Review: JL Merrow – Played (The Shamwell Tales #2)

playedAuthor: JL Merrow
Reviewer: Lucy
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: MM Contemporary

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Summary: 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.
Review: Just the idea of a Plague of Frog gives you some semblance of what this story is like. I hate to use the word cute, so I’ll go with charming. Poor Tristan, he’s having his final summer of being himself before he trudges off to his father’s business and becomes one of the well paid cogs in the corporate wheel. As soon as you hear his voice, you realize this is going to crush the spirit of this Shakespeare quoting, proper English spouting man and for a bit, you think he’s getting what’s coming to him because Tristan comes across as a snobby, egotistical rich boy. He’s very, very sure of his abilities and he’s entitled and somewhat pretentious and often he’s very had to like. He is not what makes this book charming.
Now Con, he’s it. Oh, Con. Just loved him. He’s a gorgeous handyman who is sweet and kind to his clients, he’s going to act in the Midsummer Night’s Dream with some help from Tristan, and oh yes, he’s dyslexic. This is where Tristan is going to help – teach him to learn the lines before he goes on his merry way back to his father. Between the dyslexia and his lower-paying job, Con has some insecurity issues but he really wants to be in Midsummer.
For his part, this is Tristan’s swan song, his moment. His friend, Amanda, who just as an aside is a selfish witch, has doubts about the whole thing and together she and Tristan make a stupid bet. Stupid and hurtful and you just know something bad is going to happen because of it.
There is a definitely a feel of “but they have nothing in common!” here, but maybe because of that, they slowly and sweetly fall in love. The spouting of theatrical lines made me smile and I admit sometimes I had to look them up because I was so sure Tristan was wrong (and of course, he wasn’t). The path to sweetness isn’t paved with sugar, though. These two are snarky to each other and Tristan can be downright abrasive and annoying. It is the slow divining into the inner person that made this for me. Con realizing how much Tristan was giving up to go be a corporate drone for his father and Tristan trying to show Con how much life there was, even with dyslexia.
By the end, Tristan had made progress with me. “His face felt funny, as if stretched into a besotted, lovesick smile, which closer inspection in the bathroom mirror revealed was, in fact, the case. It was a touch unnerving to find his face doing things like that without consulting him first…” By the end, he gets it. The important things.


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