Book Title: Playground Games by Lily Morton
Published: January 1, 2021
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
School trips are hell on the teachers.
Auguste Patterson’s happy place on a winter holiday would involve a seat by a fire, a good book, and alcohol. Which is why he’s horrified when the headmaster at the primary school where he teaches demands he accompanies a group of young students to France on a skiing trip. Gus believes snow should always be viewed from inside a warm building and never encountered while flailing on skis.
The holiday’s single perk is also the one reason Gus has for liking sports—the school’s PE teacher, Doug Henshaw. Doug is Gus’s secret crush, and sharing a room at the ski chalet with him almost makes managing forty school children bearable. But Gus doesn’t stand a chance with Doug. A handsome, funny ex-professional football player would never fall for a hopelessly unathletic language teacher. Would he?
For a Christmas read, I like this better than Merry Measure. Playground Games is the short and sweet story everyone needs.
🔍 How I Discovered It
So I loved Merry Measure and Lily Morton’s snark. Then came the newsletter again, notifying the subscribers about the Winter Wonderland giveaway happening on Prolific Works with this as one of the free books available. What perfect timing! Out of the 180+ books, Playground Games was an instant grab.
▫️Doug and Gus
Playground Games has the standard Lily Morton brand of snark down to the “villain,” but this stood out among the other books that I’ve read so far. Up until I pick this up, Rule Breaker is my favorite Morton book. But after reading this novella, Playground Games becomes a strong contender for the top spot.
But having read (and enjoyed) Merry Measure, I’m not sure I’d enjoy or would be able to stop myself from comparing the two Christmasy stories. Like Arlo, Gus works as a teacher in a private school. He is also funny and a wreck when it comes to physical activities. Yet, somehow, Morton manages to distinguish the two. Gus likes to make fun of himself by snarky remarks, but he isn’t as chipper as Arlo, and he’s such a sucker for subtle romantic gestures. I find myself liking him more.
Let’s talk about Doug. Ugh, he’s so dreamy! I mean, I find Jack sweet, but Doug is perfect book boyfriend material. I believe he appears in another Morton book, Charlie Sunshine, as a side character. I haven’t read it yet (I think I’ll like it given how I’m liking Charlie here.), but I’m already happy that he is given his own story. His sweetness and attentiveness bring me to my next point…
I never thought I needed courting in my life.
All the other MM books that I’ve read lately have the friends-with-benefits kind of stage or, at least, the characters are in the phase where they fool around while they are sorting out their feelings. That’s where most of the tension comes in — through sex. But not here. The attraction and chemistry are established early on, but it’s how Doug pursues Gus that makes a big difference. It is so refreshing to read something where the tension doesn’t stem from sex but from the courting like giving gifts and just being attentive to their would-be lover. It is sweet, romantic, and hot roll into one. It makes sex so satisfying when it finally comes.
The courting alone and how the main characters fall in love make this a great read.
My only gripe is that, THIS IS SHORT. TOO SHORT. AAAHHH.
The romance isn’t the only thing that surprises me in this story.
I groan when Anthony comes in, going all snobbish towards Gus. I thought, “Here we go again.” And he can be quite mean. BUT he owns up to his mistakes. The turnover of his character catches me with surprise. I never thought that it’s possible in Morton-verse, but thank goodness, it is. He is infinitely better than the other jealous jerks Morton created.
🥰 Who Would Like It?
Everyone haha. (If you missed the Winter Wonderland giveaway, fret not. You can grab this for free when you signed up for Lily Morton’s newsletter.)
📚 Related Books
I believe Doug appears in Charlie Sunshine, Book 2 of the Close Proximity series, where Charlie the librarian is one of the main characters.