Giveaways, JL Merrow, Samhain Publishing

Guest Post and Giveaway: The Played! Blog Tour With JL Merrow


The Novel Approach is pleased to welcome author JL Merrow today on the Played! blog tour. Enjoy JL’s guest post, then be sure to follow the instructions for your chance to win some great prizes.

Good luck!


A Dream of a Play

Hi, I’m JL Merrow, and I’m thrilled to be here today as part of the Played! blog tour.


Is A Midsummer Night’s Dream the most performed play in Shakespeare’s opus?

Wait a minute. I’ll check that out.

Right, I’m back. Well, no, apparently Hamlet has that honour, but Dream is certainly one that comes around time and time again. It’s particularly suited to open-air performances, which are regularly scheduled in the UK summer months in total defiance of our traditionally dismal weather and general mild pessimism about the same. It’s a good introduction to the Bard, with its lovers’ shenanigans and broad comedy that’s stood the test of time, which is sadly not the case for all of Shakespeare’s “comic relief” sections. Dream’s feminist themes are still relevant today, and much more palatable to modern audiences than The Taming of the Shrew.

When I was writing Played!, my gay romantic comedy centred around amateur dramatics, it was an obvious choice to feature, with a character called Bottom who gets turned into an ass!

In the excellent gay musical fantasy film Were the World Mine (2008), the focus is on the love potion element of the plot. As Played! is not a fantasy and the use of rohypnol is generally not to be encouraged, there are no love potions in my story. Rather, I chose to focus on the amateur theatre group generally known as the rude mechanicals.

For anyone not familiar with the plot of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (because there must be someone out there who isn’t, surely?) there are several main storylines which twist and turn around each other like randy snakes on Viagra. The first concerns four young Athenian lovers. The second concerns the rude mechanicals who are preparing a play to entertain the local Duke and his new bride at their wedding. The third plotline concerns the king and queen of the fairies fighting over a boy (didn’t I say it was ideal for a gay romantic comedy?)

In Played!, visiting professional actor Tristan takes the part of the mischievous fairy, Puck, who causes all kinds of problems with the afore-mentioned love potions and also turns the head of lead rude mechanical Nick Bottom into that of an ass. Bottom is of course played by reluctant first-time actor Con, whom Tristan is coaching—and whose head he sets out to turn in a very different sense!

Dividers Question: I’ve seen Dream several times, and it’s definitely a favourite of mine because of the magical atmosphere and daft shenanigans. What’s your favourite stage play, Shakespearian or otherwise? Why?


Caught72webPrizes! I’m offering a prize of an ebook of the winner’s choice from my backlist to one lucky commenter at EVERY stop on the tour, plus a grand prize of a signed copy of Caught!, the first Shamwell Tale, which comes out in paperback on 4th August. I’m happy to ship worldwide, and I’ll throw in some small goodies as well. :)

Please remember to leave an email addy in your comment so I can get in touch with you if you win. 

I’ll be making the draws around teatime on Friday 10th July, GMT.

Good luck! :D

DividersJL MerrowJL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea.  She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again.  Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour.  Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy, and her novella Muscling Through and novel Relief Valve were both EPIC Awards finalists.

JL Merrow is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, International Thriller Writers, Verulam Writers’ Circle and the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.

Find JL Merrow online at:, on Twitter as @jlmerrow, and on Facebook at

DividersPlayed!72webAll the world’s a stage…but real-life lessons are hidden in the heart

Though Tristan must join his family’s New York firm at summer’s end—no more farting around on stage, as his father so bluntly puts it—he can’t resist when Shamwell’s local amateur dramatics society begs him to take a role in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The bonus: giving private acting lessons to a local handyman who’s been curiously resistant to Tristan’s advances. Not only is Con delicious, there’s fifty pounds riding on Tristan getting him in his bed.

A late-diagnosed dyslexic, Con’s never dared to act, convinced he’d never be able to learn his lines. But with Tristan’s help, he takes the 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 soon, Con is determined not to 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 for happiness.

Warning: contains a surfeit of Bottoms and asses, together with enough mangled quotations to have the Bard of Avon gyrating in his grave.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | ARe | Samhain



51 thoughts on “Guest Post and Giveaway: The Played! Blog Tour With JL Merrow

  1. Tammy says:

    I have never seen A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Actually, I’ve seen very little live theater. I did see a “Shakespeare in the Park” performance of The Taming of the Shrew and really liked it. I loved Caught! and really look forward to read Played! Thanks for the giveaway.


