Hi there! Today I’m excited to share a review for a M/M sports romance from new-to-me author Amy Andrews. PLAYING IT SAFE is this author’s first foray into writing M/M romance, though it’s the 7th book in her Sydney Smoke rugby romance series and she’s a USA bestseller in straight romance.
Donovan Bane loves playing rugby for the Sydney Smoke. And if that means he has to keep his sexuality a secret, that’s a sacrifice he’s prepared to make. At least until after he retires, anyway. He doesn’t want to be the first pro rugby player in Australia to officially come out while still playing. The team doesn’t need the media shit storm and he’d rather be known for his footy skills. Which means no dating, no relationships, no sex. Nothing but playing ball.
Until one man suddenly changes everything…
Beckett Stanton is out and proud—and not looking for a guy who isn’t. Been there, done that, complete disaster. Unfortunately, on the first day of his new job working for the Sydney Smoke, he locks eyes with Donovan Bane and he’s a goner. Big, gruff, and athletic isn’t usually Beck’s type, but for some reason this man is ticking all his boxes. And it’s clear the feeling is mutual. It’s also clear that Donovan is not out, and doesn’t plan to be anytime soon. Still, Beck can’t resist being the man to show Donovan everything he’s been missing.
For the first time, Donovan doesn’t play it safe and allows himself to indulge in things with Beck he knows he can’t have. But when their relationship gets serious, he knows he has to choose between the career he loves and the man he loves, because how can he possibly have both?
Donovan Bane is a stud of an elite rugby player, a star on the Sydney Smoke pro team. He’s a mountain of a man, half-Maori and bearing the tattoos of his lineage. He’s also a closeted gay man, divorced from his best friend, and father of a 14 year old daughter he loves more than life. Afraid that his career would suffer, he married his high school girlfriend, hiding his sexuality in his relationship. He’d pursued his true attraction only once, and it was a disaster. His ex-wife knows his sexuality–now–and she keeps his secret because she’s a good woman. But, she’d expressed issues with him coming out while their daughter is young, in case kids at school torment her because of it. And, well, being a high profile player means that there will be blow-back. Anyway, Donovan has never met a man he wants to come out for, anyway, until he meets Beckett.
Beckett Stanton is freshly out of a relationship and has just taken a new position in the finance division for the Smoke. He’s on the job a week before he meets Donovan, and boy is he impressed–with his body. And then his play. And, well, his kindness. Donovan, despite the dangerous attraction he feels for Beckett, spends time with the man after helping him with a flat bike tire in a rainstorm. The more time they spend together, the more they want one another, yet, Donovan is reticent to even dip his toe into physical intimacy because he recognizes it’s a slippery slope. There has never been an active out rugby player in Australia, and he doesn’t want to be the first. The problem is Beckett’s out. And, being around Beckett–while amazing and fulfilling–could jeopardize Donovan’s carefully curated straight persona.
This was an interesting book for reasons that didn’t necessarily pertain to the romance. First, I love sports romance in general. And, I’m always interested in interracial romances, and other cultures. We got a little peek into his Moari culture, and I loved learning a little more about Australia, through the eyes of both Donovan and Beckett. Their relationship is the focal point of the book, even as Donovan continues to deny himself. Beckett is willing to indulge himself a little, as a gay tutor for Donovan, but they both catch feelings pretty quickly.
For me, there seemed to be a lot of talk around the potential for Donovan to come out, and how that could never ever happen. It took up a lot of page time, and was the basis of conflict. Despite knowing that Donovan’s ex was his best friend we never actually have her on the page counseling him. And Miri, his beloved daughter, is only present in the epilogue on page. Donovan’s most fraught moments around coming out were all off page, and that was disappointing. I liked how Becket and Donovan interacted, especially as they connect in friendly ways, but I felt the pacing could have been better. Instead of mooning about, reflecting on every instance of intense arousal there could have been more moments of actual frank discussion abut their developing friendship, and the implications of their growing attraction.
I did enjoy Donovan’s sexual awakening, and both Donovan and Beckett seem like good guys. They genuinely seem to care about one another, even in the short time they spend. I wished we had more time seeing them do more than just hang out in their homes. It was also good to see the allies come out in force to stand beside Donovan.
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About the Author:
Her books bring all the feels from sass, quirk and laughter to emotional grit and panty-melting heat.
She loves good books and great booze although she’ll take mediocre booze if there’s nothing else. For many, many years she was a registered nurse which means she knows things. Anatomical things. And she’s not afraid to use them!
She recently took a sea change and lives by the ocean with her husband of 29 years.