Better Not Pout is an opposites-attract and age-gap romance between Nick, a retiring Army MP, and Teddy, a man who runs a charity in his small town. They are brought together when Nick is asked to play Santa Claus for the charity. When Teddy ends up rescuing a stranded Nick from a snowstorm, they both give into their mutual lust. However, Nick does not want more than that because he’s retiring and will be leaving town, and Teddy is twenty years younger. So, they enter into a sex-only arrangement for a month. Except it’s never just sex.
Odds are that if you like Albert’s books, you will like Better Not Pout too. There are two genuine and kind people falling in love surrounded by friends and family who only want the best for them. The conflict and stakes are minimal. So much of Albert’s writing is like a warm hug. And if you know anything about me, everything I just said sounds so much like a book I would love that you could be wondering if I’m okay because I should have really liked this book. I just didn’t.
Why this book didn’t work for me is sort of a mystery, which is why I blame mood. I liked both leads, I liked the setup and the tropes, and I wanted them to be happy. And yet, I would give this book an okay rating, but nothing stronger. It felt like a sequence of events almost, not a cohesive story arc. I’m very uncertain if there was much character development. The biggest challenge the characters face is if one will let himself love again. Did I need a Hallmark movie in a book? No, even if I love the absurd gingerbread house competitions. What I did miss was these two getting to know each other outside of sex.
I’m going to dare to say the thing that will make some people flock to buy the book (and probably mock me): there was too much sex in it. There’s possibly twice as much sex as I usually encounter in one of Albert’s books, but I can’t be sure. What I do know is that I counted the sex scenes in Better Not Pout (five or six... I might have glazed over one). I am a firm believer that sex scenes should advance the story, but I’m not sure that those scenes did in this book. Better Not Pout really needed more time with Nick and Teddy getting to know each other while they were not having sex. This is where someone will give me a lecture on erotic romance and how the sex propels the story, is integral to the story. And that is why I would probably say Better Not Pout is more of an erotic romance. Most of the character development happens in the sex scenes, but then it became stagnant. The insecurities and frustrations became the same on repeat.
All of this could have just been my mood too. I’ve been really hard on books lately and it’s hard to tell how much the frustrations in my life (e.g., bad commutes, terrible air quality, a cold) influence how I respond to a book. So, your mileage really may vary.
Content warnings: robbery scene, hero runs a food bank type of charity, hero is a Military Police officer, addict parents, references to sibling deaths, car accident