Author: Avery Cockburn
Pages/Word Count: 325 Pages/360 Pages
At a Glance: I can conceive of no reason not to read these books!
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb Playing for Keeps: Rule One: No Drama!
Fergus Taylor is damaged goods. Reeling from a brutal breakup, he’s determined to captain his LGBT soccer team out of scandal and into a winning season. For that, he needs strict rules and careful plans. He does NOT need a brash, muscle-bound lad messing with his head and setting his body afire.
John Burns has a rule of his own: Don’t get attached. Boyfriends are for guys with nothing to hide. Nobody—not his university mates, not the men he beds—knows his family’s shame. Now his double life is starting to unravel, thanks to a certain Highlander whose storm-riddled eyes turn John inside out, who wears a kilt like he was born in it.
Fergus is the first man John wants to share his secret with—but he’s the last man who could handle it. John knows the truth would shatter Fergus’s still-fragile heart. But how can he live a lie when he’s falling in love?
Blurb Playing to Win: Colin MacDuff has nothing. Growing up in a Glasgow slum, he learned never to trust, never to cry—and never EVER to be at the mercy of anyone, especially rich men. So how did he end up half-naked at a rave with Scotland’s hottest young aristocrat?
Lord Andrew Sunderland has everything. From ancestral castle to posh prep school, he’s spent his life wrapping others around his wee finger. With a social circle full of celebrities and politicians, nothing can stop Andrew’s rise to the top. Nothing, that is, save his desire for a dirt-poor, wolf-eyed footballer whose scars and tattoos tell unbearable tales.
Colin and Andrew come from different worlds, believe in different worlds, want different worlds. Yet every time they touch, all worlds fall away.
Set amid the fiery Scottish-independence struggle, this searing gay romance tells the story of two men who must lose everything to win each other’s hearts.
Review: So, stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Where has this author been all my life?
Have you read these books yet? If you haven’t, do it. I don’t know who Avery Cockburn is IRL, but one thing I do know is that this author has an immense talent for storytelling as well as for creating characters it’s utterly impossible not to fall in love with. I admit I picked up these books because Scottish men in kilts are Scottish. Men. In. Kilts. But then I began reading Fergus and John’s story and couldn’t put it down. The bonus is that when I got to Andrew and Colin’s novel, I loved it even more.
This series tells the story of an LGBT football league. For us Americans that’s soccer, and I’ll admit I don’t know the first thing about the sport, but I do know that the author hasn’t made the books as much about the football as they are about the team and its message—that the world of athletics is striving for change in a positive direction. That’s not to say, however, that these men and women don’t eat, sleep, breathe, live for and love their sport.
The theme of the series, at least so far, is one of opposites attract. These are storylines in which the deep sociopolitical divides of religion, as it is for John (a Protestant) and Fergus (a Catholic), and class, as it is for Colin (a low class commoner) and Lord Andrew (a wealthy aristocrat), introduces the two men in their respective books and then weaves the immense conflict in with secrets, lies, and flat out resentment about and of their differences. Cockburn weaves the angst into these books, not in a heavy handed or irritating way—as often happens in the angst-for-angst’s-sake novels we see in romance—but in a way that suits the climate of this country. The obstacles these men face are genuine, constructed by history and tradition, and the key to their finding a way to make a relationship work is in their willingness to cross those divides, sacrifice for the sake of the love that grows between them, and accept that their feelings for each other far outweigh the dogma of their ancestry.
Honestly, I can’t begin to do these books justice in words. I devoured them. Cockburn’s storytelling is rich, smooth and burns with the intensity of a good Scottish Whiskey. These characters, all of them, ooze an irresistible charm and draw the reader into not only their stories but their lives thanks to the author’s attention to detail, all the way down to the language of the country in which the series is set. Pure and unadulterated love is the only way to describe my feeling toward these books.
With each book Cockburn steers us toward the climactic arc with a deft and clever hand. By the time I got to the make-or-break point for the couples, I was so thoroughly invested in the relationships that their pain was my pain, and I don’t mind admitting I got a little choked up when everything seemed as though it was going to come crashing down around them. I don’t know about you, but I’ve become a little jaded over the years and after the thousands of books I’ve read and reviewed in that time, I have to give all the respect to an author who can make my gut churn and my heart hurt simply because they’ve made me love their characters. These books are a solid plus in the win column.
Sexy, steamy, erotic, whatever word you want to use to describe the way the author brings the characters together, they all fit. The lust is what brings them together. The love that grows between John and Fergus, and Colin and Andrew, is what keeps them together. And yes, they’re young (these are new adult novels), but there’s something there between them that makes you believe with all your heart that they’re together for the long haul.
You can buy Playing for Keeps here:
You can buy Playing to Win here: