Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Tristan’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.
I’m a fan of both JL Merrow and her Shamwell Tales, the series that follows the lives and romances of this small English village and it’s little group of thespians. Not familiar you say? Well, Played! in audiobook format is a splendid way to make its acquaintance because a terrific story is further enhanced by the outstanding narration by Mark Steadman.
I easily sunk into the drama and every day lives of Tristan and Con with Mark Steadman’s voice casting a spell over the tale. The narrator rose quickly to being the “voice’ of everyone in the large cast of players as well as acting the various roles the characters/actors were playing (play inside a play) from Bottom to Puck, and giving them life as well. I never had a difficulty distinguishing between characters, and indeed, often forgot I was listening to only one person narrating the story, Mark Steadman is that good.
And with Mark Steadman narrating, you can concentrate on the story of Tris and Con and their rocky path towards romance and love. Ah, Tris with his rich imperious father and full load of familial expectations, none of which seem particularly desirable to Tristan. The death of his Gram, a house, and a cat lead Tris to Shamwell, the Shamwell Players and Con. All of which starts to erode the strict goals his family has laid out for him,. Under the influence of Con and the people he’s meeting, Tristan becomes the person he’s meant to be.
Con, a handyman, ends up with a remarkable amount of revelations for himself as well. A learning disability has Con convinced he could never act until Tristan starts coaching him. The why’s behind that action I’ll leave up to the story. There’s is mystery in Con’s background and an investigation to launch in the village. Really, Played! has a cornucopia of elements and it makes for a lively, hopping plot!
Merrow’s characters have depth and a believability about them that makes it a delight to care for them and the outcome of their romance. Especially, when you want to give them a shake or two as you will Tristan! The story just flows and the listening goes quickly. You’ll find the book is over and your visit in Shamwell done before you are ready to leave. At least I felt that way. Luckily there are more Shamwell tales out there. I hope they all end up as audiobooks with Mark Steadman as the narrator. I can’t wait to listen.
I highly recommend this audiobook and all the Shamwell stories, ebook and otherwise.
Cover by: Natasha Snow is perfect for Tristan. Love the cover.
Listening Time: 6 hrs., 58 min.
Published September 15th 2017 by Riptide Publishing (first published June 30th 2015)
Series The Shamwell Tales #2
setting England (United Kingdom