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Role Playing by Cathy Yardley

An emotional rom-com about two middle-aged gamers who grow their online connection into an IRL love story.

Maggie is an unapologetically grumpy forty-eight-year-old hermit. But when her college-aged son makes her a deal—he’ll be more social if she does the same—she can’t refuse. She joins a new online gaming guild led by a friendly healer named Otter. So that nobody gets the wrong idea, she calls herself Bogwitch.

Otter is Aiden, a fifty-year-old optimist using the guild as an emotional outlet from his family drama caring for his aging mother while his brother plays house with Aiden’s ex-fiancée.

Bogwitch and Otter become fast virtual friends, but there’s a catch. Bogwitch thinks Otter is a college student. Otter assumes Bogwitch is an octogenarian.

When they finally meet face to face—after a rocky, shocking start—the unlikely pair of sunshine and stormy personalities grow tentatively closer. But Maggie’s previous relationships have left her bitter, and Aiden’s got a complicated past of his own.

Everything’s easier online. Can they make it work in real life?

Special Considerations Before Reading:

(Content Warning)

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"Maturely Delicious"

Self-Care Tags:


Comforting (and cozy)




Why I love it: 

Aiden and Maggie's characters are so realistic and the relationship they develop over the course of the book just oozes with quirky playfulness and genuine respect. I adore how they encourage one another to grow and ultimately find meaning​ful community that loves them for who they are, and enforce boundaries when needed around those who would devalue their authenticity. While there are certainly emotionally heavy plot points in the story, the wit and banter among all the guild members also always has me in stitches, offering a really lovely blend of levity and humor amid the challenges that are addressed.

How I see the book and/or the stories in it to support self care:​​

  • This book is like an onion when it comes to addressing the assumptions we make about others as well as the expectations others may have for us. Yardley handles this in a variety of ways including using assertive humor, compassionate education, heartfelt directness, impassioned self-advocacy, and willful dismissiveness. Seeing how her characters handle these moments serves as a reminder that there is no one "right way" to stand up for ourselves and others but rather we can decide which communication tool feels most appropriate given a particular situation.

  • The role Aiden has carried within his family is a variant I know very well from the many caregivers I have worked with over the years and it is really validating to see it depicted in it's complexity. Seeing how he navigates the relational challenges with those he cares about and grows to be able to speak his truth and disrupt destructive patterns is hope inspiring.

  • Seeing Otter and Bogwitch develop a genuine, supportive, trusting one-on-one friendship in-game gives a lot of validation to the different ways we can build community and experience meaningful connection. Even though they eventually evolve into having a relationship IRL, Maggie has another longstanding online friend "Macross Sagittarius" who she only knows from twitter and gets immense value from their connection. 

  • The entire conversation about relationships and sexuality in Chapter 23 beautifully illustrates how you don't have to be an expert on something to share knowledge and understanding that you have that could be impactful to someone's life.

  • Maggie's unapologetic reclamation of the cultural identity she felt stripped of in childhood felt so vital and empowering. Whether it was what she choose to cook or liked to wear, where she felt comfortable living, or how she wanted to be known by others, these choices were all expressions of her authentic self.

“Huh. Demi,” he said, testing the word out.

He felt a strange lightness in his chest.

He was going to go home and google the shit out of this stuff—asexual, allosexual, demisexual. The idea that there might be an explanation for something he’d always felt like a freak about was eye opening. The thought that he wasn’t alone in it was more comforting than he’d ever realized.


'If you can’t handle me in sweatpants, you don’t deserve me in stilettos," she said, each word ringing with finality.

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Where you can find it (besides your local independent bookstore)

Audiobook app that credits the local indie bookstore of your choice with purchases

Local library app that you can connect your card information to for audio and e-books (availability varieties based on branch and network)

Book Club app that lets you purchase e-books for interactive read-a-longs


Archived read-a-long available in

"Stories for Self-Care" book club.

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E-book download available through amazon

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Amazon subscription where select titles are available to borrow for free

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Audiobook app through Amazon

Cathy Yardley offers a free bonus chapter on her website, available here.

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