Playing with Fire (Glasgow Lads Book 3) by Avery Cockburn ~ Buddy Review by Lirtle and Teresa

playing-with-fire-cover-1Title: Playing with Fire (Glasgow Lads Book 3)

Author: Avery Cockburn

Publisher: Self Published

Cover Artist: Damonza

Lirtle’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Teresa’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars

Publication Date: 01/29/2016

Length: Novel (~ 50K-100K)

Genre: Bisexual, Contemporary, Fiction, Gay, Gay Fiction, Other Holiday

Summary:

“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 best mate 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 one night together, “just mates” is no longer an option. Robert wants more than sex, but diehard cynic Liam won’t drop the barriers around his heart. As they push and pull each other, their lifelong bond—the heart of the Warriors team—is ready to rupture. With the bridge back to mere friendship well and truly burned, Robert and Liam must go forward together—or fall to pieces apart.

Lirtle’s View:

I so very much enjoyed being back in Glasgow, a town in which I’ve recently spent some real in-person time and plan on going back to some day.

I have to admit, though, that this entry in this Glasgow Lads series felt kind of… middle of the road in terms of storyline, excitement, and storytelling. It was almost like the author was ticking boxes, most of them plot devices that rang false and, frankly, cheap. They lessened the otherwise wonderful, heartfelt and heart-filled characterization of both Robert and Liam, the two leads this time around. There was that something missing from this story that was evident in all of the previous. It was, unfortunately, predictable, like the author didn’t quite know what story to build around these two characters in order to give us all time with them. That I did very much enjoy, the time spent with both Robert and Liam, especially whenever they were together, in whatever capacity, against whatever emotional scene they were working through.

That is, when they were permitted to be on the same page together. So much of this story is about Robert and Liam working through their, well, I’m just going to say it: seemingly manufactured issues and differences because, really, when you’ve been best mates with someone since before your voices changed from young boy to burgeoning man, it usually takes a LOT to cause the kind of quick-to-judgement thoughts and actions these two exhibited towards each other, all in the name of creating tension, conflict, and therefore story.

I’m sorry, but it just didn’t match at all the other 90% of the personalities of either of these guys. It most especially didn’t match the deep, history-filled, intense, important, loving friendship they share.

I do think the experience by and discussion about Robert and his self-identifying bisexuality was done quite well. Like many, he realized early on that he was attracted to both men and women, but didn’t quite know how to define or incorporate it into his everyday life, and all of his previous relationships were with women. Once he did realize, both what he was identifying as and that Liam was the man he most wanted to be with, he then struggled with how to do exactly that.

He went through many emotions, trying to decide whom to tell and when, and how, especially Liam. This last point, this didn’t take him long to do because, ya know, best mate. He hoped Liam would understand, accept him, and maybe even, gloriously, want him, too.

So. Some of Robert’s friends, most of whom are common to Liam, were accepting, curious, had questions, and were happy for him once he started telling everyone – this took place over the length of the story, not all at once. However, his best mate, was not so ready to accept this new-to-him reality and reacted in not exactly the best ways. Yes, I know, Liam has his own history and experiences coloring his thinking, his ideas about the future and possible relationships, especially with Robert, and about bisexuality in particular. Still. Best mate. This is your best mate, man. The one person you’ve shared all of this stuff with, and vice versa. For me, every time Liam found a reason to get angry with or push away from Robert, most of them felt false, not at all fitting their relationship, whatever that might be on any given day. Yep, Robert had his own moments of confusion and doubt and worry, but at least he thought about Liam and how he might feel. Liam was mostly selfish, and that rubbed against what we’d come to know of him and his willingness to do for and with others.

It was great to also spend a bit of time with the likes of Fergus & John and Colin & Andrew, especially given the circumstances surrounding the reasons for their involvement in this story. There were some good scenes emotionally, and the heat between Robert and Liam is palpable. Most of the sex scenes felt unique to them and for the most part didn’t fall into anything typical.

When Robert and Liam were together in any scene, they were powerful, electric, laden with chemistry and complication and all of the things that make a story great, that helped make all of the previous books in this series crackle with excitement, the feeling of not knowing what was going to happen next, and wanting to learn right along with these characters about whatever they were working through. In this case, there was a large amount of missed potential in having Robert and Liam work through this “new” reality of their friendship and future relationship and how it would all work if they were willing to try. And they were, so very much. I usually try not to wander into ‘if the story had been told this way’ territory in a review, but these main characters should not have been kept apart as much as they were if the goal was to have a powerful exploration of the aspects I’ve described.

Overall, I was underwhelmed. Robert and Liam’s story was hampered by everything I’ve shared here. I did very much enjoy the warmth, humor, caring, passion, and big hearts of both Robert and Liam. And Robert’s bisexuality being a front and center ingredient, never shoved to the background, is fantastic. The writing itself is good, just as quality as the other books in this series. Unlike those stories, the characters were underserved by the story itself.

Teresa’s View:

Wonderful! Playing With Fire had everything I liked about all the previous books and then some. I loved the football (soccer), the couple’s dynamics, and the fact that the author tackled the issue of bisexuality.

We are once again immersed in the Glasgow culture and some of the poorer neighbourhoods. I could see where both Liam and Robert came from and how it shaped their current attitudes toward relationships and their sexual identities. I found Robert’s uni project fascinating and sad.

I also found it interesting that I read this while the GFY trope has been going through discussions in the m/m community. This is not a GFY story, though it follows many of the same story lines. Robert is seen as straight, once he is found to be with Liam, others call him gay. He is staunchly bisexual. I admire this and appreciate the distinction. I am glad that the author tackles the bisexuality erasure issue and does so with finesse.

We get some time on the football pitch and time with other characters from the series. While the author claims all the novels are standalones, I really would encourage reading them all in order to get the most out of it. This book hints at book 4 and I am looking forward to that pairing!

I recommend giving this series a read!

Links

Playing with Fire (Glasgow Lads Book 3) 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,

Brandilyn
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