Play Dead (Glasgow Lads # 3.5) by Avery Cockburn
Published by: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary Sports LGBTQ+ Romance
Order at: Goodreads
Reviewed by: Alex
What to Expect: It’s late at night and you want something just so…unghf…and hmmm…and aargh…and maybe opposites/enemies-to-lovers…
Novella featuring Colin and Lord Andrew, the heroes of Playing to Win (Glasgow Lads, #2).
Full description coming soon!
I’m not sure when or how I first found this series but it quickly became my ‘go-to’. Perhaps it was the Glasgow or *cough* the accents. Glasgow is not a tourist destination; it’s a modern city. It’s more friendly, diverse, and affordable than Edinburgh, which is a mere 47 miles to the East. And it’s a patchwork. There wasn’t some civil mastermind behind building the city up — Glasgow built itself up from it’s bootstraps. So when it comes to building a world where its Catholics vs. Protestants (see #1), Tories vs. SNP (see #2), Bi-College Coder vs. Gay Ale-Slinging Wonder (see #3), plus enough of a conservative bent that the Warriors (LGBTQ+ football team in semi-professional league) have to fight prejudice every game and have their own fandom cheering and rooting like watching their lads on the pitch is the best part of their week, Glasgow is the place to be.
Playing to Win (Glasgow Lads #2) establishes the couple as one of the ‘haves’ with one of the ‘have nots.’ One is refined, the other is not. They travel in different social circles. They are politically incompatible during the Scottish independence referendum. The man destined to play in the political game (Lord Andrew) is clueless about how the legal system treats Colin and his ilk. Their romance shouldn’t work. In fact, there is one scene in particular in which Andrew is quite shocked to realize that the duct tape binding Colin’s shoe together is made out of necessity and not a fashion statement. But this is what I love about these books. Cockburn takes something that shouldn’t work and weaves a connection between two opposing sides that allows each character to gain new insights. The surprise twist in #2 is how boys balance out their power dynamic with Andrew submitting to Colin.
Play Dead is #3.5 in the series, which indicates that the timing comes after book #3 (Robert and Liam’s book) and it’s a “.5”, which means it’s a follow-up novella to an already happy ending. In this case we get to see, Colin and Lord Andrew (he prefers Drew), after Colin has recovered from a life-threatening injury in book #2, thanks in part to Andrew’s painstaking care. Now that Colin is feeling better, he can return to a more rigorous lifestyle. On the pitch. In the bedroom. On top of a castle. You know…all the places.
By all accounts, their lives should be returning to normal. However, it becomes clear early on that Andrew isn’t okay. He doesn’t want to admit it, he doesn’t want to get help, and he insists that — despite talking to several people who have been through similar situations — he doesn’t need professional help. This is a book about aftermath of trauma, psychological response, feeling isolated amongst those who love you, and coming to terms with getting help. It isn’t just about Andrew — Colin, to some degree, is doing the same. In doing so, both are continuing to learn what it means to be with each other, especially in regards to trust and be honest in a way they haven’t before.
I liked their first book together (Playing to Win) but this follow-up novella has made me really love them as individuals and as a couple. Now, I need to go back to the #2 and read it all over again…
What you might not like/doesn’t work for you: From the ARC, I didn’t notice trigger warnings for references to prior physical attack, prior stalking, prior self-harm, evidence of PTSD. In my opinion, these are each dealt with in a sensitive and appropriate manner.
What you will love: The tenderness and affection that alternated with rough play. The magic three words were never clearly stated but the fact of their love was mutually demonstrated time and time again, from noticing when things weren’t right, to being able to apologize when necessary, to pressing each other to take care of themselves. Play Dead took the most unlikely, incompatible of people and turned them into one of the sweetest and authentically affectionate m/m couple that now sits in my library.
Alex claims to read more than any normal, healthy adult should though the rest of the Binge on Books team would beg to differ. You can read all of his reviews here.
Connect with Alex on Twitter: @Alex_deMorra