Release Review: Whiskey Business: Avon Gale

Whiskey Business
Avon Gale
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Released December 28, 2016
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Ryder Waites will do anything to keep the tiny town of Gallows Grove, Kentucky, from vanishing off the map—even sell his family’s whiskey recipe to Bluegrass Bourbon in Lexington. Hopeful that the larger company can provide necessary improvements to the distillery, Ryder’s ultimate goal is to get Gallows Grove on the Bourbon Trail… and bring in much-needed tourism revenue. But to keep producing Hanged Man Bourbon in Gallows Grove, he’ll have to convince company liaison, unbearably stuffy and seriously hot Adam Keller, that he's worth the investment.

Adam comes from an old-money family, but he’s determined to make his own way in the world. When he’s sent to Gallows Grove, he questions the life choices that led him to a rented room in a funeral home, in a town full of macabre-themed businesses. And he doesn’t know what to make of Ryder, the descendant of bootleggers who’s on a mission to save his strange town from extinction. When Adam and Ryder put aside their initial mistrust, the results are as smooth as good whiskey. But after Adam’s assignment ends, he’ll have to decide if small-town life and a future with Ryder is to his tastes.

I’m a big fan of Avon Gale’s hockey M/M series, so even though I tend to be disappointed by novellas—What can I say? I like ‘em longer… don’t be a perv now. *smirk*—it was still a no-brainer for me when the opportunity came to read this delightful novella, Whiskey Business.

Gallows Grove, Kentucky, is a strange little town with a strange founding story based in the days of Prohibition, but Ryder Waites, a descendent of the founding bootleggers, will do anything to keep it from dying out, including selling his family’s recipe for the town’s signature bourbon to a larger company as a way to get the funding necessary to improve the distillery and earn a lucrative spot on Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail. But to do that, he’s going to have to convince the company’s representative, Adam Keller, that keeping the production and the jobs in Gallows Grove is worth the time and money. 

So much about the small town of Gallows Grove is like a giant pun. To some extent, even Ryder Waites’s name is (if you know anything about tarot cards). The setting and set-up in Whiskey Business adds a good bit of humor to the story, even if it is on the macabre side. But that’s not the only source of fun and funny in the book. The interactions between Ryder and Adam, at least once they get past their initial animosity, are laced with the sort of humor that makes me laugh aloud, something that doesn’t happen often with books in spite of my having a good appreciation for humor.

The hostility between Ryder and Adam comes from the fact that not only will Adam’s decision determine the future of Gallows Grove, something Ryder doesn’t like, but he is also from the city (Lexington), from old money (his family is well-known in the state), well-educated, and rather stuffy, all things that Ryder isn’t. But Ryder is the only gay man in the small town, and it’s certainly no secret, so the fact that Adam is more than just a little hot gives the tension between them an extra kick. Adam isn’t ashamed of his upbringing, but he has always striven to make a name for himself separate from his family name and money. But some things are easier to escape than others, so he’s basically closeted and living behind a carefully constructed mask to keep from making too many waves back home, a mask that also keeps him from being involved in relationships.

Adam is only in Gallows Grove for a handful of days, and it doesn’t take long for the two men to come to an understanding that allows them to set aside their initial misgivings. So of course it isn’t long afterward that neither can continue denying their desire for one another. Once it happens, it’s a delicious ride because these two have a wonderful chemistry caused largely by how well their personalities fit together. And it’s hot with humor, always a good combination. But Adam’s visit is brief, nowhere near long enough for him to shed his mask completely, and it’s this difference in goals and lifestyles between the two that forms the conflict that threatens to keep them apart.

Unlike many of the novellas I have read, this story is perfect for the format. I didn’t feel like anything was missing because the story itself is uncomplicated, and the characters didn’t require any complex development in order for the reader to understand them and their motivations. This means there was plenty of time in the short length of the book to focus on the crux of the plot and how it affected both men and their desire for one another. I loved them both and was quite pleased to see how things worked out for them in the end. And in spite of being a novella, there was even time for the good ol’ happily-ever-after epilogue!

If more novellas were like Avon Gale’s Whiskey Business, I would probably not have the reluctance to reading them that I have. Not only is this a great example of what a novella should be, it also verifies for me this author’s standing on my must-read list. Even without it being a hockey story, she kept me interested all the way through. More, please!

Avon Gale 
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Avon Gale wrote her first story at the age of seven, about a "Space Hat" hanging on a rack and waiting for that special person to come along and purchase it—even if it was a bit weirder than the other hats. Like all of Avon's characters, the space hat did get its happily ever after—though she's pretty sure it was with a unicorn. She likes to think her vocabulary has improved since then, but the theme of quirky people waiting for their perfect match is still one of her favorites.

Avon grew up in the southern United States and now lives with her very patient husband in a liberal Midwestern college town. By day, Avon is a hair stylist who loves her job, her clients, and the opportunity to spend her time being creative and making people feel happy and look fabulous.

When she's not writing, she's either doing some kind of craft project that makes a huge mess, reading, watching horror movies, listening to music, or yelling at her favorite hockey team to get it together already. Avon is always up for a road trip, adores Kentucky bourbon, thinks nothing is as stress relieving as a good rock concert, and will never say no to candy.

At one point, Avon was the mayor of both Jazzercise and Lollicup on Foursquare. This tells you basically all you need to know about her as a person.


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