Cover Image: Role Playing

Role Playing

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Member Reviews

Role Playing by Cathy Yardley is a different take on a traditional romance book. The fact that the two leads are middle-aged nerds made this quite the refreshing read. This book was a little slow for me but I loved Maggie and Aiden. They didn't meet until almost halfway through the book and this is what made it seem slow for me.

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Just finished my second reading of this wonderful book. I’m glad I went back for a second read (something I rarely do). When I read an ebook, I feel like the small page/few words affects my enjoyment (compared to either a print book or an audiobook). I really enjoyed meeting Aidan and Maggie and Kit again, and sure wish they were real and lived next door. I’m a person close to Maggie’s generation in age, and I can’t say enough about how I feel represented here. Maggie and Aidan’s story makes me hopeful, not only for my future but for the diversity/inclusion growing in the world in general. Ms. Yardley has written a story that has such emotionally believable detail. And the opening “meet-cute” part of the story is one of the best ever.

Full disclosure: I was gifted an ARC and requested to write a review.

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Maggie joins an online gaming guild to cope when her son goes off to college. While she presents herself as a grumpy introvert, Maggie finds herself quickly bonding with this new virtual community, especially the leader who goes by the name Otter.

Role Playing is a diverse, contemporary romance full of diverse representation. This book is open-door. The author does a fantastic job using dialogue between the characters to explain certain concepts that may not be familiar to some readers regarding types of sexuality. This book has some of the most open and direct discussions on this topic that I’ve come across in a romance novel. I also appreciate that the author does not gloss over the real possibilities of dealing with difficult and unsupportive families.

I loved Maggie from the very beginning of the book and found her to be extremely relatable. It’s an emotional thing to watch characters who are both so different but also the same trying to figure out life all over again at 50ish. The personal journeys in Role Playing are just as substantial and important and its romantic storyline.

I highly recommend the audiobook. Elyse Dinh fully embodies the character of Maggie and really brinks out her delightful snark and no-nonsense attitude. Chris Brinkley was a surprising but welcome choice for Aiden. Both narrators did an excellent job bringing all of the characters to life.

Cathy Yardley is an exceptional writer. I’ve enjoyed her YA books and hope to see more adult fiction from her in the future.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to NetGalley and Montlake!

I did purchase copies of the paperback and audiobook on my own.

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Maggie is a 48 year old single mother, whose kid has just gone off to college, and being an empty nester has turned her into even more of a hermit. She has always struggled with social anxiety and ever since her divorce 5 years ago she has no tolerance for crappy people in her life. She makes a deal with her kid to be more social, which leads her to joining an online gaming guild where she meets Aiden. Aiden is 50 years old, and has worked as a nurse and with the elderly for decades. He moved back to his hometown to take care of both his parents. They both assume they are very different ages based on their online communication and when they meet in person and realize they are similar ages, and have a lot in common. Can they build something despite past traumas that really affect the way they approach personal relationships.

The author knocked this one out of the park. I have never read a Gen X romance, and this was such a beautiful one to start with. Both characters were so real and flawed, and the way they built something between them was very beautiful. The representation throughout this book was great and so impactful. Most of the side characters really sucked as people and yet i could not stop reading. The only thing that didn't completely work for me was the 3rd act conflict but it was not a deal breaker. Thus I had a fantastically fun time over all and continue to look forward to future projects from this author

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I honestly wanted to love this, and whilst there were some truly amazing moments throughout, ultimately, I was a little disappointed.

I expected a romcom, but this included so many heavy topics, things I tend to read books to escape.

It wasn't a feel good book for me, I actually just felt incredibly anxious and sad for the main characters, and that's not something I enjoy in romance.

It also felt like the romance was secondary to the overall plot, which was downright depressing - and I'm just not sure that it worked. The side characters took over too often and too much.

The writing overall was great though, and I loved the geeky gamer characters, who finally found their person later on in life.

