Title: Mud & Lace (Rainbow Place #4)
Author: Jay Northcote
Publisher: Jaybird Press
Release Date: April 22, 2019
Page Count: 240
Reviewed by: Kristin F.
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.0 stars out of 5
When Wicksy falls for drag queen Charlie, they discover that both sexuality and gender can be fluid.
Simon Wicks—Wicksy to his rugby teammates—has only ever been interested in women. But when he sets eyes on Lady Gogo, a drag queen who performs at Rainbow Place, he can’t stop thinking about her. He knows there’s a guy behind the fishnets and make-up, but he’s ready to explore his fantasies, and Lady Gogo is game for making them come true.
Charlie adores performing in drag. It allows him to indulge in his love of cross-dressing while earning some extra cash. Fooling around with a mostly straight guy in secret seems like a fun diversion, and gives him the chance to explore his feminine side. He feels safe wearing the mask of his confident alter ego, because the real Charlie is hidden from view.
When Wicksy sees more of the guy behind the make-up and glitter, his attraction to Charlie persists, and he realises he’s bisexual. In turn, Charlie begins to understand and accept his gender fluidity. As their mutual journey of self-discovery brings them closer, the secrecy becomes increasingly hard to deal with. If they’re going to have a future together, they both need to find the courage to show people who they really are.
Although this book is part of a linked series, it can be read and enjoyed as a standalone.
The author notes this could be read as a standalone, and I mostly agree, though reading the books in order will help explain the background and characters more clearly.
I love how Jay Northcoat summarizes the books so well and accurately, no need to rehash.
Points in strong favor of this latest installment – I enjoyed the exploration of gender and gender expression and what may attract individuals to others. I appreciated the glimpse of angst, self doubt, and fear that accompanies someone who may be exploring what it means to dress or express themselves in a non-normative manner. I also liked the the flip side of this, what it means to be someone attracted to a style of gender expression (in this case femininity) regardless of gender origin. And tying it all together – how to come out to friends and family.
Where the story line lost me was the the amount of sex in the first half of the book. Yes, I understand this was how our characters were learning and growing, but it was too repetitive for me. It was like..ugh, another sex scene? I would have really liked to have seen some alternate mode of connecting, exploring and growth.
The other aspect that made me uncomfortable was both characters were acknowledging their dating situation was not ideal nor desired: Charlie claims he understands that everyone needs to be able to step out of the closet in their own timing, but when the Climatic Confrontation happens, he only gives Wisksy a week or two to figure things out. For myself, this didn’t fly. This “could be” chalked up to Charlie’s age (20) and certain lack of maturity. But saying on one hand everyone needs to approach their sexuality in their own timing, then putting a deadline on someone you supposedly care for…? yeah. No.
And I wish people were so understanding, open and accepting, and as fast to apologize in real life as they are in books…
Ultimately, an enjoyable read that covered some – even in m/m romance – non-standard topics. Thank you Jay for taking this topic on!