Liam Carroll and Robert McKenzie grew up together in the worst part of Glasgow. When Liam came out to his best friend Robert, Robert stuck by him. And when Liam joined Glasgow’s all-LGBT football team, the Warriors, he insisted his bestie be welcomed onto the team, even though he was straight. Since then, Liam and Robert have become the best-coordinated pair of center backs in the amateur league. They form one of the keystones to the team’s growing success and reputation.

So now, the valiant footballers from Glasgow, who have already provided two great romantic pairings, turn their sights on the B in LGBT; and that means Robert.

This lovely book—the third novel in the Glasgow Lads series, which also boasts a novella and a short story—continues to deal with issues of class and education and social welfare against the backdrop of a varied group of young men and women who share a love of football. Liam and Robert both grew up in the same schools, but Robert went on to university and has developed his skills as a computer whiz and video game designer to the point that he’s looking at a bright future. Liam ditched school as soon as he could, and is happy tending bar in an east end pub. In spite of their different paths and orientations, the two have stayed best friends.

But now Robert wants to come out, to let the world know what he’s known all along: that’s he’s bisexual. And he also wants to let his best friend Liam know that he’s the object of his fantasies. And thus Avery Cockburn centers her new novel on a subject that pushes a lot of buttons all over the LGBT world: bisexuality. Every prejudice and myth about bi guys is brought forth as Liam and Robert do their dance of friendship and love. Their long-established love for each other has to adapt or wither in the face of this new information. Liam is once burned and twice shy; Robert wants to be out and proud but has to face the way bisexuals are perceived in both straight and gay culture.

The author provides us with a loving, vivid portrait of Scotland’s brawny industrial city, a city famous to American museum-types like me because of its celebrated design school, but famous to other folks because of its industrial collapse and high levels of violence and crime. In the context of this city she presents us with a gay-friendly culture that is at the same time full of gritty reality and simmering with love thwarted by poverty and disappointment. She spices up her literate, elegant writing with dialect and thereby gives the outsider (i.e. American readers) a lesson in Scottish life across class and economic boundaries. Playing with Fire is intense and true and emotionally captivating.

Ulysses Dietz

Grade: A-

Sensuality: Hot



 


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