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4.5 stars — I kind of avoided this book b/c I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to my expectations, but the funny thing is that my expectations were kind of wrong in some ways, and it took me to places I wasn’t expecting but that seriously delighted me. So the lesson is: stop procrastinating out of fear, you might be missing something amazing.

I was a bit wary of Maggie at the start. While I enjoy grumpy/sunshine stories, occasionally the grump just baffles me. And initially I found Maggie to be almost over the top leaning on the introvert label, not sure if that makes sense. She really, truly, is anti-social, but as the story goes on you get glimpses of why she is the way she is, from her childhood upbringing to her disastrous marriage. While I will admit I kind of still wanted to learn more, I was given enough to have an idea of how those things impacted her, and how she was at a place in her life where she’d just gone full hermit. One thing I loved about Maggie is that she wasn’t perfect by any means — and specifically she wasn’t some super mom. Even at 48, she was still worrying over how she did with Kit (partially because of wounds from the ex). Which is kind of refreshing. But what we did see was that she truly wanted what was best for him, and she loved him…she was just also human and had some damage. Through her budding friendship (and more) with Aiden, we get to see the softness under her hard shell, and fell in love with her at the same time he did. She was snarky and bold, as well as caring and vulnerable.

And given I wrote a novel of a paragraph on Maggie, I bet it’ll be hard to believe that it was Aiden who truly impacted me the most in this story. He was so sweet, and caring, but had gotten used to being a bit of a doormat. He had so much he was struggling with, not the least of which was his relationship with his mom as her primary caregiver. That honestly broke my heart. His family just…was a bit of a nightmare situation when you got down to it. But it really showed how hard it can be to cut out toxic people from your life and not buy into their bullshit.

But it was his discovery (through the help of Maggie) of the ace spectrum that really hit home for me. There were so many moments where I just felt seen. I LOVED seeing the representation, and I ache for all the other aces out there who don’t even know about the spectrum, and that they’re not broken. Both the ace rep and the bisexuality rep (including his struggle with bi-erasure and all that comes with that particular brand of homophobia) were just refreshing to read about.

I adored the development of their friendship, the misunderstandings, the way things grew as they met IRL…it all just felt so real and satisfying. And the jump to more was perfect.

Lots of great nerdiness in this one, even if it isn’t my particular brand of nerdiness.

So yeah. I love it when a book hits in ways you didn’t expect.

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Rating: 3/5⭐️

Publication Date: July 1st 2023

Author: Cathy Yardley

Review: I have to say I don’t think Iv ever read a book where the main characters were in a more mature role (50’s). I feel like that’s kind of unheard of in romance so that make the book stand out. But then it started to because kind of typical , nobody has anything figured out, no supporting family. Don’t get me wrong it’s definitely readable and enjoyable I just wanted something more to occur.

Thank you netgalley and Montlake for the eARC in exchange for an honest review #NetGalley #bookstagram #kindle #kindleedition #eread

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DNF @ 25%.

Unfortunately, this book was not for me. I appreciate the author writing a romance with more mature leads (48 & 50) who don't necessarily have their lives fully together. But I have a really hard time with unsupportive families, and in talking with my friends I found out how toxic Aiden's family is, I just can't finish it. As an ARC reader, this could have used some trigger warnings and I wouldn't have picked it up.

I'm giving it 3 stars because the writing is good and the topics will definitely interest other readers. To me, a 2 star book is one I really don't like as opposed to one that I have a tough time reading due to elements that I avoid.

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Thanks to Montlake, Netgalley and the author for an ARC of this book. I am leaving this unbiased review voluntarily.

I can honestly say that I have never read a book like this. First of all, the main characters are Gen X, and I have found it hard to find romance novels that feature people my age, which was really refreshing. Also, the book explores all kinds of challenges that people my age feel - sometimes it's easy to get left behind and misunderstood in a world that has changed so rapidly. Yes, we have been swept up by the 'woke' people and know more about ourselves and others, but at the same time, we are dealing with the expectations of our parents.

