Author: Avery Cockburn
Pages/Word Count: 140 Pages
At a Glance: This sweet and slightly angsty start to the Glasgow Lads series is a must-read for fans of Avery Cockburn’s boys.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Duncan Harris is on the edge. Scandal has shredded his LGBT soccer team’s history-making season, and now the once-unflappable striker is lashing out. Only one person can tame Duncan’s rage and make him feel like himself again…
Bullied by schoolmates in his wee village, Brodie Campbell lurked deep in the closet before coming to the city of Glasgow. Here at university he’s out and proud, but the years of abuse have left him emotionally paralyzed. Can flatmate Duncan help Brodie escape his past and heal his wounded heart?
As the two lads grow closer, Brodie can’t forget how athletes like Duncan once tortured him. When Duncan attacks an opponent who threatens Brodie, the situation escalates. Soon Brodie doesn’t feel safe anywhere—especially in Duncan’s arms.
To defeat the bullies who’ve wrecked his life, his mind, and his ability to love, Brodie must find the strength to fight his own battles. And Duncan must find the strength to let him.
Note: The Glasgow Lads series contains dirty talk with a Scottish accent, naughty bits of a gay nature, and characters who call soccer “football.”
Review: Having read every single novel and novella in the Glasgow Lads series—except this one: the first, the inception, the one that started it all—I figured it was about time I checked in with Duncan and Brodie to see where these two boys began. Especially after a certain stripper lesson in Playing With Fire. ::tease::
Taking place immediately before John and Fergus’s book, Playing for Keeps, this short novel picks up just after Evan Hollister (Fergus’s ex and the subject of the next full-length novel in the series) does a runner with his new lover, which not only leaves Fergus devastated but leaves the Woodstoun Warriors football team in a state of utter collapse. They’ve just lost their team captain, Fergus is a mere shadow of his former self, and Duncan has lost the one man he’d looked up to for encouraging him to try out for the team. If nothing else, I have to say I’m even more anxious than ever now for Evan and Ben’s book, because Evan has so much to make up for.
There are a couple of things that set Play On apart from the other books in this series. The first is that, of all of the couples thus far—John and Fergus, Colin and Andrew, Robert and Liam—I feel that Duncan and Brodie’s story has the most obvious New Adult Romance feel to it. The story is set at uni, so it’s easier to get a sense of how young these boys really are. The second thing that makes this story unique is that there are no political underpinnings to the storyline, nor is there a solid social statement made in the book—as in marriage equality, for example. What Duncan and Brodie’s story has going for it, though, is an impactful emotional depth to it in the painful truth of Brodie’s life before he left his small coastal town in the northeast of Scotland.
The subject of bullying takes center stage in Play On, as it’s what informs so much of our young Brodie as a character. He’s determined to live out and proud at Glasgow University, but having left home knowing his share of bullying by the footballers there, it’s left a bad taste in his mouth for not only the sport but its players too. Which, in turn, supports the built-in divide between him and Duncan which isn’t easy for either boy to bridge—that’s the whole of the conflict between these two boys. That, and their not knowing how to get beyond it.
There’s such a sweetness to this story, even amongst all the angst caused by Duncan and the sport he loves, and the fact that Brodie hasn’t escaped the threat of bashing simply by leaving home. Nor has it kept Brodie from still trying to hide the parts of him that make him stand out as different—namely, his Doric dialect. There’s a certain innocence to the way Brodie sees life and the world, and it’s this naïveté that makes him both brave and, at the same time, so afraid (and rightfully so)—it’s that fear that reminds us again how young he and Duncan are. Honestly, I just wanted to wrap Brodie up in cotton fluff most of the time, especially after the brief glimpse we get of his mum, but, then again, part of the growing up process for both Brodie and Duncan was discovering there’s courage in pride and pride in courage.
While Play On isn’t necessarily the heavyweight of the series in terms of the plot, it was, through the ups and downs and worry and fear, delightful to get to know these boys in their own story rather than getting small glimpses of them in everyone else’s books. If you’re a fan of the Glasgow Lads but haven’t read this one yet, do. It’s a sweet addition to the series, regardless of the order you read it in.
You can buy Play On here: