Review: Lying Eyes by Robert Winter

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.

New to me Robert Winter has just earned a place on my must read author list. What an amazing, complex and ridiculously romantic book this was.

Though I haven’t read Winter’s previous books and had the pleasure of meeting Randy before, I can say this works well as a standalone novel, as well as promoting the intrigue to go back and read Thomas and Zachary’s story and meet David and Brandon.

But this is Randy’s story; our hard bodied, leather loving, ex-special services agent and current piano bar owner/bartender with a love for collecting and making art who has a soft side for those in need and instinct for those who need to submit.

Randy was an agent with the secret service until an incident required him to abandon his career but with the partnering of his friend Thomas he has opened the Mata Hari, a piano bar that is LGBTQ friendly to occupy his days to night. During his years of service, Randy would take the time during his travels to seek out local art and on one trip to the UK to shadow an US Senator, he sees an unnamed painting that is rumored to be done by an apprentice of Jean-Pierre Brousseau. This piece, unofficially titled Sunrise not only caught Randy’s eye with its vibrant colors and the ruins of the Abbey of Chaalis, but it’s caught the attention of the Gates Gallery in the Whitechapel district that sold it to him as well as the Kensington Museum and most pointedly a sexy art historian names Jack Fraser.

Jack has sent Randy a letter requesting a meeting and a look at Sunrise, but Randy isn’t having it. He’s tired of being judged by his appearance as someone who is too muscled and dumb to know anything about art but when Jack shows up at the bar, Randy has an instinct about the man and can’t get him out of his head.

I have such a crush on Randy for many reasons. First I love that the author gives us a MC who is 51 and still in the prime of his life. Randy is a good guy to his friends, to his employees and to a young, possibly gay and homeless boys he finds on the street. The author gives us a great character outline of Randy as simply the man before we get into him as the romantic lead and it was a great flow to the story. The way Randy takes in Danny, the young homeless teen, and won’t set him back out on the streets lets us know the type of man Randy is so when he finally gets to rattle Jack’s cage…

Jack is one mystery after another from the moment we meet him but just as Randy is intrigued by the sharp witted man in a well fit suit that doesn’t quite suit him, so is the reader. We get bits of Jack through Randy and while I usually love a dual POV in this story, it works well to get it all from Randy and get Jack as Randy sees him. Jack is an art historian who has a special interest in the Sunrise painting and would love to see it in person if only Randy would grant him the pleasure. Randy would love to grant a few pleasures to Jack if only Jack would trust him enough with the real reason he wants to see the painting.

Through the time Jack is in the States, Randy is dealing with his new housemate Danny, who Randy begins to feel like a pseudo father to, a break in at his bar, the insistent need to know Jack intimately and the minor jealousy of his friends Thomas and Zachary as they move forward in their new relationship. But it’s on a Monday night off from the bar that Randy reserves for himself and his kink, that the story picks up and things get beautifully complicated. You see, Randy hasn’t had a relationship in years so getting off with casual and consensual kink at Cuir – his choice of leather bar - mixed with sex suits him just fine. And after a few visits at the bar from Jack and nothing coming of it, Randy goes to his club and gets a pleasant and pleasurable surprise.

For me, I like the addition of BDSM to the story even though it’s on the light side. It plays into each man’s character of not needing the D/s for a 24/7 relationship, but a way for them both to reset their lives. As Jack puts it; he’s more into the B and the D, not so much the S and the M. Not everyone in the scene needs it all the time, but it’s not play or a role for Randy and Jack, it’s who they are and it’s beautiful.

Now while Randy fancies the proper Englishman in Jack, it’s what lies beneath that he wants to dominate and let fly. Randy sees that Jack wants to submit but knows he’s holding back but a chance encounter and a spoken trust allows the men to see what each are made of. Oh and what they are made of is freaking fracking HOT!

But Jack has things he hasn’t told Randy about why he wants the painting and a certain someone back home who cautions him about revealing his research. This research and the Sunrise painting blend a mystery into the story of the painting and whom it truly was commissioned and completed by.

I honestly was not expecting the mystery that begins to unfold in this romance, but welcomed it with open arms and kept reading hours after I should have been in bed. The whole deal with the painting, of finding out who Trevor was to Randy and just WTF did he do to the big bear to give Randy such hang ups and…and… goodness. There are so many layers to Randy that make him a memorable romantic lead it’s a bit insane and I love it. From how his Uncle Kevin and his partner Luc shaped his young life and ultimately his future, to how kind and nurturing Randy is that it can lead to people taking advantage of him in the worst ways to how loyal he is and how fierce he loves. Randy is amazing and I love that Jack is willing to meet him toe to toe and not give up.

Wow. What a ride this was. There is so much I haven’t even touched on and I’ve already rambled my redhead ass off. I have to say that Winter’s is truly talented to create a fake post-impressionist artist out of Jean-Pierre Brousseau and make his work seem impressively realistic. The descriptions of the man’s work and the bridge from one style to another was brilliant and so fascinating that all of it was simply made up for this story.

Lying Eyes… that title. I am a self-proclaimed music nerd and while it may just be something in my head, I’ve noticed the author’s book titles have similarities to popular songs of the past. This one, I have a hard time not hearing the late Glenn Fry singing a song by the same title in my ear and how it all could be pointed at those who’ve lied to Randy. Or it could just be a title and I read way too much into things.

Either way.
This book was amazing.
Read it.

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the lovely and insightful review, Sara. You're right about the title choice coming from The Eagles' song, and pretty much for the reason you guessed! I hated to drop the apostrophe (official title of the song is Lyin' Eyes) but frankly it looked odd on the cover that way.