationship with sex. I have spent much of this year consuming Albert’s backlist, and one hallmark of her storytelling is that she identifies a thing – something that’s often a dealbreaker because it’s a challenge – and gives a protagonist who occupies that space a beautiful relationship. For example, I don’t think I’ve ever read a romance featuring a hero who orgasms dry except by Albert. (Obviously I haven’t read everything, but I do read a lot.) But Calder. Calder was a hero I didn’t know I needed. You see, Calder struggles to orgasm unless he’s doing the work himself, and most of the time he feels like it’s just not worth it to try. As he says to Felix:

There’s lasting a long time like sexy endurance and then there’s marathon slog where I can legit sense that the other person really just wants to be done and go to sleep.

Feeling like your partner isn’t into it is so awful. Or feeling like they’ll be upset if you have to get yourself off. Poor Calder. But of course, because this is a romance novel, Felix understands and is present for Calder in such a way that he feels safe. Their time together is a space with no expectations other than that they both enjoy what they’re doing. Felix does such a great job of being present with Calder and being into whatever they’re doing and taking the burden of “we have to orgasm, and quickly” off Calder’s mind. This kind of “I see you” in romance novels is one of my absolute favorites. 

When we’d kissed, I’d never felt so taken care of or safe sexually, and as much as I wanted to explore those feelings more, I also wanted to take care of Felix in return.

Ugh my heart. 💕

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

Age Gap Romances (read: Silver Fox Alert!)

Snowed In Romances, and other instances of Forced Proximity

Military Men

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