Title: Imperial Stout (Trouble Brewing #1)
Author: Layla Reyne
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: July 23, 2018
Genre(s): Romantic Suspense
Page Count: 272
Reviewed by: CrabbyPatty
Heat Level: 3.5 flames out of 5
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
It’s a good thing assistant US attorney Dominic Price co-owns a brewery. He could use a cold one. Nic’s star witness has just been kidnapped, his joint operation with the FBI is in jeopardy, his father’s shady past is catching up with him and the hot new special agent in San Francisco is the kind of distraction best handled with a stiff drink.
Kidnap and rescue expert Cameron Byrne has his own ideas about how to handle Nic, but his skills are currently needed elsewhere. The by-the-book FBI agent goes deep undercover as a member of an infamous heist crew in order to save Nic’s witness, break up the crew and close the case before anyone else gets hurt. Nic in particular.
Things heat up when Cam falls for Nic, and the witness falls for Cam. As the crew’s suspicions grow, Cam must decide how far he’s willing to go—and how far into his own dark past he’s willing to dive—to get everyone out alive.
We met Nic and Cam briefly in Layla Reyne’s excellent Agents Irish and Whiskey series and the two men shared a brief passionate kiss in “Blended Whiskey” (#4.5 in the series) at Aidan and Jaime’s wedding. So I thought I was up-to-speed and ready to hit the ground running with the new Trouble Brewing series.
Except …. yeah, not so much. “Imperial Stout” drops us cold right in the middle of a convoluted operation involving Cam, Nic, Lauren, Bowers and Aidan, and their confidential informant Abby undercover in a criminal crew about to steal a priceless art collection. I spent the first 15-20% of the book trying to remember who was who (Cam was Jamie’s partner and best friend, Bowers is the annoying jerkish boss), who had slept with who (for those keeping track at home, Nic slept with Aidan) and trying to decipher exactly what the heck was going on. I desperately needed a brief reintroduction to characters!
The book focuses primarily on the case Nic and Cam are working, with only hints of sexual tension and unresolved feelings. Since we don’t know much more about Nic and Cam other than they are very attracted to one another, it’s hard to get a sense of where their heads are regarding any sort of relationship. They share a (second) kiss about halfway through, and we finally get some honest-to-god sexual contact around 70%. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely worth the wait, but again, it was like being dropped in cold trying to figure out the relationship since there is only minimal character development for Nic and Cam.
At times, the pace of the story felt slow, perhaps because the art heist plot wasn’t very interesting to me, and Nic and Cam’s relationship was such a slow, slow burn. Also, we get loads of foreshadowing about their respective difficult pasts throughout the book (mostly the library card Cam always carries, and Nic’s tattoo), but little in the way of more concrete details. And although the art heist is resolved by book end, the ending left me unsatisfied as there is just so little revealed about the two MCs and so many loose ends left to develop.
3.5 stars for the book, hoping that the next book(s) in the series will give us more in-depth characterization and start unraveling the mysteries involving both men’s past.