single maltRating: 4.5 stars
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Length: Novel

Eight months ago, FBI agent Aidan Talley lost both his husband and his partner in a car crash. Aidan is still mourning their deaths, but he is finally going back to work with a new partner and a new department working cyber crimes. Aidan isn’t so sure about either one, but he is eager for something to take his mind off his loss.

Jameson Walker (aka Whiskey) was a college basketball star headed to the NBA when he changed career paths and became an expert in cyber crimes with the FBI. He has long lusted after Aidan, but Aidan has been off limits, first due to his marriage and later to his mourning. Jamie’s looks and fame get him a lot of attention, and Aidan is definitely not immune to his charm, but Aidan is wary about getting involved. He is still not ready to move on from Gabe, not to mention Jamie is his partner and much younger, so Aidan is determined to keep hands off.

The men are assigned a new case to help with a cyber crime at the Galveston National Laboratory, a high-security facility that handles dangerous contaminants. The lab is being tested by some hackers who appear to be trying to get past their cyber security and so Jamie and Aidan head down to Texas to help the local team figure out what is going on. At the same time, behind the scenes the men are looking into the car crash that killed Aidan’s husband and partner. It seems evidence is coming to light to suggest that it was not a hit-and-run like everyone believes, but it may have in fact been a targeted attack. But that investigation has to get put on the back burner as things become more dire at the lab. The hackers are getting more persistent, and as they follow the trail, it is becoming clear that there may be even bigger targets at risk. Now Jamie and Aidan must work to figure out who is behind the threats before they lose their own lives, and thousands more people are put in danger.

Single Malt is the first book in Layla Reyne’s exciting new Agents Irish and Whiskey series. This appears to be the author’s debut work, and I am super excited for both the continuation of the series, as well as to read future books by Reyne. I found this to be an exciting romantic suspense with two characters who were both likable and intriguing.

Aidan and Jamie are new partners on their first case together. They combine Aidan’s experience in the FBI with Jamie’s skills in cyber crimes, which are the perfect match for the case at the laboratory. Reyne manages to handle the technical side of things well, giving us enough to understand the intricacies of what is happening with the hackers without overwhelming things with too much technical detail. I enjoyed watching the guys play off one another as they investigate, each working with their own strengths. The case is twisty and exciting and kept me guessing as to who was behind it all. The case does wrap up, but there are threads that are left open that will carry on into the next book, leaving me both satisfied with the ending and intrigued for more.

The other investigation these guys are looking into is the death of Aidan’s partner and husband. We don’t get too far into it in this book, and we are clearly set up for more as the series continues, but it opens up some interesting possibilities. We do know that evidence suggests that it was not an accident, but we don’t know who was behind the murder or why. At first Aidan is hesitant to share too much detail with Jamie, but as the story continues and trust builds between them, Jamie becomes more involved.

From a relationship end, things develop nicely here and with appropriate caution. When the story starts, Aidan is just coming back to work and is still mourning Gabe. On top of that, he feels guilty for even considering an attraction to Jamie, as if he is betraying his former husband. Even with those personal issues aside, the men are partners, there is an age gap between them, and Aidan isn’t emotionally prepared for another commitment. For his part, Jamie isn’t out, as his basketball career kept him closeted and although he no longer plays, he is still in a spotlight he would rather not have focused on him too deeply. So it does take some time for things to boil over between the men and for them to act on their attraction, and Reyne does a great job with the sizzling chemistry as these guys dance around each other. Although they do ultimately act on their attraction, the romantic future is still somewhat open ended as the story closes, which befits an ongoing series.

The only area I would have liked to see expanded upon is Jamie’s background. We are given glimpses of his past as a star basketball player, and are told bits about a relationship that ended and why he left the NBA. But there is obviously more story there and I felt like we don’t get as much background on him as I would have liked. That said, I expect that more will be revealed as the series continues so I am waiting patiently on that.

Overall, I was really excited about this book and about the series. Single Malt is a great romantic suspense that kept me engaged and excited throughout the story. And I loved Jamie and Aidan and found them both interesting characters, and a great couple. The chemistry between them is fabulous and I am really eager to see where the case and their relationship takes them in future books.

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