Review: Playing for Keeps, by Avery Cockburn


cover-averycockburn-playingforkeepsFergus 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?


Dates read:
Edition read:
June 17, 2015
Avery Cockburn
Contemporary, M/M, LGBT+
326 e-book pages
3rd person
Glasgow Lads, book 1
May 29-30, 2016
Kindle Edition
See the book on GoodReads.

Rating:     ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Ratings are 1 to 5 stars and based mostly on GoodReads standards.
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Yaldy! (*)

In a word: kilts

In two words: kilted sex

In more words: I adored this book…as evidenced by my gobbling this + two novellas + the next two books in the series in a massive reading binge over the last few days and now I’m forlorn because there ARE NO MORE (yet). Forlorn, I tell you.

I picked this up mainly because of the cover because kilts are soooper sexy, right? And the first line of the blurb says Rule One: No Drama! I was looking for low-angst, be-kilted sexy times. I was pleasantly surprised when I got So. Much. More.

And, whatever. Fuck low-angst. Sometimes a book knows what I need better than I.

Now I’m hooked on these Glasgow lads and ready to buy a plane ticket to Scotland. I want to drink Scottish whisky (without the e). And I wanna sit dreamily on a pub stool, surrounded by dreamy Scotsmen, immersed in the lilting sounds of Scottish brogue with all those dreamy rrrrrolling rrrrs (while I’m sippin’ the dreamy whisky, of course). I’ll consider a taste of haggis. Warily.

This book was fantastic. Smart writing, lots of character depth, lots of LOLs and witty banter, lots of feels — I even cried, dammit.

But this is not a shallow sports-themed love story, y’all.

Yes, there’s plenty of the football/soccer action, and I’m not a huge sports fan. A bit of it was outside my realm of basic understanding of kick a ball around a big field (okay, pitch) and try to get said ball into a net (okay, goal)…preferably the right goal. But, the action sequences of the games were a lot of fun. And, I might just watch a game, erm…match, sometime — if anything to ogle hot guys in shorts running around all sweaty and focused.

I loved Fergus and John together. They are such opposites in so many ways with different backgrounds, different religions, vastly different personalities. But together, they just worked in fantastic ways.

“How can you just stop loving a person?”
“When it’s the wrong person, love is poison. Best to be shot of it.”

Fergus is fresh out of a relationship that ended rather dramatically and horribly. (I thought a break-up on a post-it was bad…this was…I have no words kind of bad.) He’s a together sort of a bloke, and while he’s still hurting and piecing himself back together, he’s got such a calm and wise strength of character that his only choice is to prevail. To top it off, he’s a ginger. *dreamy eyes*

John is a firecracker of a personality. His home life isn’t the best, and there’s a good bit he’s not proud of. But he was kinda stuck for reasons, yet trying really, really hard to do the right thing in a round-about sort of way.

“Home isn’t home when you cannot be who you are, when you are surrounded by hate.”

Together, Fergus and Jon had a few Big Things to overcome, and in the process, a lot of lies were told causing miscommunication. Fergus’s heart was still kinda fragile, so I could understand John’s attempts to keep things light. But the daft bastard only succeeded in mucking it all up. It all worked to tug on my heart strings and hope they’d be able to work through it all. I chalk it up to youth, fear, and new relationship nervousness and trying to be all perfect. But they communicate (eventually) and they each go through some growth in the process.

They had some wonderfully intimate moments that were sweet, funny, and blazing hot. There was kilt sex that’s now permanently etched it my brain. And also an episode with blueberries that had me simultaneously laughing my ass off and gagging is one I’ll not soon forget.

“Fuck all the waffles….[lots of paragraphs]….Carpe pancakes.”

I want that as a bumper sticker.

In addition to all the sports and sexy lovin’, this tackles the politics of religion and eons long bigotry between Catholics and Protestants in the region. And, honestly, in my American bubble, I don’t think I ever had any idea of this huge divide in Scotland. Ireland, yes because I remember it in the news a lot in the 80s and 90s. (conflicts obviously lasted much longer than that…just stating what I recall.) This was eye-opening, to say the least, and prompted some extra time with my trusty pal Google.

I For that subject alone, this book is a beautiful illustration of how much stronger we all are as one, united as people respectful of each other’s beliefs, heritage, culture, backgrounds. And love…well, it doesn’t care about religion, skin color, culture, or gender. It just is.

And it was beautiful.

(*) No autocorrect, Y-A-L-D-Y! not baldy, geez. Also, this is my favorite new-to-me word. Since I say y’all a lot it’s not a far stretch to add y’all-dy! to my lexicon. Of course, as a Scottish term for expressing extreme enjoyment, it’s imperative to include the exclamation point.

P.S.  On a similar note, my new most favorite curse that is taking the place of getthefuckouttahere is ‘get to fuck.’ It’s just more economical.

This review also posted on GoodReads.

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