Playing for Keeps (Glasgow Lads Book 1) by Avery Cockburn ~ Book Review by Lirtle

Playing-For-Keeps-A-Glasgow-Lads-Novel-Book-1-cover-1Title: Playing for Keeps (Glasgow Lads Book 1)

Author: Avery Cockburn

Publisher: Self Published

Cover Artist: Design by Damonza

Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars

Publication Date: 06/17/2015

Length: Novel (~ 50K-100K)

Genre: Contemporary, Drama, Fiction, Gay, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance


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?

My View:

I’m not joking when I say I chuckled on page one. A few pages later, it happened again. My grin would appear again and again throughout this story, along with some moments of heartbreak and holding my breath.

But back to the laughs…

”Hiya,” he said, holding out a hand to shake. “I’m John Burns.”

That voice – deep and solid, yet strangely buoyant –  made a dormant part of Fergus awaken and uncoil. His steps slowed as he concentrated on not stumbling.

“John. Yes.” What does that mean? “Yes” what?

Who can’t relate to that kind of shorting out of the brain? Someone makes that impactful of a first impression and suddenly nothing in your body seems to work right, including the abilities to walk and talk.

We get both Fergus and John’s points of view, and I think the story would’ve only worked in this way. These are two guys in their early and mid-twenties and they’re written as such, including struggles with their families and sins of those past generations. They’re that mix of which many of us experienced at this age: playful yet serious, willing to state their opinions while still feeling confused and uncertain about how to do that, quick to passion, and working to forge their own paths to make a mark on the world. They’re at the age when you realize you have the power to decide who you want to be, not what others, including parents, hope for or try to make you be.

”I know you telt me to watch the players.”

A turning point: I could hear that accent in this line spoken by one of the supporting characters, and it put me into the headspace for the rest of the read. I was able to hear all of the voices, to be in this place, Glasgow, and it filled me with such glee, and the ability to let it all in.

Yo, this was all in chapter one, to boot.

Then things take a serious turn (as often happened with a new chapter, I was to find out as things went on), both in tone and detail. If you know even a little bit about the conflict between Catholics and Protestants over the centuries in places like Scotland, Ireland, and England, you’ll feel your stomach drop like mine did. Sectarianism, separation, manipulation, especially of the young… welcome to John’s world, and his family.

I have to say, I love this author’s writing. There’s a definite point of view here, a lovely mix of confidence and playfulness, a not taking oneself too seriously tone that runs through the whole thing. It might seem odd to say, but I think this is a necessity when dealing with the specific issues included in this story: let the characters and their lives be the heavies, not the writing itself.

As Fergus set down the empty glass, the glow of camaraderie illuminated his insides like a torch in a haunted house.

Huge bonus for me and any other sports lover out there: all of the footie talk! Don’t worry, though, it’s all in context and is one of the supporting characters, a necessary part without being overwhelming. But I loved it! I ate it up. And if you enjoy sports in your stories, especially knowing about Premier League and the huge system that surrounds it, you’ll have so much fun with this.

John and Fergus share a palpable chemistry. They’re caring of one another, aware, and definitely horny. They’re also both taken by surprise with this unexpected connection they feel, and they both suffer times of uncertainty as to the viability of it all. Past experiences and current circumstances shoulder the blame for the conflicts they create.

There are a few passages that feel over stuffed, words sort of stumbling over one another. They’re rare, though, and when compared to Cockburn’s clear abilities in communicating emotion, humor, history, and a clear vision for this story, they’re also very minor. They certainly didn’t lessen my emotional response while reading.

Dirty talkin’, that’ll make ya proud, and plenty of it. ‘Nuf said.

Fergus and John are making decisions colored by their experiences, as I mentioned above, just as we all do. Any missteps they make feel real, not forced, because they’re completely fleshed out characters. This goes hand in hand with the dual points of view, as well.

I know, you’re still thinking about the dirty talkin’. I can’t provide an example of that, but I can do this for you…

He looped his arms under Fergus’s shoulders, then kissed his earlobe and whispered, “Hiya.”

“Hello.” Fergus laced his fingers of his left hand with John’s. “All right?”

“A wee bit short of breath.” John rested his cheek on Fergus’s shoulder, savoring this intimate press of flesh from head to toe, inside and out. He let his thumb drift through the sweat-damp waves of Fergus’s hair.

This is an intense read, especially as the final quarter begins. Family and social issues push their ways to the forefront, forcing John and Fergus to each deal with them, sometimes failing in their endeavors. I was on the edge of my seat, hoping for the best, whatever that was to be.

This is also an undoubtedly Scottish story, without feeling isolationist. This is accomplished with fantastic cultural references, fully formed characters and their realistically portrayed complicated relationships, just as realistic family dynamics, humor, history and its way of impacting the present, humor, and off the charts sensuality between Fergus and John. All of these things gave me an unforgettable reading experience. And everything it set against The Beautiful Game aka football aka soccer!

I highly recommend this book and this author’s writing. This is definitely a new-to-me author success!

PS: I hadn’t even finished reading this before I purchased the prequel and the sequel. I’m ready for more!


Playing for Keeps (Glasgow Lads Book 1) on Goodreads
Self Published
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

This review is based on a copy purchased by the reviewer independent of any review copies offered.

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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