A Stella Review: Played! (The Shamwell Tales #2) by J.L. Merrow

Rating 5 stars out of 5

Played coverTristan’s in Shamwell for one last summer of freedom before he joins the family firm in New York—no more farting around on stage, as his father puts it. But the classically trained actor can’t resist when members of the local amateur dramatics society beg him to take a role in their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Especially as he’ll also be giving private acting lessons to gorgeous local handyman, Con, who’s been curiously resistant to Tristan’s advances. Tristan’s determined to get Con in his bed—not only is the man delicious, there’s fifty pounds riding on Tristan’s success after a bet made with his drama school chum Amanda.

Con’s never dared to act before. A late-diagnosed dyslexic who had a hard time at school, he’s always been convinced he’d never be able to learn his lines—but with Tristan helping him, he might just be in with a 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 in a matter of months, Con’s determined not to give in and 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 of happiness.

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


“Hello. I perused your advertisement in our local emporium. All—”

“You what?”

“I read your card in Tesco,” Tristan clarified with a sigh. Some people had no appreciation for the beauties of the English language. “All household job’s—I assume the apostrophe was ironic?—done, reasonable rates.”

“Er, yeah.” The man on the other end of the phone sounded somewhat nonplussed, possibly due to the way Tristan had stressed the “ibble” at the end of reasonable. “What’s the problem?”



“I have a plague of frogs.”[…] “A frog,” the handyman was saying. There was another pause. “So technically, yeah, that’s a plague of frog. One of ’em.”

“Semantics. The plural, in this case, may be taken to include the singular.”

“Right… Look, I think you want pest control, anyhow.”

“Finally we reach agreement. So how soon can you be here?”

This is where I fell in love with Tristan. He was amazing, hilarious. I loved how Tristan talked.

Let’s start my review saying I read Played!, which is the second book in the Shamwell Tales series by JL Merrow, without having read Caught!, the first one, and I can assure you I didn’t miss anything, it just increased my curiosity about Caught!  Having different main characters, it isn’t exactly a sequel. So if you are interested just in Tristan and Con’s story, you can totally buy it. You won’t regret it.

Tristan has just moved to Shamwell where he is going to spend the the “last summer of freedom”. He is trading is biggest passion for acting with a boring (and hated) career at a desk job, working for his father’s firm in NY, a father who has never supported him in his dream of acting. No one ever supported him in his dreams, apart from his dear grandmother (Nana Geary). She’s just passed away and left him her house. So he’s planning to spend the summer in Shamwell to dispose Nana’s things before starting his new and boring life.

He meets Con when he called for help after a plague of frogs (it was really just one frog!).

Con works as an handyman with Sean (MC in Caught!). He moved to Shamwell where he met Geary the time he went to do some home repairs to her. She took him in and treated him like the mother Con’s has never been.

The first meeting with Tristan doesn’t go well. Tristan is funny but a prick, he’s used to having what he wants, he speaks perfectly and can’t stop himself in correcting the people who don’t. Con can’t stand Tristan. But nobody has ever turned Tristan down, Con is the first one, because he is not looking for just some fun, he needs something real and not casual.

When a new actor is needed for the role of Bottom in the Midsummer Night’s Dream production by the local theater, it  will take Tristan to convince Con to join the play and to help him with his dyslexia.  Con starts to overcome his fears and most of all to see who is the real Tristan hiding behind the snobby one.

There is a great cast of second characters, starting from Heather, Con’s friend. Some seem snobby as Tristan, others simple and sweet and caring as Con. They have some kickass friends.

Shortly JL Merrow did it again. She gave me another favorite book which is going to join the beautiful Muscling Through. The amazing Tristan will stay in my heart as Al did. I found this book fascinated. As I think I already said I love how the author puts words together in this so British way she has. She delivered a funny and light story, with a plot and great characters, a Tristan full of doubts and fears on his future. Sometime sure convinced that working for his dad will help him mature and become more responsible, other times that theater was just for fun. The relationship with Con will help him grow up so much at the end of the book, I (and Con) couldn’t love him more.

Moreover I can add I’m not a huge fan of slow burn and with almost no sex stories, I like my men to start loving each other pretty quickly in the book I’m reading and rather only a few times, otherwise I bore easily. Well in Played! I had no time to be bored. There was no dead moment, every sentence was full of humor, I laughed so much at Tristan.

Played! was an absolute winner, really really good. I don’t even know what to say to recommend you to buy it. I loved it so much.

Cover art by Kanaxa. You know, I can’t explain why, cause honestly there is nothing special about it, but I really like it.

Sales Links:  Samhain PublishingAll Romance (ARe)Amazon  Buy It Here

Book Details:

Published January 30th 2015 by Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
Kindle Edition
Edition language English
The Shamwell Tales series
Caught! #1
Played! #2

By Scattered Thoughts

At over 50, I am ruled by my terriers, my gardens, and my projects. A knack for grubbing about in the woods, making mud pies, and tending to the injured worms, bugs, and occasional bird and turtle growing up eventually led me to working for the Parks. I was a park Naturalist for over 20 years, and observing Nature and her cycles still occupy my hours. From the arrival of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in the Spring to the first call of the Snow Geese heading south in the Fall, I am entranced by the seasons. For more about me see my bio on my blog.


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