Played! (Shamwell Tales #2)

Author: J.L. Merrow

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Rating: 4.5 stars

Buy Links: Samhain and Amazon

Type: Novel in a Series

Received from Publisher


Blurb: All the world’s a stage…but real-life lessons are hidden in the heart.

The Shamwell Tales, Book 2

Though Tristan must join his family’s New York firm at summer’s end—no more farting around on stage, as his father so bluntly puts it—he can’t resist when Shamwell’s local amateur dramatics society begs him to take a role in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The bonus: giving private acting lessons to a local handyman who’s been curiously resistant to Tristan’s advances. Not only is Con delicious, there’s fifty pounds riding on Tristan getting him in his bed. 

A late-diagnosed dyslexic, Con’s never dared to act, convinced he’d never be able to learn his lines. But with Tristan’s help, he takes the chance. Trouble is, the last time Con fell for a guy, he ended up getting his heart broken. And with Tristan due to leave the country soon, Con is determined not to start anything that’s bound to finish badly. 

Just as Tristan thinks he’s finally won Con’s heart—and given his own in return—disaster strikes. And the curtain may have fallen forever on their chance for happiness.

Product Warnings: Contains a surfeit of Bottoms and asses, together with enough mangled quotations to have the Bard of Avon gyrating in his grave. 


Review:  Tristan has agreed to quit acting and join the family banking business. Both his best friend and father agree this is the right thing to do. He decides to spend his final days organizing for sale a home he was willed by his nanny. Unfortunately, he finds himself being besieged by a plague of frog (not a typo) and has to call in a local handyman to have it removed. Con, the handyman, is a delicious looking man who doesn’t really want to have anything to do with Tristan. Con really doesn’t want to be someone’s summer pastime. He doesn’t do anything casually, and the guy who spends all his time quoting plays isn’t really going to be interested in the guy who cannot read. Tristan finds himself making a bit of a bet with his friend to get Con into his bed. That the local acting troupe needs someone to play Nick Bottom in Midsummer Night’s Dream and Con works with the troupe is all well and good for Tristan. Then Puck falls into a gopher hole during a cricket match and breaks his leg. Not the good acting kind of leg breaking, the nasty, leave you in the hospital, compound fracture kind of leg breaking.

Tristan is now Puck, and he has convinced Con to play Bottom. Tristan finds himself coming to realize several things. He doesn’t want to quit acting, he doesn’t want to work for his father and, he likes Con a lot more than he ever expected. Con comes to the realization he’s not stupid and he is capable of being more than just the village handyman.

Tristan and Con are trying to figure out who they are and what their place is in society. There was a coming of age feeling to the story despite the fact both men are adults in their twenties. Some of us bloom a bit later than others, it happens! Both guys were also surprisingly fragile. Con, the big handyman was viciously guarding his heart while Tristan was using his acting and outrageous personality to hide the pain of rejection. Despite their best efforts to not fall in love they both did just that. For all they were opposite Con and Tristan were also quite similar. Both men were raised by someone other than their parents and both men had family backgrounds looked down upon by society at one time or another. This made for an interesting contrast to their physical and economic disparities. They also complemented each other well. They were well formed characters amidst a cast of good supporting characters.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was a sham. I don’t want to talk about how long, I’m a little embarrassed by it. With a name like Shamwell Tales you know there has to be a sham somewhere. There was one. I felt bad for Tristan. Another was nicely averted. Tristan’s whole life was poised to become a sham had he gone to work for his father.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of the work of JL Merrow, Shakespeare, and British English. It’s a fun contemporary tale on its surface with surprising depths if you choose to look for them. While this is part of a series this book can easily be read as a standalone novel.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.