Jacob Nussbaum has spent most of his adult life in the pursuit of career and financial success. But he is finding his life as a high-powered corporate attorney increasingly empty. He has little time for friends and even less for relationships and the job isn’t nearly as satisfying as it once was. Things get even more grim when Jacob learns about some shady dealings on the part of one of the partners in his firm. It looks like someone was involved in underhanded tactics in order to win a chemical spill case a few years before, a case that still haunts Jacob due the death of a young child. Jacob is determined to do some investigating to find out the truth.
Jacob’s investigation takes him to a remote resort in northern Wisconsin where one of the attorneys in the case vacations. He hopes heading up there will give him a chance to talk with the man privately and find out more about what is going on. Once there, Jacob meets Ben Anderson, the resort owner. Ben lost his long-time partner two years before and is still mourning Manny’s death. He has pretty much shut himself away on the island and has little interaction with old friends or much of a life. The men connect during Jacob’s visit, having a hot encounter that neither man can forget, despite their determination to keep things totally casual.
Although the men never intended to see each other again, they end up reconnecting more than once, and each encounter stokes the fires of attraction between them. They are drawn to one another, but both are certain nothing more can come out of their connection. Jacob is a workaholic and he knows his relationships never work out. And Ben is still getting over Manny, and he knows what it is like to lose a much older partner. He can’t get past the age difference between Jacob and him, worried that being older means he would leave Jacob behind, just like Manny left Ben. But despite their best efforts, the guys can’t stay away from each other. Now they must both decide if they can put aside their reservations and give their relationship a chance, or if they are going to lose each other and their chance at love.
Whistle Blower is a story that is quiet and steady, a lovely romance between two men who are both lonely and who have given up hope of ever finding love at this point in their lives. The guys are definitely sexy and intense when they get together, but the tone of the story really reflects both the characters and the setting. It is not a flashy, high intensity book, but rather one where we see the love begin to bloom slowly and steadily, and where quiet moments together in a beautiful place are what really inspires both of the men.
The primary focus here is on the building of the relationship between Jacob and Ben. Jacob has always put his career first, to the exclusion of everything else. He has always told himself he is happy and has made the right choices, but he is slowly realizing that while he may be rich, his life is hollow. But he also knows that his life is not at all suited to a relationship, given the crazy hours that he works, and so he doesn’t think he can have more. Ben has lost his love and doesn’t see anyone else in his future. To tell the truth, he is still mourning Manny and isn’t even looking for more. And when he meets the much younger Jacob, Ben immediately thinks of how he lost his older partner and refuses to put Jacob in that same situation. The guys are determined to have a casual affair, but over the course of the story we see that the feelings are blooming between them, despite their desire to keep each other at a distance. It is lovely to see these men find happiness together, both breaking out of their loneliness to find a partner who can make them truly happy. My only negative here is that I do think the ending comes a bit quickly and Ben’s apprehensions seem to mysteriously disappear, and so I would have liked to see this part developed a bit more.
The other aspect of the story is on Jacob’s whistleblowing case. It is the impetus for him meeting Ben and it carries through in bits and pieces throughout the book. While things do tie up at the end, I found myself wanting more from this plot than just serving as a device to get these guys together. It seemed there should be a little suspense, a little excitement as Jacob investigates and finds out what really is going on, and mostly things just continue the easy pace of the rest of the book. It felt like a bit of a missed opportunity not to build this into something a little more exciting.
However, overall I did enjoy this story as one of two lonely souls who find happiness together. Both guys are really likable and I liked the city mouse meets country mouse aspect to it. Bentham really lovingly depicts the lake and resort set in rural Wisconsin and I found myself really immersed in the setting of the story. The island is the perfect backdrop for getting these guys together. So I definitely would recommend Whistle Blower as a really nice story with likable characters who find their way together, despite having given up on love.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.