Publisher: Robert Winter Books
Rating: 5 stars
Buy Links: Amazon
Received from Publisher
Blurb: This bartender’s art lies in more than mixing drinks …
Randy Vaughan is a six-foot-three mass of mysteries to his customers and his friends. Why does a former Secret Service agent now own Mata Hari, a successful piano bar? Where did a muscle daddy get his passion for collecting fine art? If he’s as much a loner as his friends believe, why does he crave weekly sessions at an exclusive leather club?
Randy’s carefully private life unravels when Jack Fraser, a handsome art historian from England, walks into his bar, anxious to get his hands on a painting Randy owns. The desperation Randy glimpses in whiskey-colored eyes draws him in, as does the desire to submit that he senses beneath Jack’s elegant, driven exterior.
While wrestling with his attraction to Jack, Randy has to deal with a homeless teenager, a break-in at Mata Hari, and Jack’s relentless pursuit of the painting called Sunrise. It becomes clear someone’s lying to Randy. Unless he can figure out who and why, he may miss his chance at the love he’s dreamed about in the hidden places of his heart.
Note: Lying Eyes is a standalone gay romance novel with consensual bondage and a strong happy ending. It contains potential spoilers for Robert Winter’s prior novel, Every Breath You Take.
Review: This story has some of everything: mystery, suspense, introspection, romance. Marvelous layered and nuanced writing. While it could easily be read as a standalone, the main character of Randy was introduced in a previous book, Every Breath You Take, which I highly recommend reading first.
Long before I finished Winter’s first novel, September, I knew he’d become an “auto-buy” author for me. This held true for his second effort, Every Breath You Take. The captivating characters, suspenseful plot twists, and emotional turmoil present in Lying Eyes continue to uphold my high opinion of this author’s writing skill; such a wonderfully layered, captivating story.
As mentioned, Randy is a character first introduced in Every Breath You Take. In that story he exhibited a high level of courage, caring, and loyalty to his friends. Those qualities, as well as the underlying loneliness and turmoil he exuded, served to make me want to know what made him tick. Lying Eyes is told from Randy’s POV, so I got my wish; we get to see exactly what’s going on in his life and in his head. Even though Randy is perfectly capable of looking after himself, I felt a definite urge to look out for him, and I fervently wished him happiness. At 51, Randy is a mature character who’s been through some huge ups and downs. A built guy – he’s 6’ 3” – the former Secret Service agent is now running Mata Hari, a piano bar catering to gay patrons of Washington D.C. He adorns the walls of Mata Hari with his art collection, art being a passion he nearly pursued as a career long ago. It’s the art collection that brings Jack through the doors of Mata Hari.
Jack on the surface is a quintessential polished British intellectual, right down to his hip beard and posh suit. Randy feels an immediate pull of attraction to the man the moment Jack enters Mata Hari, partly from Jack’s physical appearance, partly from sensing a deeper vibe from the him. Jack is an art historian who is keen to get a closer look at a painting in Randy’s collection. Once he meets Randy, he’s also keen for a closer look at him. I sort of have a “thing” for British characters, and for art, so the somewhat mysterious Jack had me sitting up and taking notice in a big way. I was right there with Randy trying to figure out the man and his motives, balancing attraction with wariness.
Randy is a man who longs for companionship. His specific sexual desires, along with a jaded past, have him feeling as though his loneliness will have to be filled by occasional nights at his leather club and time spent with friends. Meeting Jack gives him new hope, only to have that hope quashed by Jack’s pushy and confounding behavior. Rarely have I read finer depictions of character and relationship development. Randy is such a good guy, so world wary in many ways, yet the negatives he’s experienced haven’t completely dimmed his caring nature. How he reacts to Jack and others, and the truths he uncovers, is powerful and raw. Genuine.
I want to point out that this is not a BDSM or D/s centric story. It is important to distinguish that while Randy and Jack engage in bondage, this activity is seamlessly depicted as a component of who these men are as individuals, as a pair. The sex scenes are few; however, they are completely integral and crucial to the overall story and relationship arc.
Perfectly meshed with the inter-personal relationships is the focal point: the mystery surrounding the painting. As has become typical of a Winter story, there are in fact several plot threads going on which intersect beautifully. I won’t spoiler them here, but be assured that I was completely gobsmacked by some surprising twists and turns as Randy’s past crashes into his present. There are pulse-racing action scenes to go along with the intrigue and building romance, and an ending that goes above and beyond to supply gratification to the reader, as well as to the characters. I was particularly impressed with Randy’s introspection, his ability to forgive and to still be capable of loving himself as well as others. Appearances by Thomas and Zach, and David and Brandon were much appreciated.