Author ~ Lane Hayes
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 8th January 2016
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
Rand O’Malley dreams of superstardom. He hopes to one day sing the blues like a rock god. Moving to New York City and hiring a new manager are steps to make his dreams a reality. But nothing moves as fast as Rand would like, and everyone has opinions, which include he keep certain pieces of himself quiet if he plans on making it in the Big Apple. Like his bisexuality.
Will Sanders is a gifted musician who dazzles Rand with his ability to coax gorgeous notes from an electric guitar one moment and play the piano like a professional the next. He’s a geek, but Rand isn’t concerned about Will’s pressed exterior clashing with his tattoos. His focus is music. Yet there’s something about Will that makes Rand think there’s much more to the quiet college student than he lets on. As Rand’s dreams begin to materialize, he’s forced to reconsider his priorities and find his own kind of truth. One that might include Will.
I had forgotten how much I liked Lane Hayes’ writing. I’d read almost all her books, but hadn’t checked recently for new releases. Then I stumbled upon “A Kind of Truth” – which only happened because I’m always on the lookout for a good new gay-rock-star romance – and remembered why I loved her books. I found myself immediately immersed in her fluid - and often inspired - prose. It was like coming home, meeting the colorful, accessible and authentic characters she always creates.
There are two main characters in “A Kind of Truth”, Rand and Will. Rand is a brash young singer/guitarist, recently moved to New York with his bandmates to take a stab at the big time. Lacking a lead guitar player, they audition all kinds of prospects and finally settle on Terry, a serviceable, but less than stellar, guitarist. Rand knows his music is good, his performance excellent, and his band has what it takes to hit the big time. He’s not after fame and fortune, he’s after the largest audience he can get to share his music with. To Rand, music is everything. It’s also the way this obsessed young man communicates, and he’s got a lot to say. He knows that Terry can just about play the music Rand pens, but he also knows that he’s the weak link.
His mediocrity and laziness means that one of the most important elements of Spiral is essentially flat. Something’s missing, and it’s a world-class lead guitar. Rand plays guitar, but he’s not a guitar-god. He’s self-taught and good enough. He also knows he will probably have to step in to replace Terry, if his band is going to have any chance at success – the kind of success he’s dreamed about, success on a scale so huge his music will reach the whole world. If he’s going to have to step in, he’s going to have to get much better at the guitar. It’s a heck of a load to carry, to be both lead singer and lead guitarist. He’s got the passion and the energy to do both, just not the fast fingers required to be spectacular.
He needs a crash course in lead guitar. Following a recommendation, he contacts a respected student-teacher at NYU, and begs him to coach him. He meets the music nerd, for the first time, when he shows up for his first lesson. And yes, he is a nerd, thick horn-rimmed glasses, bangs covering his eyes and an awkward self-effacing walk that makes him appear to be trying to fade into the woodwork.
But once Will has the guitar in his hands, he turns into someone else, someone powerful, self-assured, someone with a musical soul to match his own, someone whose brilliance blinds him. He also thinks he may have seen him before. Could it be? There was this sexy, self-assured woman on the subway, a blond woman dressed to the nines, and moving with astonishing grace on her spike heels. Nah, it couldn’t be, could it?
This is the point at which I grew nervous. Don’t tell me, this is a “cross-dresser for a bi-guy” novel, a too-too convenient meeting of orientations and kinks. Nothing wrong with a cross-dresser or a Trans person – they’re both interesting and fascinating possibilities. Just a bit of an obvious love interest for a bi-sexual guy, right?
Wrong. I forgot what a top-flight author Ms. Hayes is. I forgot how subtle she can be, and what powerful points she tends to make with her characters, plots and situations. Things got a lot more interesting when she made it obvious that, although Rand is bisexual, he’s not turned on particularly by the idea of getting both a man and a woman in the same package. Far from it. What pulled him in, what turned him on, was the self-assurance and sass of that beautiful woman joined with the deep, shy soul of the remarkably talented Will. He is fascinated by the depths to plumb, the richness of this remarkable man, all there was to learn and appreciate. Rand has never been in love. Rand has never even had a serious relationship. And now, though it terrifies him, he’s met someone with whom he’s contemplating both, for the very first time. They have a common language, a shared vocabulary, a place they both go in their heads, their hearts and souls – the music.
The first time they played together, Rand realized he had met someone who would change his life:
“My heart swelled, making me feel light-headed, but somehow grounded. Like I was a balloon and he was the string tethering me to earth, I took a deep breath and willed myself to remain in the moment.”
And Will does, indeed, change Rand’s life. They spend most of their time together, they write music together and even, occasionally, play together in public. It’s everything Rand ever dreamed, only better. But both of them know that there’s always something pulling the good things asunder. Things rarely last. Happiness is usually temporary. In this case, it’s Will’s prominent family and their desperate desire to force him back in the closet so he won’t be gay any more. As if.
Rand’s day job is in a typical New York bagel store. He works there as much for his sanity as for the income, which is hardly impressive. But the benevolent owner is almost like a second father to him. He gives Rand some sage insight gained from his experience raising his own gay son:
“I thought it was my job to teach him my version of how to be a man. Being a parent doesn’t make you smarter. Perfect idiots procreate every day. A good parent learns from their children as much as they learn from us.”
Thank you, Ms. Hayes. That’s possibly the best admonition to parents of LGBT kids I’ve ever read.
The parents are not the only obstacle. There are people within their orbit, people working with Rand’s band, who are just as determined to destroy the two. Typical rock-star issue – can he be a rock star and have a same-sex lover? There are too many who insist he cannot, and are ruthless enough to try to force the two young men apart. The forces are arrayed against them.
Which brings us to the core of “A Kind of Truth”: the search for courage and bravery, the willingness to give up what you want if you have to sacrifice your truth or your love to achieve it.
Lane Hayes puts it beautifully. This simple, eloquent statement moved me deeply:
“Acts of bravery aren’t necessarily giant statements. Sometimes the most poignant ones come from those who live quietly but honestly.”
How good is “A Kind of Truth”? There’s not a word out of place, not a missing period or comma, not a single word of dialogue out of character, and not a dull moment. Thank you, Ms. Hayes, for a lovely, exciting and profoundly moving book. I am so glad I “rediscovered” your writing and, rest assured, I will catch up on any of your books I’ve missed while I was off reading other authors’ work. You are right back up amongst those talented authors on my “must-read” list and I heartily recommend that everyone interested in authentic, powerful and beautiful writing puts you and “A Kind of Truth” at the top of theirs.