It's also wonderful to see sexuality in its different forms, but I don't want to ruin the story for you so I won't say more.

i read this book in one sitting and thoroughly enjoyed the characters and the writing style.

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I was excited to read a romance where both MCs were over 30 - I feel like I haven't read many of these and being over 30 now, figured it would be fun and easy to relate to. This book gave me a good few giggles - the MCs met on a game online and he thought she was SUPER OLD and she thought he was SUPER YOUNG so when they first meet, it was hilarious when they turned out to be the same age. The couple in this book to me was the best part - I love that they met while gaming, love that Maggie is introverted but being around Aiden doesn't deplete her social battery and it's just so easy for them to be together. They are there for each other, support each other and respect each other's boundaries. I love how she supports the fact he is bi and demi sexual because his family sure doesn't.

My heart goes out to Aiden, I can't believe he endured his family demonizing him for so long. If I could tell you how bad I wanted to yeet some of these characters... They are the worst humans. His mother is a hateful bigot and racist - at first, the racism was subtle towards Maggie until it really wasn't. And his ex/soon-to-be sister in law... made me angry beyond belief for victimizing herself and blaming him/roasting him when he didn't do anything wrong. If I were his brother, I would've dropped her like a hot potato.

Ultimately, the way characters acted in this book made me really mad but I do have to say that it is saying something that the author dragged out that much emotion from me - my heart honestly ached for Aiden and I'm so happy that he found someone he could be himself with and who loves him for him. More importantly, I am so so appreciative of the fact there is no reconciliation in this book; Aiden's family is toxic (his brother could be redeemable... maybe) and I'm happy that Aiden walked away and focused on his HEA with Maggie.

Content warnings: homophobia, outing, emotional abuse, bullying, death of a parent, racism.

Thank you to Montlake, Cathy Yardley and Netgalley for the ARC for review. All opinions are my own.

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By Cathy Yardley

Role Playing is a fun and romantic read - I am totally enamored by Aiden and Maggie - both of whom are mature characters closer to my age, so I found the themes and topics that are quite relatable. I found this cozy slow burn romance beautifully written found in cyberspace.

Wonderful book!

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There is so much that I loved about this book. I love that Aidan and Maggie were 50 and 48 respectively. I loved how they actually met through online gaming without knowing each other’s identities and having the wrong thought about what each other’s ages were. But most of all what I loved was the way this relationship progressed was realistic and heartwarming, as well as showing different complicated emotions of both parties. The journey had to take to find love wasn’t easy, but it was entertaining to read.

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I liked this one a lot, but wanted to love it more

What I liked -
Familiar setting of Eastern WA (and an author who knew enough about the area to not try to say it rains constantly)
MCs close to my age - They were a little older and geekier than me, but not so much that they weren’t still relatable
Demi-bi representation

What kept me from loving it -
I *hated* the majority of the side characters with the passion of a million burning suns. Which - okay - you aren’t supposed to like them. They are legit garbage people and purposely written that way. But it felt like I spent so much time being annoyed/furious on behalf of the MCs it was hard to fully enjoy their story. And they deserved it, because they were lovely.
This might be a “me problem” though. I also have a hard time with bully romances, even those that are popular, so ymmv (and that’s why I’m not rating too harshly)

Thank you to NetGalley and Montlake for the ARC

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An absolutely adorable dive into romance again, I really liked the setup and execution on this one. It took me a minute to get to it, but I can't wait to send people its way. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for time with the ARC.

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Heat Factor: It’s a satisfying slow burn

Character Chemistry: My poor heart just could not take the sincere sweetness of these two

Plot: Maggie is a cranky, introverted, divorcee whose son has just departed for college. Aiden is a gentle, giving family man who has sacrificed huge parts of who he is to be who his family wants him to be. Together they are…adorable and confused.

