Uncovering Ray by Edie Danford

Uncovering Ray by Edie Danford
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (309 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Other: Gender Queer, M/M
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Lilac

When the right love uncovers the wrong secrets…

Hey, man–you a chick or a dude? Dealing with the same old boring question is a downer for college drop-out Ray Fayette, especially when it’s asked by the low-tipping, over-privileged students at the Ellery Diner.

When six-foot-five, muscle-bound straight arrow Wyatt Kelly publicly smacks down a fellow frat bother for caveman behavior, Ray’s interest is sparked. Wyatt’s not-so-subtle attraction sparks a few other things too.

But getting to know Wyatt proves dangerous. His sexy smiles and smart questions slide under even Ray’s prickliest defenses. Worse, his academic mentor happens to be Ray’s ex-stepfather, the dictatorial jerk who just kicked Ray out of his house. Again.

Wyatt suggests a housing arrangement that has surprising appeal—there’s space available at his frat house—but he’s unaware just how complicated Ray’s “identity issues” are. Ellery College kicked out Ray for a reason—a reason that could deep-six Wyatt’s academic career and Ray’s newly hopeful heart.

Two young guys meet and fall in love. Only… one of them isn’t quite as he seems.

Ray is gender queer. He’s also the son of some pretty rich folks who disapprove of his androgyny, so he’s left them behind to work at a greasy diner. There he meets Wyatt, a popular fratboy with a stellar academic career. They hit it off. But Wyatt’s adviser is Ray’s bigoted, tyrannical step-father, and Ray’s got issues with biological and sexual identity and sex itself.

This entire story really hangs on two things, and if you don’t like either, then you’re not gonna like this story. Both things can be summed in one word: Ray. Firstly, he identifies as gender queer or androgynous, but he has a surprise tucked in his jeans. Secondly, Ray’s personality is at the focal point of storytelling, and if his snarky, rebellious, even whiny character doesn’t appeal to you, this’ll end your interest pretty quickly.

Because everything revolves around Ray, his sex and his personality, the story doesn’t exactly deepen a lot. In fact, despite the romance between Ray and Wyatt, overall this is pretty depressing, with homophobia, harassment, and threats of violence. I also liked Wyatt better than Ray, who felt awfully immature at times, speaking of hardships he’d endured when to me he hadn’t really had those kinds of experiences. His only (melodramatic) issues seemed to be with his so-called daddy, other people not getting his sexual identity, and Ray’s refusal to even really talk about any of it.

Wyatt, on the other hand, is a typical charmer, the college guy everyone wants to date and have on their side in a crunch. Beyond that, though, he didn’t have a lot of depth.

The romance consists of sweet closeness. About halfway through the book Ray’s secret is kept pretty close to home. Then the revelation comes, and it’s hard to see a need for the plot to continue past that point, especially since the topic is not really discussed in any meaningful way. Wyatt is accepting and loving of Ray, so that part of the crisis is resolved midway through the book. The plot focus is on the romance, so when the issues between the two are dealt with, the rest feels like needless filler. Also, the sensual scenes, though sweet and steamy at times, are not as fulfilling as they could have been.

Nonetheless, when it comes to figuring out one’s gender identity and sexual orientation, these guys have that part down. They discuss matters almost dispassionately–at least until Ray’s quirky character gets on a soapbox. Snarky Ray does a bad job of shooting Wyatt down whenever Wyatt starts asking questions about Ray and how he sees himself. That unfortunately makes the big revelation about Ray seem almost a non-issue, when it should be at the heart of the story, so that readers can actually think about what these things mean for real people in realistic terms. Wyatt kind of represents the enlightened modern teenager who understands not everyone is the same and can accept true diversity and embrace differences. That’s a worthwhile, important message to send, not just to the young, but to the old as well. This aspect brought some gravity to the matters shown here but much of that was left hanging in the air.

The best parts of this story are the messages of accepting differences. The romance is less about sex and what gender bits people have under their clothes, and more about two people falling in love, their personalities gravitating toward and attracting one another. Sometimes romances and matters of the heart ascend the physical, and that’s the unexplored expanse where this story lies. For a first book, this could have packed a punch, and sort of succeeds in the end.

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