Title: Playing in the Dark
Series: Glasgow Lads: Book Four
Author: Avery Cockburn
Publisher: Amazon/Kindle Unlimited
Length: 472 Pages
At a Glance: As usual, Avery Cockburn manages to balance everything in this book so well, bringing all the varying plotlines and focal points together in a way that no one thing eclipses the other but rather, each relies on the other to tell the full story.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: The popular Scottish gay romance series takes a thrilling turn, as a spy falls for a wedding planner who can’t keep a secret to save his life—literally.
Evan Hollister needs to feel real. He’s pledged his life to protecting the innocent, but heroism carries a heavy price. After his job forced him to abandon his last boyfriend, Evan vowed never to love—and hurt—another man. Now, a wedding planner with a kind heart and a goofy grin is taking a blowtorch to Evan’s wall of ice.
Ben Reid needs to feel safe. Burned by secrets in the past, he thinks knowing everything about everyone is the best way to keep people happy—to keep them, full stop. But after falling for a god-on-earth-gorgeous footballer spy, Ben learns that some secrets can never see the light.
When Ben’s same-sex weddings become a terrorist target, Evan must once again choose between the man he loves and the country he swore to defend. And Ben must find the courage to fight for what he needs—no matter the cost.
Review: God, I’m such a huge fan of this series, and it feels like I’ve been waiting forever for Evan Hollister’s story. His real story, not the one he sold to his ex boyfriend, Fergus Taylor, when Evan up and ghosted him in the cruelest of ways. Maybe there’s a reason they call men like Evan spooks…. The events surrounding Evan’s suddenly abandoning Fergus, as well as his teammates on the Woodstoun Warriors, has long gone unrevealed—until now. Now, Avery Cockburn has lifted the veil and gifted readers with the painful details of what really happened when Evan disappeared, and it is every bit as impactful as I expected it would be. While this novel is a contemporary, it nevertheless takes place in the recent past just as marriage equality was granted in Scotland. Not only does homophobia play a significant role in this story but xenophobia and white nationalism and domestic terrorism does too, and it all unfolds against the backdrop of the building relationship between Evan and the man who is suddenly making him question whether he can have something more than a life of secrets and lies of omission and isolation, Ben Reid.
As an agent in Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Evan is sworn to a life of subterfuge and obfuscation. He could never be honest with Fergus about his job, for valid reasons, and it ultimately tore them apart. He can never be fully truthful with anyone, when it comes right down to it, which leaves Evan wondering if even he knows who he truly is. But Ben…Ben is the man who’s made Evan want more, to want to risk more, to have more. But for a man like Ben, who lives life as an open book, Evan will have to trust that Ben can handle the truth and keep the secrets that could mean the literal difference between life and death in Evan’s undercover work. And Ben will have to prove himself not only willing to do it but to be capable of it as well.
Ben’s work as a wedding planner for same sex couples, while he’s not focusing on school, figures prominently in the story. It’s his work that’s a source of some conflict between him and his mother, who is a wedding planner herself, though only for straight couples as is dictated by their faith. Ben’s sexuality isn’t a massive point of contention between Ben and his mum—it’s not being gay that’s the issue, it’s not necessarily against their religion to be gay, Ben just needs to be celibate. But within his own conscience and with an artful interpretation of Bahá’í practice, he’s found a workaround to that. When he and Evan begin dating, however, the conflict between loving Evan and God too, becomes a sticking point. It’s also problematic that Ben’s job puts him in harm’s way when it appears marriage equality has bred a homegrown terrorist plot.
‘Love will find a way’ is the mainstay of the Glasgow Lads series. Through the aftermath of an emotionally devastating breakup in book one, to two men from opposite ends of the social spectrum finding their way in book two, to two best friends risking their friendship for something more in book three, and now, Evan and Ben and everything they must overcome in order to prevail in Playing in the Dark, the Lads have always discovered that love is the greater power. And, as usual, Avery Cockburn balances everything so well. Politics has always figured prominently for the Glasgow Lads, Playing in the Dark being no exception, and in this case, the world climate provides a harsh contrast to the need and the want and the building romance between Evan and Ben.
Adding to the mounting tension and potential danger of the love story is, of course, a passion for football, Evan facing the consequences of his abandonment of not only Fergus but the Warriors too, and the reckoning of Ben’s religion and his sexuality. Cockburn manages to bring all these plotlines and focal points together in a way that no one thing eclipses the other but rather, each relies on the other to tell the full story. It is an engrossing and complicated one, but the payoff in the end is so worth all the hurdles the two men had to overcome to get there.
You can buy Playing in the Dark here:
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