  2. susana says:

    I’ve seen A Midsummer Night’s Dream several times, some of them were really daring versions, and loved them all. Shakespeare is my favourite drama writer ever, but I must recognise my favourite play is Julius Caesar, Mark Antony’s fumeral speech never fails to move me… But to my great shame I’ve never seen it performed. I’ve read it enough times to be able to recite some of the speeches myself, and seen some movie version (my favourite being the 1953 one with Marlon Brando as Antony…Wow!). Anyhow, I have faith one day I’ll see it performed…
    Thank you for the post and giveaway. I’m looking forward to reading Played!


    • I’ve always wanted to see The Tempest, but have never quite managed it – I studied it at school, but was ill the day the class went to the theatre. :( Good luck getting to see Julius Caesar! :D


  3. Angela says:

    I must admit that i haven’t seen A Midsummer Night’s Dream either. I don’t visit the theatre often but i did see A Christmas Carol (Scrooge)in a theatre in London when i was there on a weekend trip and i loved it . Years later the same play came to the Netherlands and i remembered how much i enjoyed the play in London so i did buy tickets to see it again :) And it was great.

    Thanks for this post i enjoyed it and thanks for the giveaway chance.



  4. AnnMarieF says:

    If I am going to go to the theater it’s for a musical so I have never seen A Midsummer Night’s Dream live :)

    annmarief115 at gmail dot com


    • I do love a good musical. I remember being spellbound by Cats in London when I was 10, and I’ve seen dozens since then. Prefer the upbeat ones, though. :)


  5. Pingback: Such Stuff as Dreams are Made On | JL Merrow

  6. Al says:

    I don’t remember what it was called, but I remember the plot and I remember the circumstances. Children switched at birth, one rich, one poor and they all ended up dying. I was on a European trip in high school with a bunch of other teenagers and I was already crying quietly but then when all the guns went off, it startled me and I started crying LOUDLY, and all the proper British people sitting around me gave me stern looks and one shushed me firmly. It is certainly my most memorable theater experience.

    My second most memorable is when my mom took me to New York for my 16th birthday and we went and saw Phantom of the Opera on Broadway.


  7. Jennifer says:

    Not huge into theater, but have seen some musicals on broadway in NYC when invited: The Who and Chicago. Loved Le Miserables!


  8. Trix says:

    I do love MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (and I have special affection for the “Pyramus and Thisbe” playlet in it, since I was Francis Flute in a summer children’s program when I was ten). I like musicals, too…I enjoy GUYS AND DOLLS and ANYTHING GOES, but my favorite modern one might be THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE. As someone who was forced to participate in many spelling bees by teachers when I was young (do they have those monstrosities in the UK? I hope not!), I really like how it manages to show how pointless spelling bees are while being very sympathetic to the kids involved. I saw the San Francisco production a while back, where I got to see James Monroe Iglehart steal the show as paroled convict-turned-kids’ counselor Mitch Mahoney. I knew he’d win a Tony Award someday!



    • LOL! As far as I’m aware, we don’t have spelling bees over here – certainly neither I nor the Merrowlets have ever had to participate in anything so harrowing! I really liked Anything Goes when I saw it in London – very old-fashioned and jolly, just the thing for a Wodehouse fan. Have never seen Guys and Dolls but it sounds like fun. :)

      And congrats on your acting success! I suspect they probably left the dirty jokes out of that production… ;)


      • Trix says:

        GUYS AND DOLLS is very ’50s (a friend of mine always wanted to do a gender-flipped version where the gangsters were played by women, which would be pretty cool), but the whole Damon Runyon thing is fun and the songs RULE, drat it. Miss Adelaide is a goddess, to be sure. (You can see the movie if you must, but it’s totally miscast…why did they give Sinatra the male role that DOESN’T have all the good songs?) I actually don’t remember Sue (our teacher) bowdlerizing PYRAMUS AND THISBE. Then, I was young enough that I didn’t know there was anything to bowdlerize until I took Poetry and Poetics in college. Our TA somehow didn’t know the play within a play (weird, since he was well-versed in all sorts of obscure stuff), and I saw his eyes widen when I described the whole “I kiss the wall’s hole and not your lips at all” sequence. I blushed, he cackled. Good times!


  9. waxapplelover says:

    I feel like I actually have seen and maybe even performed in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (Though the performance is hazy…I’m sure I’m suppressing that memory.) But my favorite Shakespeare play is Twelfth Night. There’s just all this confusion.

    waxapplelover (at) gmail (dot) com


  10. Antonia says:

    I’ve never seen Dream but I studied it in school and I hope to see it someday. I have seen Romeo and Juliet and hamlet though neither is my favorite Shakespeare. I’ve seen a lot of musicals. Anything Goes (which I acted in back in school), Chicago and Wicked are favorites. Thanks for the great post and the giveaway! amaquilante(at)gmail(dot)com


  11. I’ve watched the movie but I’ve never been to a real live play of it or any other play. Although I did go to an opera once, it was pretty interesting.


