I want to start by clarifying that I have not read books one and two in this series. This did not detract from the book at all. This can certainly be read as a stand-alone book.
Playing Charlie Cool is a realistic and amusing look at LGBT issues in a modern world. It stars Charlie Trager, the Producer of a daytime TV talk show and Adam Joshua Goldberg. Adam/Josh, who goes by both names for sanity sake throughout the book, used to be an Aide in New York’s political arena. He announces to the world that he’s gay and ending his marriage and begins looking to run for Congress.
This is where things get interesting. The pressures on these two characters by friends, family and, in fact, society were really well portrayed in this book. The dialogue was tight, emotional and spot on. From Charlie talking to his best friends about Josh:
“This Mr. Right.” Freddie leaned forward and rested his hands, still flushed from washing dishes, on his knees. “It has been months and months, and you are still ashamed to introduce us? He must be Mr. Wrong-But-It-Feels-So-Right.”
To minor characters offering amusing support/disinterest for the LGBT cause:
“She let her shoulders relax. “Look Charlie. Personally, I don’t give a flying fig what people do behind closed doors. If it makes them happy to dress up like kangaroos and swing from the track lighting, more power to them…”
But by far, the most amusing aspect of the writing was the witty little one liners that were thrown into otherwise normal daytime scenes:
‘His phone, which he’d left on the table, was vibrating more than the test lab at a personal pleasuring device manufacturing facility, but he ignored it.’
The dialogue and writing aside, the story was a solid one. The characters are brilliantly constructed to have their own personalities and set of flaws, that I’m pleased to say, were exhibited and shown for the reader along with their strengths. Characters make mistakes. They are stubborn and pig-headed and then regret their decisions later. It’s all very real.
Character interactions and conversation and friendship subtleties were extremely well portrayed in this book. The use of body language, tone of speech and the subtle interactions of best friends or lovers was all drawn into the story. It created a very warm and realistic dialogue and interaction between all characters. Liza was one of the best characters, but Charlie took first place. The reader is drawn along with him in the tumultuous journey he and Adam/Josh take.
The writing was flawless. I found no typos, nothing grammatically incorrect or anything I stumbled over. This is a brilliant showcase on just how to create a great manuscript.
I’m only giving it four and a half stars though. Because, as much as the writing, characterisation and dialogue was spot on, there was some passion missing. The romantic scenes between Charlie and Josh were sweet, urgent and well placed, but they didn’t quite get there in terms of heat. It was obvious the boys were into each other, but that next level was missing.
Because of this lack of heat, the story loses some of its power. It doesn’t feel quite as real. It needs a little more from the boys.
Certainly a book I’d recommend to M/M romance (sweet not sexy) lovers, and to those who like current day real-life dramas with a twist of romance. Play Charlie Cool will be a welcome addition to anyone’s reading diet.