Overall: This book was absolutely incredible, both because of how complex and relatable the characters are and also because of how deeply satisfying all the many little resolutions were.

First of all, welcome to a book about two characters who are over 45. Let me tell you, it was a true joy seeing a book with older characters who WEREN’T acting like they were decrepit and scared.

But I’m getting ahead of myself–in this absolute charmer of a book we have Maggie, whose whole life has been upended by her son’s departure for college. Her ex-husband pretty much left her with her son when he decided her son wasn’t “masculine” enough for him–which resulted in a strong, happy, healthy relationship between her and her son…but also meant that she spent all her time focused on Kit and very little on herself, and as a raging introvert, Kit has very real worries that Maggie is withering away at home by herself.

Aiden is taking care of his (horrible) elderly mother. In the beginning of the book it’s pretty difficult to understand why Aiden has sacrificed EVERYTHING for his parents. When his father was diagnosed with cancer, Aiden sold his part of an elder care company he founded and moved home to care for his father. After his father died and it became abundantly clear that his mother was declining, Aiden continued to stay on in an attempt to convince his mother (and useless brother and awful sister-in-law) to take some proactive steps to care for her future…only to be verbally assaulted and used at every turn.

Then Maggie joins Aiden’s online gaming guild and the two of them hit it off–anonymously and with avatars, of course. When they finally meet in person and realize Maggie’s not 80 and Aiden isn’t 21, the two of them become best friends. And that’s where it starts to get interesting. (Really, it’s not even a euphemism!!)

This book is amazing for several reasons–one, I loved that it deals with mature characters who are complicated and utterly relatable. Both Maggie and Aiden are introverts who are struggling to find a place in the small town they’ve ended up in. While Maggie knows EXACTLY who she is and doesn’t particularly care what anyone thinks about her, Aiden has survived by being whoever his loved ones want him to be, in a really quiet and deeply sad way. It just flat out made sense–you get through the nutty 20’s, child-rearing and career absorbed 30’s, and into your 40’s and some of these things just haven’t gotten sorted out yet. I liked that Maggie never had to soften or loosen. I loved that Aiden not only enjoyed her the way she was, but appreciated the ways her honey badger ways made his life better.

I also loved the representation in this book, and how it felt seamless and comfortable. Aiden is bi and demisexual (honestly, I’ve really tried to understand demisexuality before with mediocre success and Maggie made it make sense in two paragraphs) and I have to be honest, I LOVED the way this played out on the page. It was deeply satisfying to have Maggie calmly and clearly accept and support Aiden with examining who he is, and it was also just…exceptionally satisfying to watch Maggie and Aiden fiercely advocate for Aiden being Aiden. Like, when I say that the way it played out was as satisfying as the two of them finally sealing the deal, I’m not lying. Watching people be who they are (with ferocious cheerleaders!) is the best. And watching them fall in love…that’s even better.

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

This review is also available at The Smut Report

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This small town, slow burn romance between two middle-aged introverts who "meet" while gaming is the book I didn't know I needed. She's 48, divorced and grumpy. He's 50 and the kindest foil to her antisocial hedgehog self. They slowly get to know one another while gaming, then texting and finally have a humorous in person meet-up. Their online friendship becomes one in real life and eventually blossoms into a love neither was expecting. They are mature people who come to one another with baggage but who communicate openly and honestly to work through it all. I applaud this book for its representation of not only Get X aged characters but social anxiety, demi /bisexualty, and other life issues.
The only reason this book isn't a 5 star read for me is the abundance of toxic side characters. Their actions and storylines dominated the end of the book and took away from the basking in the joy of this newly minted couple.

Thank you Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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“If you can’t handle me in sweatpants, you don’t deserve me in stilettos.”

Maggie is a middle aged, self proclaimed introvert. Suffering from a case of empty nest syndrome since her only son has gone off to college, she’s taken refuge in the world of online gaming, one place where she can truly be herself.

