books

Layla Reyne

Books

Agents Irish and Whiskey: Single Malt (2017), Cask Strength (2017), Barrel Proof (2017)


Agents Irish and Whiskey


Single Malt (2017)

Aidan Talley is back at work eight months after the hit-and-run that killed his husband as well as his partner. His best friend (also his boss and his sister-in-law) has a new partner for him, but also a new case to work off the books: evidence that the hit-and-run wasn’t an accident, and that the car Aidan, Gabe and Tom were in was specifically targeted.

He’ll also be working as a mentor to his new partner, cyber expert Jameson Walker (also known as Whiskey). And if he’s lucky, he’ll be able to trust his new partner to help him discover who murdered his partner and his husband.

Aidan turned for the exit and Jamie grabbed his arm, spinning him back around. “Dammit, Talley, let me say it, then you won’t have to keep avoiding it.”

“I’ve heard it enough already,” he snapped, tortured gaze locked on Jamie’s hand around his arm.

“Believe me, I know better than most.” Between his father’s death and his injury, Jamie had heard more than enough condolences.

“Then why?” Aidan asked, gaze still averted.

Jamie’s hand glided down his jacket sleeve to the shirt cuff and sparking cufflink, straightening it. “Respect. Not for what you lost, but for what you had. And my Southern mother would kill me if I didn’t.”

Aidan looked up, one corner of his mouth slightly hitched.

“How’s she ever gonna know?” “You weren’t raised in the South. They always know.”

So I started this book with grave concerns. Generally a romance between law officers who are partners is a HUGE problem with me. I don’t like it when people have to keep their feelings a secret, and I really dislike it when they ignore rules and regulations that are there for a very good reason. So you’re going to have to work pretty hard to convince me that professionals are going to blatantly ignore the rules.

(F)raternizing with a fellow agent was frowned upon by the Bureau; with one’s partner was taboo. He loved his job and didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize it, especially now that SAC Cruz was eyeing him for promotion. While he preferred to stay in the cave, out of the public eye he’d already had enough of, he wanted to do well and advance, which meant doing good, clean fieldwork and keeping his hands off Aidan.

This book actually managed that, and did it well. When the two give into their feelings and impulses it’s a reasonable response to the circumstances (near death experience and pain pills). And why they–and a third party–agree to keep their relationship under wraps AND to keep them as partners also made sense considering The Mystery.

Yes, there is not a complete resolution of the mystery within this book, and yes, we get a Big Reveal at the end of the book (also something I generally DESPISE) but since the entire series is published, and since the Big Reveal actually felt like it belonged where it was, I wasn’t mad.

Another reason that the budding relationship bothered me far less than it normally would is that Aidan is still getting through his grief.

It’d been only eight months since he’d lost Gabe. His husband deserved more, better.

“How long were you two together?”

“Ten years.” Aidan opened the drawer next to Jamie’s dangling legs, pulled out two spoons, handed him one and set the other on the opposite counter.

Jamie tapped the utensil against his thigh as he did the math in his head. “You weren’t together right away?”

“No.” Aidan split the steaming pudding mixture between two bowls. “He was still playing football, and I was still playing the field.”

Aidan quite clearly loved Gabe, and the grief remains a struggle as he goes through his first year, but he also seems in many ways ready to go on with his life, and struggles with the guilt over feeling that as much as the survivors guilt.

I really appreciate the time and effort that went into that portion of Aidan’s character.

Another thing is that the two had some fun banter, and good chemistry.

“You’ll need to distract them long enough for me to upload the monitoring program.”

“How do you propose I do that?”

“Ask them to repeat everything in plain English. It’s damn annoying.”

The other thing I especially liked was Aidan’s family, and their unconditional love and support. And that it went both ways.

“Love you too, baby bro.” Said in jest before, Aidan spoke the words sincerely now, forced out over the lump in his throat. He was close with all his siblings. They’d never been bashful about expressing their feelings for one another, even in front of others. After the accident, those expressions of love took on new significance.

It’s a good story that managed to get me past issues that are generally major problems in a story for me.

Publisher: Carina Press
Rating: 8.5/10

Cask Strength (2017)

Aidan Talley and Jameson Walker are partners, and enjoying each others company. But nothing more. Just casual is all Aidan wants, because he doesn’t think he can survive the loss of someone else he loves.

Jameson thinks he can handle “just casual” but if he’s fooling Aiden, he’s not fooling himself, and Aiden getting shot make it clear Jameson can no longer deal with just casual.

I would’ve killed Casanova myself if I had to sit in that glass cage with him today.”

Her face softened. “Ah, he’s reverted.”

Jamie debated whether to say more, given the deniability she clung to, but she’d opened the door with that comment. “I’d heard. I just didn’t think…”

“Aidan’s not good at lonely. Before Gabe, he was a player. No other word for it, and I say that with all the affection of a sister.”

“He committed to Gabe.”

“He loved Gabe. He was worth giving up all the others.”

And you’re not. Stomach heaving at the implication, he eyed the trash can.

If I already hadn’t had lots of sympathy for Aiden from the first book, I don’t think I would have been able to stomach Jameson still trying to salvage a romantic relationship. But Aiden was all but destroyed when his husband was murdered so his fears are reasonable–especially when they both work in dangerous fields.

The back story is important here. Jameson, Aiden, and Mel (their boss) are looking into the hit-and-run that killed Aiden’s husband as well as his partner.

I was blocked from the investigation because of my personal connections to the victims. As soon as SFPD ruled it a hit and run, my predecessor closed the case. With the promotion pending and Aidan’s injury rehab, I backed off. They questioned Aidan extensively.

The bigger problem is that Mel and Jameson are keeping secrets from Aiden.

But ten to one, he had something major on Gabe and Tom. And if I have to tell Aidan the man he loved most in the world and the man he trusted to watch his back betrayed him, I need to be able to tell him why.

But they have to continue with their regular work, which means Jameson being sent under cover in the only way he could possibly go undercover: as an assistant coach at a 2A school, to look into gambling and identify theft.

What I particularly liked about this story was that Jameson is good at coaching, so it’s a particularly believable under-cover assignment. The problem is that it reminds him just how much he misses the game he walked away from.

There is a lot happening here, and I don’t recommend jumping in without having read the previous book. Partially because it makes it clear that Aiden’s past continues to influence his decisions, and also because of the mystery that goes through all three of the books.

Publisher: Carina Press
Rating: 8.5/10

Barrel Proof (2017)

(finishes previous book)

(literally scrambles to start this book)

Don’t even bother reading this if you didn’t read the previous two. You have no reason to read this without the others, and you shouldn’t, because she does a fabulous job building the characters and their relationships and everything in the previous two books, that get us where we are here.

As you may (or may not) have remembered, I had issues with the first book, in that Jamie and Aiden are partners, which is a big no-no. And Mel (their boss and Aiden’s sister-in-law) is essentially running a private investigation without letting her higher-ups know.

All of these things are problems, and those issues are acknowledged in this book, as well as the side issue of Jamie continuing to hack on the side. For work, yes, but that doesn’t actually make it better in a legal or ethical sense. There are other ethical issues that come up (some of which reinforce why partners should NOT be romantically involved) and those are addressed as well, which I really appreciated.

This book moves FAST. If I’d been able, I could easily have torn through all three books in a single sitting (alas, I must work). So the mystery was good, the pace was unrelenting, and the romance was good–with problems that stemmed from the choices both men made and having to come to terms with those decisions.

I really liked this series.

Publisher: Carina Press
Rating: 9/10