The Rainbow Place: A Review
My summary: Out-and-proud Seb moves from London to a tiny seaside town in Cornwall, where he knows only two other queer folks. He decides to open an LGBT-centered café/bar called, of course, Rainbow Place. He hires the builder Jason to renovate an old space into a queer haven. The two men have an obvious attractive, but Jason has spent his whole life in the same town, feigning heterosexuality to keep his life bearable. As their relationship deepens, Jason comes to a major crossroads, and the fate of Rainbow Place intersects with Jason’s personal struggle.
Jay Northcote is one of my new favorite authors. Rainbow Place was my first book by him, and it was such a delectable treat. I’m tired of stories that use homophobia and coming-out narratives as convenient plot devices, and I probably never would have picked this book up if I had known the plot beforehand. But the angst is minimal and the heart is maximal: I felt Seb’s experiences so deeply as a queer person who recently relocated from New York to a small town. Owning a queer-friendly space (a bookstore, in my case) is a major dream of mine, and there was just so much gorgeous wish-fulfillment in this story.
Jason’s coming-out narrative was also something I related to: He doesn't initially admit to himself that he's in the closet; it’s more like this passivity, a kind of "plausible deniability." Jason pretends to be straight to ensure that he fits in, but in doing so he’s assured his own alienation, as he keeps a major part of his identity a secret from almost everyone in his life, cuts himself off from the queer community, and has no romantic life whatsoever. I related strongly to him, and this is why “own voices” queer writers are so important to bringing authenticity to queer narratives. Although this is a light, sweet story, there was a psychological realism that hit deep.
Please make a move. Please. Seb waited, his heart beating a frantic rhythm.
“Seb.” Jason lifted his hands and then hesitated. He looked up at Seb’s face again and Seb could see how conflicted he was. Fear and uncertainty warred with want.
“Do it,” Seb said. “Touch me.” He moved a tiny bit closer in invitation.
The romantic aspect was…ahem. The chemistry between Jason and Seb was smoldering. I was very on board for their furtive, blossoming affair, the hidden moments, their mutual inability to keep their hands off each other. Instalust works when the characters remain driven by their other emotions, too; by the time they’re eyeing each other up, we understand their separate conflicts, know about their friends, family, hopes, and dreams. And we know why they won’t work even as we hope sorely that they will.
But of course, there is a HEA. I also did a little dance when I learned that this is the first in a series; I’m sure the next book(s) will center around other characters, but I’m excited to see how Jason and Seb develop, and how Seb’s little café flourishes.
This is a sweet, escapist read. I can’t recommend Jay Northcote enough.