Review: Imperial Stout (Trouble Brewing #1) by Layla Reyne

Layla Reyne spins off from her pulse-pounding Agents Irish and Whiskey books with Imperial Stout , the first installment in the Trouble Brewing series

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.

First thing first: I am going to implore any of you that see this book and go into reading it as a standalone to not do it. Yes, I know it’s listed as first in a series and well, I guess you could read the whole universe it’s involved in backwards but I don’t recommend it. This is a spinoff of one of my favorite series: Agents, Irish & Whiskey and in that series is where we first meet Assistant US District Attorney Dominic Price and Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Cameron Byrne. There is history with these two long before you open this book and you really need to witness their sexual tension that leads up to a kiss at a wedding.Then gets ramped up to 11 in this book as they are working a case together. Nic and Cam were so special in the AIW series that I was begging for them to get their own series and when the author teased about it and then confirmed, I was so ready. See, they were so freaking good as supporting characters for Aidan and Jamie that they would have to blow my socks off in their own series and boy did they ever! This is just the first book, a book that amazed me, had me riveted to the page and squirming with all the sexual tension between Nic and Cam that I melted right off my chair when they finally give in. The book is a good one. The series it came from is stunning and I would love for everyone to meet all the players that show up in this to get the full experience.

Now to try and review this…
An attraction that had boiled over in that one kiss…
This story is one hell of a ride. We begin straight away with the action as Nic and Cam are running an operation that gets turned upside down and puts both men in danger. Told from Nic’s POV first, we know his thoughts keep straying to keeping Cam safe and that he wants nothing more than to have a second kiss. Gunfire and shit hitting the fan leads the men and their combined team efforts to find out what with wrong with the op when a dignitary’s wife is killed and we get thrust into Cam’s POV. Why am I telling you this? Because it’s important to set up the beginning of this book, to let us know that no matter what the argument is, these two are in over their heads and pretty much head over feet for one another, they just don’t know how to handle it yet. So, back to Cam’s POV and his worry regarding basically everything that comes along with crushing on Ex-Navy SEAL and Assistant US District Attorney Dominic Price when they are thrust into a deeper situation than either man predicted.


Okay, I am talking in major circles so let’s just put this simply: Nic and Cam are working together on a case that is actually led by Aidan Talley, who is currently on his honeymoon. The men have to deal with asshole US District Attorney Bowers, who I wanted to punch repeatedly throughout this book. I still don’t know what was up the dude’s ass when it came to the entire team other than he is just an asshole, but anyway. They have to consider what their CI may know about her girlfriend’s plan and how the third party came into play during the operation she was working on with them.

Good lord. I have to say that when I first met Dominic Price as someone involved with Aidan I didn’t like him and my dislike was purely due to the fact that Aidan belonged with Jamie. But through the AIW series and Nic’s actions, he started to grow on me. When Jamie’s best friend and the FBI’s best kidnap and rescue agent Cam is brought in to help and he meets Nic, the spark of attraction was palpable between them and I started to see Nic different. I started to adore Nic more times than not and I really fell hard for him once the series was done and then that small POV in Blended Whiskey tipped the scales. I love Nic and we get so much more of him than I could have expected with his back story. And not just of his SEAL days, but what he has gone through with his family and the father he hasn’t spoken to in 27 years. I also love that we get parts of him with his brewery, his feelings about Jamie, Aidan, Mel, Danny and more important about Cam. Nic is so lost in what he wants from Cam but he doesn’t know how to reach out and grab hold of it.

Now, Cameron is another story. I’ve loved him from the moment I met him on the page and thinking of his Boston accent coming through makes me grin. Once again, Cameron has a heartbreaking backstory that is visited here and only hinted at a deeper story that led him to his passion of being a kidnap and rescue agent. A reminder is always on Cameron of someone lost and while we get the who towards the end of the story, it is in no way a closed case, literally. But Cam, I love being in his head seeing how he works as an agent and seeing how much he wants Nic. How these two see one another, I wish they could put it to film and play it for each other so they would know how deep the feelings between them go before that second kiss every happens.

Oh yeah, that second kiss. This story is so freaking fracking full of UST, it’s insane and I am absolutely crazy for it. The way they dance and circle around the attraction is so good and it hurt so badly, but I would totally ask for more. Knowing that their attraction and being witness to their first kiss helped ramp up the tension between then. I have to say, UST done well is fantastic. Reyne gives it to us again and again in a way you don’t mind, because you know UST this good will have an explosion of emotions when the men let themselves become intimate. And… it’s totally worth it. Trust me on that.

When it comes to stories like that of high level attorneys, FBI agents and the like I am always floored by how the author can pull someone like me into the story. I know nothing about being a SEAL, a JAG officer, a AUS or a ASAC, about running covert operations or thievery of Siberian artifacts, but OMG I was so in this story. Reyne’s words are always cinematic and I was in the thick of it every stop of the way. I was as entrenched in the storm of bullets as they flew and I was feeling the sexual tension that I needed a release just as bad as Cam and Nic! It’s just so good and while reading all of this, I felt like I knew what I was doing because the characters did.

Of course, I love that we get to see Aidan and Jamie again as well as Mel and Danny. I was so happy that Lauren was working with the team because she really does excel as a Mini Jamie and her wit always cracks me up. Getting to see a new side of Cam kinda like we did with Aidan as Ian gave more to the story and the romance between him and Nic and I just ate it up. I read and I read even when I wasn’t supposed to be reading at work. The files on my desk have piled high and I will have to scramble to meet deadline but I don’t care. The book was that good and everything including the secrets were worth it, because I know there is at least one more book after this. More Nic and Cam is not a bad thing at all.

So after all that, I need to add one more thing.

I have fixation with book titles and that moment in the story that it clicks, that the title makes sense. What I loved about the AIW series is how I could relate the whiskey to the romance and guess what? I can relate the beer to this series too.

You see. Imperial Stouts were created to be stronger beer, a more aggressive brew that could survive its temporary and yet difficult stay without spoiling and with that they became a different and new style of beer. With this book, we have the same universe, yet a new style of coupling between Nic and Dom and how they blend their world of the US Attorney’s office and FBI together. What we also get is their temporary, but difficult stay of not breaking rules or crossing line by being intimate with one another without spoiling all the yummy UST. You see where I am going with this? Imperial stouts are brewed to be formidable and have the ability to weather the storm in the cold climates where they were originally favored. Formidable and able to weather the storm are pretty much the same descriptions you could use for Dominic and Cameron’s new found relationship and romance. Both men are formidable in their careers and both men have been through much more than I would have expected, but they can outlast the past and together they can push the envelope of what is the accepted standard and create something new. Something that is just theirs while harboring no disrespect to heritage or tradition, but simply broadening it with who they are. Yup, this title works and I will leave you with this: The combination of roasted barley and other dark characters malts will give an imperial stout a bittersweet personality… barley, which is known to be milder when combined with a dark character.


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