Review: Whiskey Kisses by Anna Martin

In a small town about an hour's drive outside Dublin, there’s a whiskey distillery.

Jim has worked in the distillery as its business manager since he returned to his home town after getting his degree. Whiskey is a slow business and rural life is quiet, but Jim takes it in his stride. That is, until the handsome and mysterious Mr Aiden Rooney moves into a room above the local pub and sets off a flurry of gossip.

Aiden’s an artist, and his devil-may-care attitude is a revelation to Jim. But he still lives in a small town in rural Ireland, and he’s not even sure if he wants to be out and proud. The choices they make could change everything, if only Jim dares to follow his heart.

As I settled back into the life and the town I’d walked away from, to my utter shock I found I loved it.

Jim O’Shaughnessy has returned to his home town of Kilglass, Ireland after leaving for the big city of Dublin to get his degree in business and the recession hitting. Jim never though he’d return after he left at age 18 but life happens and now he’s back amongst the green and his family, though he isn’t living life to the fullest.

As Jim tells us his story, we know that he isn’t out to his family save the one time he mentioned to his sister Brigette he liked boys too but isn’t sure she remembers. His family is a bit nutty as a big Irish family should be and at the age of 11 Jim was in an accident involving one of his sister’s horses which resulted in his left arm […] destined to be shite from that day forward. The disability of his arm is just one reason Jim left to attend University since he can’t follow into the family business of building.

Working as the business manager at the local whiskey distillery during the day, stopping in at the pub to get lunch and returning to his custom built home fills Jim’s days in the small rural town. When an outsider rents a room above the pub, talk begins to swirl around the “artist” himself and Jim’s sister has found herself a crush. When Jim happens to literally run into the artist and finds himself staring in the eyes of Mr. Aiden Rooney, he can’t find fault in his sister’s taste.

From the meet cute with Aiden and Jim to the moment Aiden plops himself down next to Jim at the bar and begins flirting I was in love. These two have a genuine chemistry that was felt immediately and as the reader, you know Jim isn’t out yet so when Aiden asks him out, my heart was in my throat. Thank goodness Aiden is one of the good guys and gets where Jim is coming from so they decide on dinner, as friends. Of course that led to dinner at Jim’s gorgeous home and one hell of a friendly sleep over where the two men find commonalities among their attraction.

I still couldn’t be sure that this would be the place where I would settle down— it was home, for now, but I wasn’t complete here. Not yet.

This truly is a romance and it’s also a story about two men finding where they fit into the community where they plan to live. Aiden is okay with Jim not being out and is satisfied with taking it all at Jim’s pace. When Jim has the fear of Aiden leaving him, we get the sweetest moment with Aiden being super swoony with his declaration to not leave. When it’s time for Jim to come out to his mam, we get another heartfelt moment between mother and son and then Jim meets Mrs. O’Shaughnessy and I needed a moment. This story may be short but it’s packed full of emotions and while most of them are sweet and romantic, there is a hiccup of angst when the couple becomes too familiar in public.

I find myself wanting to talk about other parts of this story that seems to come up in the genre that are griped about. One in particular is the usual top becoming the bottom but in this, we get the best explanation as to why Jim wants to be with Aiden that way.

Because I wanted all the things I saw in his eyes when I was inside him. Because I knew there were parts of me no one had ever seen. And I wanted him to be the first.Because I was in love with him.

You do different things when you are in love. You act different. You are vulnerable and that vulnerability can be empowering. The ultimate power one has is of yourself, of your sexuality and who you allow to be with you intimately. For Jim it becomes empowering to make the decision to be with Aiden this way. So for me, it wasn’t cliché to have him bottom, it was just his way of being with the man he loved in every way he could.

I know that those who read romance, including myself, want that HEA and this delivers but it’s not the Pride parade sort of HEA. What I mean by that is Aiden and Jim live on their own terms with their relationship and how much they are out to the community. They refuse to deny and hide who they love, even if it means hurting Brigette unintentionally or having rude townsfolk make ignorant comments to them. The love they have for one another is what’s important and they are never false with their feelings, only deciding to keep them private and sharing with those who matter.

Whiskey Kisses is a delightful and sweet romance that is full of quiet moments that hurt in the best way. Moments of buttons, of pencil to paper, of claiming grandmothers, of tokens given and the moments of strength and acceptance of the one you love… yeah, this one was good.

An ARC was provided by the author.

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