A Player's Heart

by Melissa Scott

Romance
2020

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Fantastical and vivid!, May 4, 2021
by NMCannon (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
Related reviews: lesbian, historical, 5 stars, choicescript, choice of games, heart's choice

After enjoying Never Date Werewolves, I decided to play other titles in the Heart's Choice app, and Melissa Scott's A Player's Heart caught my eye because lesbians.

In this world a step in the past away from ours, Tristendesande is a pulsing, cultural powerhouse of art, and the theaters are the gems in that crown. The player character has dreamed of the Opera, an all-women performance company, all her life. When she arrives, you choose a specialty: do you want to be a deva (play woman roles), a dragon (play male roles), or an artifex (a theater technician). I was surprised and pleased when, after meeting various characters and getting your bearings at the Opera, there was a time skip. Seven years later, the player character is in the prime of her skill, and the story gets down to the real business of balancing art's ability to challenge the hegemony and the practical necessity of not getting shut down by said hegemony.

Each and every love interest dazzled me. There's the big, butch Myrr, with her steadfast loyalty, purity of feeling, and quiet, devastating artifex art. The femme deva Celeine and the player character exchange glittering banter and have a homoerotic sword duel (which left me quite flustered!!!!). Lady Jasquillyn Isalis defies aristocratic convention to put stars in your eyes, with beauty, social savvy, and graceful wit. Since I stayed with the Opera, I saw little of the androgynous Mervelles, but her daring nature, political passion, and sensual dance impressed me all the same.

Perhaps because of the length of this game, it felt like there really was enough time to get to know each of the love interests individually before deciding who to date. In other titles, I feel rushed, like there's a sense that if I fail to flirt immediately, I will not have any hope of arriving at a HEA with them. Not here. Scott took her time describing each character and filling in the world. The imagery of the theater is especially fantastical and vivid. I don't know much about theater myself, but my partner does, and I feel comfortable saying she will be impressed when she comes around to playing.

If I had one quibble, it would be that there didn't seem a realistic way to not be political. Perhaps that's intentional: burying one's head in the sand is a surefire way to get screwed by the hegemony. However, the story was framed like there was a way to be neutral and survive. I'm curious to play again and see what happens if my character is very political or aggressively oblivious.

A Player's Heart is an engaging, addictive read. I found myself eagerly awaiting for the two hour cool off period to end. If you're a fan of historical lesbian romances, definitely download Heart's Choice and click play!