Author ~ Dev Bentham
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 5th February 2016
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
Money can’t buy happiness. Jacob Nussbaum knows this better than anyone. He's a corporate lawyer deep inside a huge New York firm, where he works overtime, sacrifices any chance at a personal life, and has been selling his soul for years. With a secretary as his only friend, he trudges on, until his whole world is blown apart by a manila envelope of photos—evidence that one of the firm’s partners is the dirtiest lawyer in one hell of a filthy business.
In search of the truth, Jacob travels to a small northern Wisconsin fishing resort. There he meets Ben Anderson, a brutally lonely man, who knocks him off his feet. Ben prompts Jacob to reevaluate his life. He’s a dozen years older than Jacob, still recovering from the death of his long time love, and doesn’t want to leave anyone a widower. But a jaded New Yorker on a soul-searching mission might be just the man to convince the grieving Ben that it's never too late to begin again.
“The Whistle Blower” is a very good book. Written by the talented Dev Bentham, this book is what a gay romance should be – a book about the love between men. There are no perfect men in this book, no young Adonises, just a pair of good men who deserve to find their Bershert - Yiddish for their true destined love. There’s a lot more in the book, including a bit of a legal thriller, but everything else serves only one purpose, to ensure that these two men find each other. It’s Karma, it’s Kismet, it’s the universe setting things right – if both men will just go with the flow and stop fighting what they feel.
Jacob Nussbaum is a ridiculously successful young corporate lawyer in New York City. In his mid-thirties, he’s the youngest partner in his firm, their negotiator extraordinaire, the lawyer who ensures their clients pay the least possible damages, and extract the biggest settlements from people they hold over a barrel.
It’s pretty cutthroat stuff, but it pays extraordinarily well, as witness the fancy car and condo that Jacob owns, even though the condo is always empty and he’s got nowhere special to drive. Jacob is an ambitious man who sacrificed his life to achieve enormous success in his profession and, lately, he’s beginning to wonder if the tradeoff was worth it. His only friend in the world is his secretary.
The scales begin to tilt in the wrong direction once Jacob starts receiving manila envelopes containing disturbing photographs and documents implicating his firm in bribery and extortion, in cheating victims out of their proper settlements by bribing their attorneys and purchasing perjured testimony. Jacob can’t accept this. He didn’t sacrifice his life to become a crook, an accomplice to bribery and extortion.
So he launches a secret investigation of his own firm. He has to know how deeply the corruption goes and what other cases have been subverted by illegal action by his firm’s senior partners. The first stop in his investigation is an island resort in Northern Wisconsin where the corrupt attorney who was bribed will be spending a few days fishing. Jacob is on the way to this remote resort to confront the man and confirm that the he’s not imagining the crimes.
Ben is the owner of the lake island resort in Wisconsin where Jacob plans to confront Halverson. He’s a mature man, around 50 and a grieving widower. His beloved partner, Manny, died of cancer two years earlier and, for all intents and purposes, Ben died with him. He doesn’t date, he hasn’t visited his old friends in the city, and he locks himself away on his frozen island spending the whole winter in solitary grief. He hasn’t moved on. He hasn’t even tried to move on. Manny was his destiny. Quite a bit older than Ben when they met, Ben continued to find him incredibly attractive up until the very end, even after his nursed him through the hell that is cancer and he passed away. Manny was a very good businessman and together, they managed to amass a fairly impressive nest egg, so Ben will never have to work again, if he doesn’t want to. And, of course, they owned their island resort together. It was never a serious moneymaker, the guests just managing to offset the costs of maintaining the resort – but it gives Ben something to do with his time.
Everything changes when Jacob arrives at the island. Dressed in a fancy suit and expensive shoes, he’s about as inappropriate as one can be at a fishing resort. Nonetheless, when Ben drives the hydrofoil over to the mainland to pick up his new guest, he can’t help but admire the serious, confident, well-built, younger man waiting to be ferried to the island. Jacob has a similar reaction. He guesses that Ben is around 40, with a tight, athletic body and the most beautiful eyes. He’s actually ten years older. Jacob’s drawn to the man. It doesn’t make much sense because he’s only there for a few days and he’s grown tired of one-night-stands and casual sex. But he just can’t help his intense attraction to the older, but incredibly sexy man. The attraction seems to be mutual.
They spend the next few weeks and months finding excuses to get together, ostensibly for sex, but actually because neither man can get the other out of his head. Ben is wracked with survivor’s guilt, fearing it’s too soon or somehow disloyal to care about another man. He also knows that Manny would want him to meet someone new. He told him so, before he died. He didn’t want his beloved Ben to spend the rest of his life alone, grieving. Ben’s also 14 years older than Jacob and just can’t bring himself to get involved with the younger man. He can’t bear the thought that, someday, Jacob would have to spend a year at his bedside, watching him die.
Of course, that’s irrelevant, because either man could be killed crossing a busy street tomorrow. And, if he had his choice, would he really wish he’d never known and loved Manny just because he died of cancer too soon?
These guys have a lot to work out, but to give them both credit, no matter how they try to convince themselves that they can never make it work, they spend a lot of time and effort regretting their distance and desperately trying to get back to each other.
The end was never in doubt. Ms. Bentham telegraphs the inevitability of the two men committing to each other from their very first meeting. The pleasure of this lovely book is not the destination, it’s the journey. Ms. Bentham does such a wonderful, lyrical job of showing the men’s thoughts, their growing intimacy, and the closeness of their hearts, that it warms the soul. This is the story of how two lonely men find each other and each sacrifice what was holding them back, determined to find a way to be together and share a life. There are tears when things fall apart, joy when they come together, real obstacles, real pain to deal with, but over all of that Ms. Bentham keeps the reader aware that these men were meant to be together, and will be. What a joy to read about a sexy 50-year-old man and a man in his mid-thirties, neither of them playing daddies or sons, just loving each other for who they are. I don’t know about you, but I spend way too much time reading about twenty-somethings with six-packs. It’s so refreshing to read a love story between two good, mature men with sexy bodies, deep reserves of passion, and enough experience to treasure what they have.
“Whistle Blower” is a gentle book about love, an ode to possibilities, and the song of two men’s hearts. In short, it’s a beautiful book