Book Review – Playing to Win by Avery Cockburn


I almost gave this one full marks just for the cover. Jk. But as a lover of men in kilts it did grab my attention.

*Playing to Win Blurb: 

Being out in this world was dangerous enough. Being real was downright suicidal.

Colin MacDuff has nothing. Growing up in a Glasgow slum, he learned never to trust, never to cry—and never EVER to be at the mercy of anyone, especially rich men. So how did he end up half-naked at a rave with Scotland’s hottest young aristocrat?

Lord Andrew Sunderland has everything. From ancestral castle to posh prep school, he’s spent his life wrapping others around his wee finger. With a social circle full of celebrities and politicians, nothing can stop Andrew’s rise to the top. Nothing, that is, save his desire for a dirt-poor, wolf-eyed footballer whose scars and tattoos tell unbearable tales.

Colin and Andrew come from different worlds, believe in different worlds, want different worlds. Yet every time they touch, all worlds fall away.

Set amid the fiery Scottish-independence struggle, this searing gay romance tells the story of two men who must lose everything to win each other’s hearts.

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I fell for Colin at the very beginning of this novel and he did not disappoint.

Colin MacDuff is street-smart, sarcastic, brave and compassionate and always up for a challenge. Which is part of the reason he finally gives in to his animal attraction to preppy and privileged Lord Andrew Sunderland, even though they seem to be hilariously mismatched and their “relationship” doomed to failure.



Against a backdrop of the upcoming vote for Scottish Independence on which they each have opposing views, their love story is a rich and layered one. The relationship is tenuous from the beginning because their backgrounds and current life situations are so divergent, and the knowledge that each cheers for the other side in such a crucial and deciding vote on Scotland’s history makes any alliance that much more fragile.

They start off just hooking up for sex, because neither seems able to fight the attraction they feel for each other. Andrew confesses to Colin that he doesn’t like to top, so Colin gladly takes on that role each time they get together. He almost hates the fact that he enjoys having sex with Andrew so much and occasionally some of his anger at Andrew’s privileged life emerges during these encounters.

Andrew loves Colin’s Devil-may-care attitude and thinks he understands the reasons Colin is so against Scotland remaining part of the UK, but he doesn’t really “get” what life is really like for Colin until he visits Colin’s family home in Glasgow. Conversely, Colin finally gets to see what life is like for Andrew when he meets Andrew’s well-off parents and prig of a brother.


Ms. Cockburn’s writing is excellent in the way it conveys the world of Glasgow before/during/after the vote. She deftly creates the world she knows and uses some distinct local dialogue to add to the Scottish flavour of her characters. Her detailing of Colin and Andrew’s sexual encounters is done with emotion and skill, making each of them a treat to experience, from the blowjob in the dark during a police raid to the eventual experience of making love when they’ve realized they aren’t just fucking anymore.

There is a sub plot that is deftly written about Andrew’s life possibly being in danger and this is resolved believably in the end. I also enjoyed the effect of social media on their relationship and how Ms. Cockburn used Andrew’s and Colin’s Twitter accounts to juxtapose their political leanings and life situations very effectively.

A wonderful story with well written and believable characters, full of emotion and vulnerability and heroic acts, with a history lesson to boot.

What more can one ask?

5/5 stars from me, and not just for the cover 😉

*This is the second book in Avery Cockburn’s Glasgow Lads series.


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