Author: Avery Cockburn
Pages/Word Count: 340 Pages
At a Glance: This book, along with all the other books in the series, is stoopid fecking sexy (pardon my Irish).
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: “I don’t want options. I just want you.”
Robert McKenzie has a secret. As the only straight player on an all-LGBT soccer team, he’s known to fans as “McWhataWaste.” No one would guess Robert’s actually bisexual. At twenty-one, on the verge of a brilliant career in video game design, he’s finally ready to be his true self. The only thing keeping him in the closet is…his gay best friend?
Liam Carroll has a problem. His gorgeous pal and teammate wants to kiss him and touch him and…everything with him. But for how long? With Robert embarking on a bright future—far from their rough-and-tumble East End streets—Liam may soon be left behind. He can’t risk falling in love with a man he can’t live without. His solution? Keep things casual, “see what happens.”
Aye, right. After a single camping trip, the bridge back to mere friendship is well and truly burned. Now Robert wants more than sex, but diehard cynic Liam won’t drop the barriers around his heart. These two tough center-backs must find a way forward as lovers, or their lifelong bond—the heart of the Warriors team—will rupture for good.
Review: You know how sometimes you finish a book, and you can’t even think about starting a new one because you can’t get the book you just finished out of your head? Yeah. That’s been every one of the Glasgow Lads books for me so far.
Robert McKenzie and Liam Carroll have been introduced throughout the series as teammates on the Warriors LGBT amateur football team, as well as lifelong best friends. Robert, in fact, is the only straight member of the team. Until it’s revealed that he isn’t. Robert’s been keeping a secret from everyone (including himself, at times)—he’s bisexual and has come to develop strong feelings for Liam, feelings that go well beyond friendship, feelings that could very well destroy the closeness they’ve shared since childhood. And I loved this thread in the storyline.
Through Robert’s coming to terms with his sexuality, Cockburn explores the challenge of the bisexual community to overcome prejudice, to be acknowledged and accepted, and the author addresses the subject of bi-erasure in such a great and matter-of-fact way. The skepticism that bisexual men and women face—you’re either gay or straight, there is no in between—as well as the perceived “luxury” of somehow being able to choose to be straight in a heteronormative world, or that bi men and women have more options and advantages, is handled in a way that never swings toward heavy-handed or preachy, and I loved that, in the end, Cockburn allowed Robert to remain definitively bi even though his future is solidly with Liam, rather than drawing the “isn’t he really just gay, then?” line in the sand. And, I absolutely cheered at the way the author brought Liam around to seeing this in the end.
As has been the case since book one of the series, Glasgow herself plays a major role in the storyline, and these men have such a beautiful love/hate relationship with her. The city’s strong personality only serves to have shaped who her people are—the economic shortfalls, the lack of employment opportunity, and the overall Scottish penchant towards pessimism all coming together to layer the story, the characters, and to support the conflict that wends its way into the relationships; whether it’s Protestant against Catholic, aristocrat against blue collar commoner, or two friends who are simply trying to navigate their way into love without losing each other entirely in the process. Cockburn manages to throw some great angst into these books without it ever tipping over into the realms of eye-rolling melodrama, which takes no small amount of finesse as far as I’m concerned, because god only knows how easily the angst-train can run off the rails in the romance genre.
So, now that I’ve covered some of the serious bits of this novel, I feel obligated to also mention that this book, along with all the other books in the series, is stoopid fecking sexy (pardon my Irish). Avery Cockburn writes some blistering, utterly mindgasmic, brain melting sex scenes, some of the best I’ve ever read (in m/m or m/f), hands down. Whether the scenes are playful, or purposeful, or two guys just needing to get off, or two men who have an easier time expressing their emotions through body language than with words, every single encounter means something in the building of the relationship, which, I don’t know about you, but for me, that makes them pure dead sexier. It’s one of the things, besides the obvious charm of the characters, that makes this series so infinitely re-readable.
And, kilts. Because kilts, am I right?!
Playing With Fire gave me all the feelz, happy to heart-achy, maybe even as many of them as Colin and Andrew’s book, Playing to Win, did. It’s close. I do love a good friends-to-lovers story, and this… this is a great one. Robert and Liam and the evolution of their connection is so genuine because their friendship is so transparent, and their symmetry on and off the football pitch is perfect, even when Liam doesn’t feel at all equal to the task of being Robert’s everything.
At times it’s easy to forget that these boys are barely men because, while they’re young, life has already left them careworn in so many ways—which is most evident in Liam. There’s also so much humor and heart and what feels like a heaping helping of authentic Scottish-ism to the boys and their books that they’re all irresistible, every last one of them, because they live true to themselves in every way. On a recommendability scale of 1 to 10—this one’s off the charts. These books leave that chart in the dust. Dust, I tell you! I gush because I love.
You can buy Playing With Fire here: