This review may contain spoilers, so fair warning, upon reading the review.
About The Story
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.
Better Not Pout is a standalone by this author and this is also my very first read from this author and I can guarantee that this won’t be the last time I will be reading this author. When I saw this one on the Hoopla catalog I just knew that I needed to grab it up, and I just love a sexy gay romance but a Christmas themed one with one of my favorite tropes “Grumpy Sunshine” I knew that this would be the ticket and it definitely was. This is a story that obviously features two complete opposites but also a story that showcases such a sweet endearing love story that will capture your attention from the very beginning. It has the quirky sunshine moments that make it so delectable that you won’t want to put this one down here. And it also has that holiday cheer that is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.
Better Not Pout begins with our lonely Sergeant Major, who has spent 28 years in service to his country, and now he is being forced into retirement. The military life is all that he has ever known. And on the other side of the spectrum, we have a young man in his prime, who is packed with bundles of energy, love of others, and a smile for everyone. Nick is convinced by his boss to play the role of Santa Claus for the town when her husband gets sick. Nick is the most stoic of people, and not at all jolly, and who ends up happening to be his elf in the making…Teddy MacNalley. Teddy has everything going for him, he is all about the community and being involved with others. He is a social butterfly, his family is his heart but finding love and acceptance is a difficult one for him. He is determined to show this great grumpy of Santa Claus the true joy of living. Teddy knows that Nick will be putting up a fight, due to their age difference, but Teddy is one that doesn’t back down from a battle when it means the world to him, and there is something so lost about Nick, a sense that he needs love and affection more than anyone else he has ever met. But Nick isn’t going to make it easy for him. Nick hasn’t had the easiest of times and especially when it comes to matters of the heart, he hasn’t found someone that would stand by him. The chemistry between Nick and Teddy is powerful but Nick knows that Teddy deserves someone bursting with life and youth and not an old man like he feels he is. Fate, however, has different plans for Nick and Teddy. Nick ends up falling hard for this young man who charms his soul in the most unexpected ways. But will Nick be one warrior to fight for the love he has always ached for but never believed in until….now
What I Loved
This is a story I never expected to enjoy as much as I did. Novella’s (or shorter books) aren’t always my cup of tea but I found that this one really worked out so well for me in ways I didn’t expect to find. One never knows how a new to you author will actually work out for you. And it’s always an interesting dynamic to see how it all plays out and I was charmed by this story. Now, I was very pleased that the narrator of choice. Sean Crisden definitely is a rare talent and I especially love his voice for this romance. He really portrayed the difference of personalities between Nick and Teddy. We have a quaint small-town feel to this story, where there is an impactful sense of community. We have two characters that have explosive chemistry but there are other elements in play that prevent them from embracing the best parts of their relationship that is being cultivated, even subconsciously. This is probably one of the best grumpy sunshine romances that I have ever had a chance to read and I am so grateful for this story and what it delivered.
The romance that is built between the two is quite an interesting one and has a few dynamics that offer its share of depths and intricate layers. I honestly rarely get to read a shorter book that delivers on all fronts with all the feels. There is a mix of tropes that seem to blend so well together here. We have grump sunshine, opposites attract, age gap, fling, and working together. I can guarantee that you won’t be able to get enough of seeing how this author places this story so well together. But also the sexual chemistry is EXPLOSIVE between these two and I adored every aspect of this. This author definitely knows how to write her steam, but fair warning, there are quite a few sex scenes for such a short book but at the same time the romance is on point. There is such a great balance here that blends just right with the mode that the author plays into this story. There is quite a resistance from our grump of a hero, and boy does he speak “Bah Humbug” to a T. He is the epitome of a scrooge, haha but this charming endearing elf just sparks life into Nick and despite how Nick tries to resist the charms of Teddy, he knows he is falling hard for him. The key is seeing him fight for Teddy and oh my ovaries haha These two just are simply sweet perfection together. And I can’t wait to explore more of this author’s work even more.
Another plus to the story is the setting. Many of you know how much I adore a small town but also add in the charms of Christmas time, seeing how these neighbors watch out for each other, and seeing the festive feels just endear you in this story just makes me so happy especially as I read this before Christmas and delivers in its unique feeling of warmth and sense of inner peace.
Better Not Pout is a beyond endearing, burn down the house, style of romance that delves into the sweet but also delivers in its depths of intimacy which leaves the reader only aching for more and will bring a tear in your eye in the most unexpected places. It’s a romance of sacrifice, Christmas charm, and a delectable bite.
Title: Better Not Pout
Author: Annabeth Albert
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Holiday Romance, LGBTQ
Length: 6 Hours and 4 Minutes
About The Narrator
Sean Crisden is a multitalented actor and an AudioFile Earphones Award–winning narrator who has recorded audiobooks in almost every genre, from science fiction to romance. He has also voiced characters in numerous video games, such as the award-winning ShadowGun, and appeared in many commercials and films, including The Last Airbender. A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Sean now resides in Phoenix, Arizona.
If you liked these books, then I recommend picking up “Better Not Pout”
All through the night by suzanne brockmann
hard to be good by laura kaye
undone by you by kate meader
Storytelling Quality: 4
Story Itself: 4.25
Character Development: 4.25
Writing Style: 4
World Building 4.5
Feels + The Romantic Heart 4.25
Cover Art 4
Overall Rating of the Book
Simmering—soft warm touches and light intimacy
Warm- a medium level of sexual tension, a balance of sexual and emotional intimacy, lighter on the details in the sexual moments.
Steamin’ up the room -the sexual content is more explicit in the language and tone, heavier amount of sexual scenes.
Blazing fire to the building-The prime focus is the sex scenes, scorching hot, and could burn one. Less focus on the emotional intimacy to the relationship.
About The Author
Frequent tweeter, professional grammar nerd, and obsessive reader, Annabeth Albert is also a Pacific Northwest romance writer in a variety of subgenres.
Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two toddlers.