Title: Play Dead (Glasgow Lads: Book 3.5)
Author: Avery Cockburn
Length: 170 Pages
Category: Contemporary, New Adult
At a Glance: As much as it was difficult to see Andrew and Colin struggle, it was also satisfying to see them triumph, and that makes Play Dead a must read for fans of this couple and this series.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Colin’s wounds have finally healed. He’s ready for his big comeback on the football pitch and can’t wait to return to a normal life—especially the rampaging sex he and his boyfriend, Lord Andrew, once indulged in.
But Andrew has his own invisible wounds. Each day the memories of that near-fatal attack tighten their grip on his mind. Yet he must stay strong for the man he loves, the man who almost died to save him.
Colin knows something’s wrong. The more questions he asks, the more Andrew hides behind his aristocratic stiff upper lip. A surprise turn of events may give them the justice they crave, but will it be enough?
When Andrew finally breaks down—in typically spectacular fashion—he must learn to trust like never before. And Colin must learn there’s more than one kind of strength.
Because with a love as mad as theirs, there’s no such thing as normal.
Review: There are more than a few characters who have become synonymous with my love of this genre over the years: Sam and Jory, Ty and Zane, Cole and Jae, Victor and Jacob, Whyborne and Griffin… And sometimes a series comes along, like Avery Cockburn’s Glasgow Lads, in which each couple makes their own impact but, for whatever reason, one pair settles themselves into a special corner of my heart. Colin McDuff and Lord Andrew Sunderland are that couple, and they’ve wormed their way into my lexicon of favorites—though not without a fair amount of conflict to work through with them—and Play Dead accomplishes its objective of not only validating my love for these boys and the struggles they’ve faced, but it also does a fantastic job of upping my anticipation of Evan Hollister’s upcoming novel. Talk about a tease. Evan has secrets. Discovering what those secrets are will reveal much about who he is, and was, to his ex, Fergus.
Post-traumatic stress has a part to play in Andrew and Colin’s story, and in many ways, it becomes a third partner in their relationship, that’s how omnipresent it is, and it’s not without a few tugs at the heartstrings that we see this couple struggling their way through what Colin eventually learns is Andrew’s anxiety and depression, not to mention Colin’s efforts to come back from a debilitating injury suffered in Playing to Win (which I feel is a must-read-first, but, then again, I may be just a bit biased because I love it so much). The darker tone of Play Dead reflects not only the realistic effects Colin’s brush with death and his recovery has placed on their relationship, but the genuine trauma inflicted on Andrew himself as he relives that single moment over again in his nightmares. The once outgoing boy who’d loved all the Twitter attention and public appearances now finds fear and anxiety and depression have turned him into a virtual recluse whose rare public outings fill him with dread. What became evident to me as I was reading this novella is that it wasn’t written as drama for drama’s sake; instead, it felt important for us readers to understand that Colin and Andrew’s happily-ever-after didn’t begin at the end of Playing to Win, and that the “I love yous”, as romanticized as this concept so often is in this genre, weren’t a handy fix for everything that had come before. These boys might be young (god, they’re so young), but there’s now no doubt they’re good for each other too, and that they’re in this together, come hell or highwater.
Andrew tries to buck up and maintain his aristocratic stiff upper lip (see: the book’s title), even as we watch him buckling under the weight of guilt, remorse, and outright terror over the reality that he nearly lost the only man he’s ever loved. While, with no small amount of irony, this drives a wedge between him and Colin, it also builds a connection between Andrew and Evan which is where we readers are teased with the promise that Evan’s breakup with Fergus entails much more than meets the eye. On a personal level, as someone who is familiar with the effects of depression and anxiety, seeing Andrew struggle with his inability to get a handle on his emotions drove home how much of a stigma it still is to admit to needing help, and that rock bottom is often where the courage to grab hold of a lifeline exists. Evan throws out that line of compassion and understanding, and it added a new layer of intrigue to his character in his doing so.
Character driven fiction can only be effective if the author succeeds in making readers care about the people we’re introduced to, giving us good reason to immerse ourselves in their struggles, and, of course, making us buy into the relationship. Where Avery Cockburn has excelled is in creating a cast of characters whose charm and cheek and courage are impossible to resist, but also in incorporating real issues into their stories, whether they be political or personal conflicts, to keep them from drifting into the fluffy romance category. Colin and Andrew come from different walks of life, didn’t start as anything close to friends, but the love that’s grown between them is sweet and solid. As much as it was difficult to see them struggle, it was also satisfying to see them triumph, and that makes Play Dead a must read for fans of this couple and this series.
You can buy Play Dead here: