Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Robert Winter has definitely made it onto my favorite author list. This is his third book, and they just keep getting better! This book is a standalone, but it does contain spoilers for Every Breath You Take, and cameo appearances from David and Brandon from September.
Randy Vaughan is the enigmatic owner of the piano bar Mata Hari, first introduced in Every Breath You Take. He’s reserved, doesn’t make friends easily, and his six-foot-three muscle bound body is definitely intimidating. Some know that he’s retired from the secret service, but he hasn’t shared his artistic side with anyone in years. He displays the art he’s collected from all over the world in the bar, but mainly for his own enjoyment rather than making a statement. He was burned, badly, in the past by a lover, and since then has preferred to keep to himself.
Life was moving along as it always does, and then in only a few weeks two men shook up Randy’s carefully ordered existence: Jack Fraser, London art historian, and Danny, a homeless teen.
Jack is looking for a very specific painting. He thinks Randy may own it, and came all the way from London to see it. When he first approaches Randy, however, he can’t seem to look past the big, tough guy exterior to see the intelligent and discriminating artist behind the facade, and everything he says and does just pisses Randy off. When Jack won’t say why he needs to see the painting, Randy refuses to show it. But there is a chemistry there that both men instantly recognize, which makes it impossible for either to walk away for good.
Danny was getting beat up behind Mata Hari in the middle of the night when Randy came upon him. He saved Danny from the thugs, and took him home with the intention of finding him an LGBT shelter, but when days and ultimately weeks go by without an opening, Randy finds himself enjoying having a platonic roommate. Randy modeled most of his life on his gay uncle Kevin, and still lives by a moral code that he learned from Kevin and his partner Luc. He starts to look at Danny as a way to pay forward everything that Kevin did for him.
None of what I’ve written so far is a spoiler, but this is: these two occurrences are not random, but are connected as part of a bigger plot that involves blackmail, kidnapping, and priceless art. It was obvious what Randy’s painting really is, but the rest of it was actually took me by surprise. There is also a lot of character development of both Randy and Jack, which made their difficulty learning to trust each other despite physical and intellectual attraction understandable.
The dom/sub relationship mentioned in the blurb is actually a minor aspect of Randy and Jack’s romance, and there is not a lot of sex in the book. There was only one scene that involved bondage, and to be honest, I think the book probably would have been better without it. My biggest irritation with this book is that it didn’t end at the right point. I’d get to the end of a chapter and be satisfied that was it, and then there’d be another, and another. I wanted to tell Mr. Winter, you don’t have to wrap up every single little thread out there!!! So although I was captivated throughout 90% of the book, I got a little bored at the end. Still, Randy is easily my favorite of all the characters I’ve seen so far, and I am looking forward to reading more in this universe and hopefully seeing him again.
I’ve got mixed feelings about the cover art by Dar Albert. The classy bar in the background is perfect, but I just can’t look at this model and see Randy. In my mind, he’s bigger, bulkier, and doesn’t have the smarmy smirk on his face that this guy has. Oh well, sometimes cover models add to my mental picture of a character, and sometimes I just need to look past them.
Kindle Edition, 239 pages
Published July 7th 2017 by Robert Winter Books
Edition LanguageEnglishsettingWashington, DC