Jim has known from a young age that he wasn’t “quite right”—wasn’t the same as his brothers or the rest of the crowd in the small town crowd where he grew up. But even heading to Dublin for college and embracing the fact that he was gay didn’t mean he would stop hiding it from the members of his tight knit Irish Catholic family or the prying eyes of their small village. Jim has a good job now that he’s back home and is fairly happy, if not lonely. When his sister, who bartends at the local pub, tells him about the stranger who has taken a room at the pub, Jim doesn’t think too much of it until he meets the handsome artist, Aiden.
Aiden may hold his own story rather close to the cuff, but one thing he doesn’t shy away from is letting Jim know how interested he is in discovering more about the quiet bookkeeper. As Jim learns to trust both Aiden and his developing emotions for the man, the fear of being outed and exposed in what seems to be a rather homophobic community becomes a reality. Now the question is whether Aiden will stick around if it all goes to hell for them both and Jim finally reveals who he really is to his family and friends.
I really respect author Anna Martin and have enjoyed so much of her work, but unfortunately her latest novella, Whiskey Kisses, just didn’t work for me for many reasons. From little things like settling in on just one name for the main character (Jim, at various points was called Jim, Jamie, James, and James Michael) to Aiden asking Jim to trust him, yet always shying away from divulging how he’d come to live in Jim’s small village, and the way he managed to support himself as an artist when he didn’t appear to have any commission work made it a bit rough to focus on the developing romance between the two men.
Then there was this rather distant side story about Jim’s sister, Bridget, fancying Aiden when he never seemed to give her the time of day or provoke such a reaction. This minor plot point blew up late in the story and never got resolved on page, but was almost an after thought at the end when we were told she now had a new man in her life. I was so confused by this because she was so angry with Jim and upset that both he and Aiden were gay when it had been intimated by Jim himself that Bridget suspected as much from a conversation the two had a few years before. It was as if the author wanted a family member to be upset Jim was gay and chose her just to give a sense of tension to the story.
So many small things added up to make this story feel so incomplete. The constant mention of huge family get-togethers, but except for a laundry list of naming Jim’s siblings and their professions, we never really interacted with any one other than Bridget in the story. If Jim were so worried about coming out, I would have at least thought we would get a sense of how his own father felt about gays or his siblings but no, that was all glossed over rather neatly. However, it was the ending or lack of resolution to his worries that really threw me. After a mean spirited confrontation with a townsperson, the two men simply went on—there was no indication if they became bolder in showing their relationship to the town, if the town hated or embraced them, or if Jim’s family was ever really clued in to Aiden being the love of his life. It was just so unfinished and ended so abruptly, I felt as though part of the story somehow got left on the editing room floor.
What I did love about this book was Aiden and Jim together. Anna Martin knows how to write gorgeous romantic characters that are slightly wounded and adrift and she does it again with these two men. Theirs was a slow burning and gradual love affair that blossomed over time and even though this was just a novella, it felt as though these men really emotionally developed their relationship at just the right speed. Aiden was so good with Jim—understanding how he simply couldn’t suddenly come out to his family and the fear that surrounded that decision. When we learned more about Aiden’s past, it became apparent why he was so in tune with Jim’s reluctance. The two men together were really quite magical but, unfortunately, in the end, that was not enough to make this novella really work.