Played! (The Shamwell Tales #2)

Title: Played! (The Shamwell Tales #2)
Author: JL Merrow
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: June 12, 2017
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 258
Reviewed by: CrabbyPatty
Heat Level: 2 flames out of 5
Rating: 3 stars out of 5


All the world’s a stage . . . but life doesn’t come with a script.

Posh boy Tristan Goldsmith has 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 the Shamwell Amateur Dramatics Society begs him to take a leading role in their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As an added incentive, he’ll be giving private acting lessons to a gorgeous local handyman who’s been curiously resistant to Tristan’s advances.

As a late-diagnosed dyslexic still struggling with literacy, Con Izzard’s never dared to act before. With arrogant yet charming Tristan helping him with his lines, he finally has his chance to shine. But Con’s determined not to start a romance with a man he’s convinced only wants a casual fling.

Tristan’s never been one to back down from a challenge, especially when he realises his attraction to the tall, muscular handyman isn’t just physical. Just as he thinks he’s finally won Con’s heart—and given his own in return—disaster strikes with a slip of the tongue that shatters Con’s trust and sends him running for cover. This show may be over before the curtain’s even opened.

Note: This is a revised second edition, originally published elsewhere.

FYI, This is the second book in JL Merrow’s Shamwell Tales series, but this book can easily be read as a stand-alone.

According to Tristan’s father, his fledgling acting career could be summed up as “I’ve read a few dusty old books and farted around on stage for a bit.” Tristan finds himself in Shamwell handling the estate of his beloved nannny / pseudo-Granny and ends up cast in the Shamwell Amateur Dramatics Society’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This is his final hurrah, his last gasp of freedom before he goes to New York to join the family firm.

Cast as Puck, Tristan soon finds himself anxiously seeking his perfect Bottom … that is, Shakespeare’s character Nick Bottom. Con Izzard, the deliciously tall, muscular, dsylexic handyman (“delightfully rough around the edges, with dark stubble on his chin and unruly jet-black hair”) seems an odd choice, but Tristan offers to go all Professor Higgins and tutor Con on his lines (while jokingly betting his BFF Amanda fifty quid he could get Con into bed).

But after this great set-up, the story line falters, IMHO. Tristan is full of great lines and awful puns courtesy of The Bard of Avon while lusting after Con, and Con agonizes over learning his lines and fighting his attraction for this man who will soon be leaving Shamwell forever. This dynamic continues through about 80% of the plot, until Tristan and Con finally kiss and have sex, amidst comments about being circumcised, the OED, a quote from Measure for Measure, dyscalculia (?) and finally Tristan’s “irredeemably, utterly stupid” mention of the bet.

There is a disjointed secondary plot regarding Con’s long-dead father and following a bit of angst, the story doesn’t so much end, as finally slouch its way to a conclusion of sorts. I didn’t really get much chemistry between Tristan and Con and frankly the pace of the story bored me. To summarize, this book was just not doing it for me. 3 stars for Played! and I’m moving onward to the third book in the Shamwell series Out!

The Shamwell Tales

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Advanced Review Copy

Galley copy of Played! (The Shamwell Tales #2) provided by Riptide Publishing in exchange of an honest review.


Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.  Frederick Douglas I distinctly remember that day in school when, all of a sudden, those squiggles on the page made sense and I could read. It has changed my life in ways I still cannot comprehend. My favorite M/M tropes are friends-to-lovers, murder/mysteries, amnesia, hurt/healing and historicals. Shifters, vampires, paranormal? Meh ... not in my wheelhouse, but I'm a sucker for a well-written well-plotted book, no matter the genre. Favorite authors includes Brandon Witt, Rick R. Reed, Abigail Roux, Jay Northcote, JL Merrow, KJ Charles, Lane Hayes, Marshall Thornton and so many more. A few "badges" from NetGalley: 100 Book Reviews Reviews Published Professional Reader
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