Aiden, meanwhile, is a 50 year old man who’s never been married. Taking care of his aging mother, and avoiding interacting with his brother and ex fiancée take up most of his time, the rest enjoying the escapism the gaming world provides.

One day, Maggie and her son make a bet- each challenging the other to branch out of their self imposed comfort zones. That’s how Maggie ends up stumbling upon a connection to join an online guild of gamers. The players, led by the friendly Otter aka Aiden, are more than welcoming to Bogwitch, Maggie’s online alter ego. Bogwitch and Otter hit it off instantly, each feeling awkward about the connection, each also assuming things about the other without any real proof.

So when Maggie and Aiden meet IRL they are shocked to find they are in the same age group, and living slightly similar circumstances. Before long, their love for gaming spills over into real life friendship. But if either catches feelings and the friendship blossoms into something more, would that mean it’s game over?

Amazingly, Role Playing is the first book I’ve read by @cathyyardley. I found this story to be refreshing as it followed two “seasoned” individuals rather than the majority of love stories that focus on younger characters. Then there’s the frank discussion of sexual identity, and how one can find more about themselves at any age.

The bulk of the side characters were deplorable people though. (I’m mainly looking at you, Aiden’s mom and ex fiancée.) Yardley kept it real throughout though, not making any of these characters change too much for the sake of the sought after HEA. That being said, I would have wanted a little more out of how things all shook out peripherally stated in the epilogue.

Despite these minor glitches, Role Playing is still a GG in the end.

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Meet Maggie. Maggie is a divorced, single mom who works from home and recently her son left for college. Her hermit-likeness is strange to those around her who don’t understand her. She is socially awkward and trying to get herself out of the comfort zone, especially since Kit left. When she’s given the idea to join a video game guild to “meet” people, she finds herself able to relax and actually be herself with them.

Enter Aiden. Aiden has grown up to be exactly what his parents would never want him to be. He’s a nurse, he’s not married, and he’s trying to help his mom out since his dad died. Awful, right? When he has a bit of down time when the nosy neighbor isn’t overstepping to get him out of his shell, he plays an online guild.

The slow burn for these 2 mature, Gen X MC’s who have battles of their own to overcome, and find solace in each other, is unreal.

This is the second book of this nature (Gen X) and it did not disappoint. The obstacles that Maggie and Aiden have to overcome separately and how they use the strength of each other to build their lives together is so special. Their dynamic is a hit and I need to read more like this. Aiden is a teddy bear and Maggie, although she’s told to be grumpy like a troll, she’s really inspiring for how blunt and open she is given most situations. I identified with Aiden a lot due to him being demisexual and never truly understanding his sexuality until Maggie. And with Maggie, she is such a spitfire, but she opens herself up for Aiden and she finally lives her life, again, she’s inspiring.

You will find:
🎮 Gen X romance
🎮 online friends to lovers
🎮 miscommunication trope done right
🎮 self identity
🎮 grumpy x sunshine
🎮 family obstacles
🎮 some kickback from a parent
🎮 AAPI representation

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This is now the second Cathy Yardley book I’ve read and I really have to make time in my reading schedule to dive into her backlist. Her voice is sharp and funny and I love how she writes her MCs and the way her characters communicate like adults, no game playing. Well, no mind games, at the very least. Her author’s voice really works for me and this book just hits perfectly on every note.

First of all, rare is the romance that features MCs in their 40s and 50s. Here, Maggie is a 48-year-old divorced single mom, her kid just gone off to college, at loose ends and basically hibernating from the outside world. I adored Maggie in all her grumpy, cantankerous glory. Maggie takes no crap, gives no fucks, and five years out of a toxic marriage to a husband who by all counts, sounded like a misogynistic prick, she is living her life for herself, on her own terms. Men and dating are off the table.

Aiden, a retired nurse turned full-time caregiver to his mother, is 50. He’s never married and is resigned to a life where he gives and gives and gives to his family, without expecting anything in return. His family is legitimately awful, with his hypercritical mother, an absent brother who doesn’t want to deal with any of it, oh, and his brother also happens to be married to Aiden’s ex-fiancée who chooses to blame Aiden for the demise of their relationship.

