Review: Cask Strength (Agents Irish and Whiskey #2) by Layla Reyne

Professionally, the FBI team of Aidan "Irish" Talley and Jameson "Whiskey" Walker is as good as it gets, closing cases faster than any team at the Bureau. Personally, it’s a different story. Aidan’s feelings for Jamie scare the hell out of him: he won’t risk losing another love no matter how heart-tripping the intimacy between them. And loss is a grim reality with the terrorist Renaud still on their trail, leaving a pile of bodies in his wake.

Going undercover on a new case gets them out of town and off the killer's radar. They're assigned to investigate an identity theft ring involving a college basketball team in Jamie's home state, where Jamie's past makes him perfect for the role of coach. But returning to the court brings more than old memories.

As secrets and shocking betrayals abound, none may be more dangerous than the one Jamie’s been keeping: a secret about the death of Aidan’s husband that could blow his partner's world apart and destroy forever the fragile bonds of trust and love building between them.

We start five months after Single Malt ended, with our FBI agents moving casually into a romantic relationship and firmly into their professional partnership. On Jamie’s end, he is all in no matter what he promised to Aidan about keeping it casual between them because Jamie has been so gone for Aidan long before anything physical happened between them. He knows Aidan was a man whore before his marriage to Gabe and half listened to Aidan’s points on not being serious – blah blah blah - but Jamie is his own man and he’ll do what he wants as long as he keeps it to himself. There are a few other things he is keeping to himself as well, like knowing the connection between Gabe, Tom and Renaud and not telling Aidan about it nor that Mel has him digging deeper into the accident and all that it involves.
There’s no substitute for the real thing.
I have to say that when I first learned about the men Aidan was seeing on the side I saw red and not just the natural color of Aidan’s hair. I was pissed off but then I turned the page and got Aidan’s POV and settled down. Self-preservation is the solace of one's own mind and though you don’t agree, you can’t pass judgment because it’s each person’s own validity. Aidan is so terrified to lose Jamie that he tries to keep him at arm's-length by “dating” copycats of Jamie and swearing there is no feelings between them. It’s a dick move but when Jamie calls him out on it, we do get some delicious UST that unfortunately leads to more dick moves and then Mel giving them a case back in Jamie’s home town with them undercover and an Au Naturale Aidan as Ian… *swoon* Call him what you want, Agent Irish is edible as his natural ginger self.
My brain is a jumbled mess right now as I try to process everything we have learned. Not only about the accident that killed Gabe and Tom but about all this crap in Charlotte with basketball and people wanting a piece of both Jamie and Aidan that they will stop at nothing to get it. The undercover case was nothing less than fascinating and full of informational detail that doesn’t weigh the reader down. It was easy to follow, the betting etc. and fueled every aspect of the story line. As with the first book, this is full of cinematic action and swoon worthy moments along with intense passionate games of er, um pool? Yeah, we will call it games of pool and how scorching the game of billiards can be, or at least just the use of the table.
Basketball. The Court. The Game.
It was great to see Jamie in his roots with basketball even though it was undercover. We get a lot of him as the FBI Agent and hacker, but I loved seeing how much his first love meant to him in real time. We know why he left the game and that he has thrived in his life as an FBI Agent but he lived and breathed basketball for so long that is also suffocated his inability to be out with his sexual orientation. Of course, being home brings up drama that is unavoidable but did it ever make for some intense moments between Jamie and Aidan that had me melting. I mean, jealousy can be a good thing when its labors bring about a change.
Again I have to bring in the title of this book. I love that the author is sticking to the whiskey themed titles and that Cask Strength, points at the production in whiskey straight from the barrel and its maturity. Ha! Maturity. I think in this case we can either talk about Aidan being older but older doesn’t always mean better or for that matter Jamie if we talk about whiskey maturing and losing some of its potency, known as the angel’s share. We learn a lot about Jamie when we go home with him undercover as himself to catch the insiders betting on basketball and stealing identifies. Aidan is of the assumption that his younger lover is so damn pure because Aidan thinks he is so damn tainted and yet learns that his own Whiskey at cask strength has a burn that overpowers the subtlety of his own flavors. Hmm… Aidan, be careful that scent you like to inhale so much from Jamie’s neck doesn’t burn your nose hairs. Kay?
Another person in his inner circle who’d betrayed him. Another person at risk.
Goodness. As Jamie, Danny and Mel work the case behind Aidan’s back more secrets come out of the closet like a needed yard sale of a hoarder. It was crazy how many ties to Aidan all of this has and how Jamie will tell him. The manner of which Aidan goes about working the case, how he goes about lying to his lover, his partner and the man he loves leads us to an heart stopping conclusion and cliffhanger to the story. Seriously, I yelled at the end and contemplated how long my resolve would take to break before I ran to request the last book because OMG! That end was amazing.
So, declarations have been exchanged and promises have been made but when Jamie comes clean with Aidan with the whole story about Gabe etc., he may need his own stock of cask strength liquor to drown out the memory of what could have been. OR, will this new love between partners and lovers be strong enough to not be diluted. Only two fingers of the finest Barrel Proof will tell for sure.

Don't miss the Cask Strength blog tour HERE!


  1. Thanks so much, Sara, for the lovely review. I especially always love how you pick up on the titles and how they work with the story/characters <3 Hope you'll love Barrel Proof too!

    1. I love finding the connections between book titles and the book itself. Sometimes it's simple but you've made me really think about how they play into the story and the romance. I cannot wait for Barrel Proof but I will be sad to read the last of Jamie and Aidan. I love being with these two.