    • Never seen a play? Have you seen any of the National Theatre films of live theatre shows? (Not sure if they, or something similar, are available outside the UK) I’ve been to a couple of those at my local cinema, and you really feel like you’re at the theatre. War Horse was expecially spell-binding.
      When I was younger and working in London I used to go to the opera all the time, getting cheap tickets and sitting way up high in the gods. Absolutely loved it. :)


      • I haven’t. I haven’t been out to a movie or anything in years. The last time I was even out for anything like a show was that one opera which I can’t remember the name of because it was such a difficult title, lol. I’ll have to find time even though I live only a few blocks away from the part of the city that has nightly performances.


  12. Alaina says:

    Other than not so amazing high school productions, I have only seen Beauty and the Beast on Broadway. It was really amazing, plus Disney! Though I would love to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream.



  13. Pingback: Played! by J.L. Merrow Blog Tour, Guest Post, Review & Giveaway! | MM Good Book Reviews

  14. REE DEE says:

    I have actually never seen a Shakespearean play live. MY high school English teach did spend quite a bit of time reading the plays aloud to us using different character voices so that he made them come alive. The only plays I have seen in person are Phantom and Avenue Q with other assorted plays done by the local high school.


    • Your teacher sounds great – I think it’s very difficult to really “get” Shakespeare’s words unless you hear them, as a good actor can make the words come alive, even the unfamiliar ones.
      A favourite memory of my high school English teacher, a very spinsterish lady, is of her selflessly reading aloud the rude bits of the Chaucer we were studying so none of the students would have to do it. She was faced with 30 very strange looks, as our copies of the text had been bowdlerised! ;)


  15. I haven’t started this series, but it sounds absolutely wonderful. Other than my senior play or watching my daughter in one, I haven’t gotten up front and personal with any other plays. I did see a couple at Disney, do they count? LOL One day, bucket list item, I want to go to NY and see as many Broadway plays as possible.


  16. Allison says:

    I can’t say that I have a favorite because I think it’s generally what I’ve seen most recently. Which is what I’m picking here, we were in London in May and saw The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and I loved it. I am hoping that it will eventually be brought to the U.S. so that I can see it again. aahickmanathotmaildotcom


  17. jenf27 says:

    I don’t really have a favorite, but I did just see Guys and Dolls at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and it was fabulous! My two grade-school-aged kids absolutely loved it, too. They were caught up in it more than any movie or TV show (yay!).

    I really enjoyed Caught! and look forward to reading this next book in the series.



  18. Jbst says:

    Thanks for the recap of the play. I think Seven Brides for Seven Brothers musical. It was fun with so much singing and dancing.


  19. I love going to the theatre and have quite a few favourite Shakespeare plays such as Twelfth Night, another good outside summer comedy play and it has quite a lot of sexual ambiguity with Violet dressed as a male (or as her brother Sebastian) and the nobleman Orsino who employs her as a male guard, find himself very attracted to her and the lady Olivia falls for her as well. Then Olivia meets Sebastian (thinks she is meeting up and kissing Violet’s version of Sebastian) and Orsino thinks Violet has betrayed him and all trouble ensues, so much fun. Another one I am fond of is Taming of the Shrew after I watched Toya Wilcox in the role of Kate and even though she broke her arm during the play, she still carried on. I also enjoy the musical version of this play ‘Kiss Me Kate’. Then I have also enjoyed The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde and so many others. I do not go to the theatre so much now, as the tickets cost a lot, so normally one play a year making it a very special occasion indeed. My father used to act on the stage and I think that is where my love of the theatre has come from and even one of nephews has got the bug and works behinds the scenes and plans to be a director.

    Thank you for the giveaway :)


    • O_o A broken arm? I know they say the show must go on, but that’s real dedication to your art!
      I’ve seen an outdoor production of Twelfth Night, but sadly it was much as Tristan describes his acting debut in Played! ;)
      Lovely to have theatre in your blood!


  20. Loren says:

    My favorite one is Salome by Oscar Wilde I wasn’t able to to stop reading it the first time, it was wonderful for me, i liked it beacuse it involved biblical caracters and the story is different from the real facts and the obsessive love mevalem258 AT gmail DOT com


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