Both Maggie and Aiden happen to be gamers and meet online, playing online video games and after an initial confusion about their identities, finally meet. Much of the book is very slow burn and while the two develop a close online relationship, they don’t actually meet face to face until about the 40% mark. From there, their friendship deepens, with Aiden relying on Maggie’s help to get around when he fractures his foot, which leads to them spending more and more time together.

However, Maggie has sworn off men and relationships and Aiden has a lot of family drama to contend with. So, it’s reasonable that these two people can totally just maintain a platonic relationship and not let romantic feelings get in the way! I kid. Obviously, their friendship leads to a slow burning (verrrry slow burning) romance. I think the reason the slow burn in this book works so well is because both Aiden and Maggie are older, they have lived a life full of experiences and heartbreak and grief. They understand the cost of impulsively jumping into things. Also, they’re both at a point in their life where they each know who they are and refuse to settle for people who won’t accept them exactly as they are.

This book employs several tropes and micro-tropes that I love. First of all, this is a classic grumpy/sunshine romance: Maggie is the eternal grump, swears like a sailor, and is unapologetically, authentically herself. What you see is what you get, take it or leave it. (Maggie would urge everyone to leave it, to be perfectly honest, she doesn’t mind being alone, hates social situations where she has to make awkward small talk with near strangers, and would genuinely rather hide out in the guest room with the dog than mingle with the other guests). Aiden for his part, isn’t so much a sunshine hero as he is calm and even-keeled, always willing to shoulder the blame for things that are nowhere near to being his fault, inherently kind and compassionate. I would describe him as more good-natured than perpetually cheerful.

Secondly, in the latter part of the book, there is a scene when the two attend a wedding that plays into a particularly favorite micro trope of mine. This is when one of the MCs goes into absolute feral beast mode to protect the love interest from being hurt by someone. In this case, it’s Maggie going full-on scorched earth to stand up for Aiden in a scene that is so full of righteous fury and indignation, I literally startled my puppy awake by clapping with glee.

I should also add that Aiden is bisexual and in a frank discussion with Maggie, it is revealed that he is also demisexual, meaning that he only feels sexual attraction with people he has formed a strong emotional bond with. It is a revelation even to Aiden who has lived much of his life hiding who he is because of his awful family and his previous two relationships, both of which ended badly.

There are a lot of heavy themes in this book, from difficult family relationships to caregiving for an ailing parent to a toxic marriage but all of that is balanced beautifully by the slow growing relationship between Maggie and Aiden. These are two people who have mostly given up on the idea of romantic relationships and watching them slowly fall for each other and grapple with the idea of being emotionally vulnerable and laying it all out is so incredibly sweet to see unfold.

I will also add that the book isn’t heavy on steam, there are basically two sexy times scenes, the first is slightly more graphic than the second one which is very vague. But they are also incredibly charming, with two people finding so much joy in expressing their feelings for each other with their bodies. It’s sexy in its own way and sweetly funny and tender.

I absolutely adored this book, adored watching these two fall in love, the way they communicated so directly with each other but also took such care of each other, and found in each other a sense of safety and comfort and belonging, and above all else, unconditional love and acceptance.

Content Notes: toxic family, toxic past marriage, toxic past relationships, queerphobia, nonconsensual outing, disowned by family;

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Maggie's son has just gone off to college and shes worried that he's being antisocial like herself. So she makes a deal with him. If she does something social he needs to also. She finds an online guild for a video game. She makes friends with the guild leader Otter aka Aiden.
Omg I loved this book. Maggie is the perfect bogwitch. Grumpy but protective just like a mama bear. I totally related to her. I love that she stood up to the haters. I'm a total gamer so I understood all the jargon. I loved that it was LGBTQia friendly.

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