Review of Playing in the Dark (Glasgow Lads #4) by Avery Cockburn

Review of Playing in the Dark (Glasgow Lads #4) by Avery Cockburn

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Avery Cockburn’s Glasgow Lads series has been one of my favorite ongoing M/M series for quite a few years now. But I have to confess I was a teensy bit less excited to read the latest, Playing in the Dark, the fourth full novel in the series. Not because I’d been disappointed in any of the others (or her spin-off series about curling. Yes, curling!), but because I wondered how much more drama there was to be rung out of the world of Glaswegian soccer.

I needn’t have wondered. Because Cockburn has pulled a fast one on us readers. Or to use a much more appropriate sports metaphor, Playing in the Dark is a very well executed change-up.

Yes, it’s still set (mostly) in Glasgow, and, yes, it still involves soccer and the gay soccer team, the Warriors. But this time, playing soccer and the fate of the Warriors aren’t central to the tale. Instead, our story this time focuses on Behnam Reid and Evan Hollister. Fans of the series might remember Evan was the villain who broke Fergus’ heart in a previous book.

But it turns out Evan isn’t the villain readers believed. In fact, he’s a good guy. A really good guy. Explaining how would spoil the fun for many readers, but let’s just say Cockburn convincingly uses the world of the UK’s MI5 to take her series in an entirely new direction that I loved once I got past my initial skepticism. (Let’s just say the words “spy,” “Glasgow,” and “terrorism” don’t usually go hand in hand.

Cockburn also adds a great element of diversity with Behnam, known to his friends as Ben. I’d never read a character who was also a practicing Baha’i, a mostly progressive and tolerant religion, except when it comes to same-sex relationships. Ben has to struggle with his own beliefs, as well as those of his mother’s. Given that they both work as wedding planners—and that Scotland had just legalized same-sex marriages—life gets pretty complicated for Ben when he falls for Evan.

But that’s the least of the complications these two gay men have to navigate.

Playing in the Dark is filled with Cockburn’s usual attention to Scottish detail—the dialect, slang, and setting truly make the book sparkle—as well as her hot sex, deft weaving in of current political events, and most importantly for me, characters you truly care for and want to see end up happy.

While Playing in the Dark isn’t too much of a soccer book, it will definitely leave you cheering at the end. You might even yell “GOOOOAAAAALLLLLL!”