Review: Playing It Safe by Amy Andrews (2021)

Sydney Smoke Rugby, Book #7

Heat Factor: kinda like: the first time they do something it’s explicit but then subsequent times we can bypass that detail

Character Chemistry: “This person is extra special” at first sight

Plot: closeted gay rugby player finally meets a man who makes him want what he never needed before

Overall: I don’t know. On the one hand it’s super readable. On the other… 🙃

If you really liked Rachel Reid’s Game Changer and want more books like that, this is an Australian rugby version of that story. I mean, it’s significantly different in terms of specifics, but we’re dealing with a closeted player who’s happy with his life until all of a sudden the man he’s been waiting for simply…appears. And then things get difficult because his life is better for having this man in it, but his career is still what it is. 

I’ve been reading a lot of queer sportsball romances lately, which is one reason I picked this book up. It’s a very easy read, engaging, with likeable characters. But. There were maybe too many “buts” as I read for me to wholeheartedly love this book. 

Donovan is a biracial (half Maori) rugby player (with a man bun, which I totally approve of), who knocked up his high school girlfriend, married her, and then when he confessed that he was gay, they got divorced. He’s been alone except for visits from his daughter for 8 years. Beckett is a white Australian finance guy who’s out and proud and very flirty and who just started working for the rugby club. They’re just two men trying to find their happy. 

Here’s the thing(s)…

Donovan agreed to the divorce because his wife deserved everything she really wanted and needed in a spouse…BUT she asked Donovan to agree not to come out until their daughter was finished with high school. Yeah, he’s famous and they don’t want him or their daughter to be in a media circus, and Donovan didn’t think he’d come out until he retired anyway, but it’s super messed up. Why does the ex deserve the partnership she wants, but Donovan needs to put his own needs there on the back burner? This is never addressed, and when he does fly home to New Zealand to talk to his ex-wife about Beckett etc., it’s all off page, so we get no insight into why everything’s fine now.

Beckett says he’ll respect Donovan’s boundaries and not get physical…BUT he then immediately initiates. Donovan has never been with a man and he’s got a lot of hangups about being found out and outed publicly in the media. Even though he meets Beckett and just knows that his life is about to turn upside down, he’s still not ready to throw away his near decade of life plans because nothing else about his life has changed. Beckett says he understands and appreciates where Donovan is coming from. And then he fondles Donovan. He backs off when Donovan asks him to, but it was still frown-inducing. Like, you don’t say “okay I’ll stop and go at your pace” and then immediately start masturbating together. 

They don’t prep for anal sex. There’s no “but” here. I just honestly couldn’t believe it, especially when they’d never done any anal play before and apparently Donovan has a monster cock. Like. Lube is necessary and all, so it’s good they used that, but, um, you can’t just shove stuff in there? What are they doing?

There was plenty of other stuff going on in this book that was fun and playful and joyful. I enjoyed the read for sure. But I would have enjoyed it more if I didn’t have to worry about those “buts,” and also I wished the author had made some different choices structurally, like including more interactions with the secondary characters. Donovan’s ex and daughter play a huge part in his life, but they’re never on page doing anything with him. It seems like a missed opportunity to develop Donovan more three-dimensionally. But other than a few of Donovan’s rugby peeps and one of Beckett’s close friends, secondary characters don’t play a large part in the story. It’s very Donovan-and-Beckett centered. 

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

Buy Now: Amazon

Looking for something similar?


Men Loving Men

Romance Down Under

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s