Review: Played!

cover-playedTitle: Played!
Author: J.L. Merrow
Series: Shamwell Tales #2
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Length: Novel
Available: June 30th

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Tristan’s in Shamwell for one last summer of freedom before he joins the family firm in New York—no more farting around on stage, as his father puts it. But the classically trained actor can’t resist when members of the local amateur dramatics society beg him to take a role in their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Especially as he’ll also be giving private acting lessons to gorgeous local handyman, Con, who’s been curiously resistant to Tristan’s advances. Tristan’s determined to get Con in his bed—not only is the man delicious, there’s fifty pounds riding on Tristan’s success after a bet made with his drama school chum Amanda.

Con’s never dared to act before. A late-diagnosed dyslexic who had a hard time at school, he’s always been convinced he’d never be able to learn his lines—but with Tristan helping him, he might just be in with a chance. Trouble is, the last time Con fell for a guy, he ended up getting his heart broken, and with Tristan due to leave the country in a matter of months, Con’s determined not to give in and start anything that’s bound to finish badly.

Just as Tristan thinks he’s finally won Con’s heart—and given his own in return—disaster strikes. And the curtain may have fallen forever on their chance of happiness.

Warning: contains a surfeit of Bottoms and asses, together with enough mangled quotations to have the Bard of Avon gyrating in his grave.


Source: ARC from Samhain Publishing via NetGalley

My, what a pretentious, arrogant little twit (alternative opening letters or vowels are available) Tristan is. He’s an exceedingly well educated, over-privileged jerk at the start of this book, looking down his well bred nose at all and everything, thinking himself so very witty and clever and everyone else just illiterate yokels. This is not helped out by his frequent Skype chats with his best friend, Amanda, in Hong Kong. She definitely brings out the worst in him – like that bet. He’s rude and catty and thoroughly unlikeable, while believing himself to be oozing with talent and sexiness.

Yet, somehow, despite all of the above, I really enjoyed this book.

A big part of this is because Con is downright adorable. He’s a big, strapping chap with a heart of mush and a defensive attitude towards his dyslexia – at least where the overly verbose and pretentious consta-quoting Tristan is concerned. Con is a man who has faced challenges thanks to his struggle with written words, but he’s far from stupid and he’s just so good-hearted that I flat out adored him. It was easy to see why Tristan liked him and how his original physical attraction deepened much against his will.

I also found the story very funny. Tristan might not always be the easiest guy to like, but I loved the incidents with the frog and the mouse, and it was great seeing him slowly realise that there was so much more to both Con and the others in the village. Con’s rejection was definitely good for him, and I grew to really like Tristan’s (originally pretentious) way of talking. His humour is pretty wry at times, but it made me laugh. Like much in this book, to be honest. It’s cute and light and fun, but if you’re not a fan of Shakespeare the constant Bard references will probably wear thin.

With a surprisingly sweet romance between a totally loveable guy and a… less endearing one, this is more than just a tale of opposites attract. It’s a book that revels in its literary foundations and makes full use of the bawdier aspects of the Bard, and despite Tristan’s initial behaviour it isn’t the least bit pretentious. Instead it’s quirky and charming, like the village it’s set in, with a set of fun and intriguing characters. Tristan definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea (I always hated the Tristan and Isolde legends anyway – regardless of which version), but Con is lovely enough to make up for it. If you want something fun and funny, with a sweet romance and a touch of heat, and plenty of Shakespearean charm, then this might well be for you. I will definitely be paying Shamwell another visit soon.


Played! is out June 30th!
Visit J.L. Merrow for more details.

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