Role Playing
Grade : A-

When I saw an author I like recommending Role Playing by Cathy Yardley, I thought I would give this new to me author a try. I’m happy to say it was a great decision as this contemporary romance featuring two older leads, while dealing with some age-appropriate baggage, delivers a heartwarming and entertaining story overall.

Maggie is an unabashed forty-eight-year-old hermit. Her only son Kit has gone off to college and she worries about him, as he is equally as introverted as she is. Her disastrous, emotionally abusive marriage ended five years earlier and as her work as an editor means she is able to work from home, she dreads anything that would be regarded as a social activity. Even grocery shopping is a chore, and she makes no effort with her appearance when she goes out to avoid having to make conversation. But she makes a pact with her son that if he will go out to some social events so will she. As a result, she ends up at a book club being hosted by her son’s friend’s mother, Deb. While trying to make conversation with people she has no interest in, Maggie mentions that she enjoys playing video games. One of the ladies at the book club knows of a woman at her church whose son is in an online gaming group - a guild - and offers to put her in touch with the group. Maggie, somewhat intrigued, gives the woman her email address to pass on and shortly recieves an invitation to join a gaming event. She soon establishes herself as a competent player (her gaming name is Bogwitch) and chatting with Otter, the group leader (whom she believes is a twenty-something college student) becomes a highlight of her days. She gets suckered into yet another social event by Deb, this time a house party. The only notable thing about the evening (besides the fact that she lasts for a very short time before wanting to escape), is the ginger haired, burly man she spots petting a dog who catches her eye but whom she avoids talking to, quickly escaping out the door.

Fifty-year-old nurse Aiden has his hands full caring for his aging mother and has returned to Fool’s Falls to take care of her. His mother is showing signs of dementia and he needs her to consider signing power of attorney and other end of life documents, but she stubbornly refuses and is furious with him for not letting her drive anymore even though she’s been in multiple accidents. Aiden’s brother Dave is married to Aiden’s ex-girlfriend Sheryl; there is bad blood between Aiden and Sheryl (though the reader doesn’t know why until much later) and the strained relationship causes problems for all of them. The only joy in his life is playing video games, and his new online friend, Bogwitch, gives him something to look forward to. He believes Bogwitch is a woman his mother’s age, in her eighties.

When Aiden gets sick and talks about it on the gaming chat, Maggie offers to bring him some soup. When she arrives at his address she has a feeling that something is off, and when Aiden appears, the reality of their situation becomes clear. They recognize each other from Deb’s party, even though they hadn’t been introduced, and realise that instead of being, as they’d thought, sixty years apart in age, they are actually at the same stage in life. It puts a whole new perspective on their chats, on their online relationship, and on the possibility of an in-person friendship – or more. Can these two solitary souls use their common ground to develop a romantic relationship?

I found myself highly invested in this read as it was progressing and I was hoping that the age reveal would happen sooner rather than later, and it does. Maggie and Aiden really needed to meet in person so that they could extend the development of their online friendship into a deeper and more personal relationship, complete with in-depth conversations. Maggie helps Aiden realize that he is demi-sexual, and it’s a huge relief for him find out that he isn’t ‘abnormal’, and it explains a lot about his past relationships and his disinterest in dating new people. But he finds himself attracted to Maggie, for her biting humour and her don’t give a fuck attitude towards multiple things. Maggie is also attracted to Aiden, though she worries that she is mistaking his interest in her for something it isn’t. I loved how each of them stands up for the other in circumstances they find themselves in, proving that they have each other’s backs no matter what. And this is what drives them both to realize that what they feel for each other is serious and relationship-worthy. It’s so emotionally satisfying when someone gets what they deserve! For anyone who enjoys online gaming, the chats and described play are accurately detailed (but don’t worry non-gamers, it’s easy to follow). Role Playing is an eminently readable and relatable romance for the over forty set who have college aged children and aging parents both needing their attention while still trying to navigate their own personal relationships. I’ll definitely be looking for more from Cathy Yardley.

Reviewed by Maria Rose
Grade : A-

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : January 21, 2024

Publication Date: 07/2023

Review Tags: older couple

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Maria Rose

I'm a biochemist and a married mother of two. Reading has been my hobby since grade school, and I've been a fan of the romance genre since I was a teenager. Sharing my love of good books by writing reviews is a recent passion of mine, but one which is richly rewarding.
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