Single Malt by Layla Reyne

Single Malt by Layla ReyneI’ll admit I chose to read this novel based on the blurb without realizing it was a male-male romance. I haven’t read very many as that’s not my thing, but once I realized, I decided to go ahead anyway, a decision I’m happy about.

The novel has a strong narrative voice and a powerful, complicated plot. Aidan Talley is just returning to his position at the FBI after losing both partner and husband in a horrific car accident with him as the driver. Jameson Walker, his new partner, is a former sports hero with a love for hacking computers and a full on crush on Aidan that’s lasted three years. He wants to stay out of the spotlight, but he wouldn’t mind one bit if Aidan noticed him.

I found the story involving, and the dynamics between Jamie and Aidan were tangible. Both feel the attraction, but Aidan thinks it’s a betrayal of his lost husband. The story balances between Aidan learning to love and heal, and the investigation into the car crash on the side (as well as their official case). It plays well with expectations, and the dialogue is layered with hidden meanings, both those heard and unheard. The story is very much relationship focused, both between the characters and broader, which happens to be my preference in reading.

That said, I did find it odd how almost every single encounter, or so it seemed, had a sexual undertone regardless of the gender mix or circumstances. This did add a few extra layers to the tangle of professional and personal barriers standing between Aidan and Jameson, though, as well as bringing jealousy in to cloud the evidence trail. Actual sexual encounters between the two main characters are explicit to the level of female-male contemporary romance, but I was able to skim those parts in favor of the rich story.

I appreciated how the cases they were investigating were much more than a backdrop for the relationship. Those also tied into the theme of having friends and family to count on nicely. The story isn’t limited to a focus on the two of them as some romances are, but rather brings in a large cast of mainly Aidan’s family and friends. Aidan is very much an active part of his big family, which includes his husband’s sister who is also his FBI boss. Parents, siblings, and nieces make an appearance while loyalty, trust, support, and friendship are all strong themes. The emotional punch of Aidan’s grief, and how the loss affects those around him, has a prominent place as well.

This is a many-layered story that only gets deeper as it progresses, with feelers stretching out to the next book in the series as well. I’m glad for the oversight that led me to pick it, because I would have regretted missing the powerful read.

P.S. I received this novel from the publisher in return for an honest review.

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