Tigers and Devils by Sean Kennedy

 Tigers and Devils by Sean Kennedy

Blurb:

Football, friends, and film are the most important parts of Simon Murray’s life, likely in that order. Despite being lonely, Simon is cautious about looking for more, and his best friends despair of him ever finding that special someone to share his life. Against his will, they drag him to a party, where Simon barges into a football conversation and ends up defending the honour of star forward Declan Tyler — unaware that the athlete is present and listening. 

Like his entire family, Simon revels in living in Melbourne, Victoria, the home of Australian Rules football and mecca for serious fans. There, players are deemed gods and treated as such – until they do something to cause them to fall out of public favour. Declan is suffering a horrendous year of injuries, and the public is taking him to task for it, so Simon’s support is a bright spot in his struggles. In that first awkward meeting, neither man has any idea they will change each other’s lives forever.

As Simon and Declan fumble toward building a relationship together, there is yet another obstacle in their way: keeping Declan’s homosexuality a secret amidst the intrusion of well-meaning friends and an increasingly suspicious media. They realise that nothing remains hidden forever… and they know the situation will only become more complicated when Declan’s private life is revealed. Declan will be forced to make some tough choices that may result in losing either the career he loves or the man he wants. And Simon has never been known to make things easy – for himself or for others

 


Review:

I really must live under my rock because it’s taken me this long to pull out and read Sean Kennedy’s Tigers and Devils. However, in this case I almost don’t mind as I’d skimmed reviews when deciding months and months ago enough to know it was generally well received but not enough to remember specifics on what reviewers commented on. So maybe you’ve heard this all before, but if you’re under my rock with me let me tell you this is a fabulous work of fiction, even romance fiction if you have to further subcategorize it but stop there. This book appeals on so many levels that it reminds me of the quality fiction I come to crave within m/m romance.

Now, why is this book so good you ask? Well there are so many places to start within a book that is nearly 400 pages of intricate problems, complex quagmires, loyal friendships, and complicated relationships all with a mixture of angst, comedy, and typical miscommunication. Throw in a celebrity athlete, the media, fans, and inherent problems within a gay relationship and there is so much going on in this book, the story easily could have been split over several much shorter books and still shone. However, put together as it was, the cohesive and well-written story delves into a variety of problems and issues while showing a reality often glossed over in romances for the sake of tired and overused created drama and tension. Here the author doesn’t need to add any unnecessary melodrama as there is enough within the characters and setting themselves.

The characters were wonderfully three-dimensional with hardly a wasted person in a rather large cast. From family members to co-workers and other athletes, each has a presence and a purpose without feeling thrown in or thrown away. Declan and Simon simultaneously turns stereotype clichés around with their portrayals and yet repeats classic miscommunication mistakes. Told in first person POV from Simon’s perspective, every character is seen through his unreliable perception. Simon is a wholly complex character with qualities that range from insecure, stubborn, introverted, emotional, bumbling, and sarcastic to loving, vulnerable, eloquent, charismatic, strong, capable, and rational. He is often prickly and guarded, preferring to handle his fears and problems internally and by himself than let even those he loves help him. This tendency of his to push people away is self-defeating yet those who see past his exterior realize the depth and worth of the man within, even if he’ll never be an easy man to be with.

On the other hand, Declan is seen as a calm influence that is at ease with his fame and although in the closet about his sexuality, once “outed” he settles rather easily into the new pattern of his life. Declan’s struggles come from his own frustrations and helplessness at problems created for Simon and their relationship by outside factors. He puts up with Simon’s paranoia and insecurity because of the love and devotion Simon offers without Simon even realizing it. If these two have problems, it lands squarely in the lack of communication and the tendency to ignore problems or let arguments slide without resolving the root issue. This causes more than a few downs in their uneven relationship, but their determination to not give up is refreshing when so many fights could easily have been the final blow for not only Simon and Declan, but Simon and Roger as well.

Which leads to the secondary characters of Fran and Rodger, also well rounded and thought out providing important contrast and reality to the story. As Simon’s best friends, their characterization is jaded by Simon’s view point and emotional response to various arguments and comments. Rodger especially is slightly polarizing with his repeated interfering and hurtful comments, but in misguided attempts to help colored by Rodger’s own confused feelings of losing his best friend yet wanting Simon to be happy. Fran and Rodger, as well as Lisa and Abe, are important characters to show the complex nature of friendship in both its ugliness and profound support. Not often are friendships given just as much weight and depth as the main relationship and undoubtedly in this story, each are equal and important.

Interestingly enough I found myself having opposite reactions of the book characters to Simon’s actions. When I thought he was being an unreasonable prick, his friends would simply laugh it off and bring him out of his shell, but when I thought he had a legitimate gripe and was genuinely hurt his friends would tell him he was being a prick and to get over it. This dichotomy definitely had me absorbed and showed the strength of using Simon’s point of view to connect quickly and easily to the reader on several levels. Simon’s personal progression as well as the growth of the relationship through the book was worthwhile for its length. Very rarely do romance stories follow a lengthy scope of a relationship beyond the initial declaration of love and not only was this an examination over years of their life, but the story never shied away from the difficult and painful aspects involved.

Dealing with a celebrity and the media is not always easy and the various positive and negative aspects are shown with clarity and very little need for embellishment. The easy invasion of privacy of an intensely introverted person is even more of a hardship than for someone who may think its fun for fifteen minutes of fame. Showing the strain and difficulties these cause on a relationship was a welcome fresh spin, even if the final drama and resolution was not quite to my taste. I felt the action needed to happen but the resolution felt too easy and off-page considering the amount of included action that had occurred within the story up to then.

The writing was solid and tight with wonderfully descriptive phrases and an authentic Australian dialogue. You don’t have to know about footy to understand the context and it’s absolutely charming either way. I am blessed (or cursed) with having an Aussie best friend who is a huge footy fan so the description at the beginning was a wonderfully real description of a sport taken very seriously down under. Allegiances are not to be lightly taken and the author is clearly a Richmond fan because really no one else would saddle the already beleaguered Simon with that team otherwise. The comedy woven throughout the book from sarcastic comebacks to witty self-deprecation is hilarious and keeps the book as a lighthearted and thoroughly enjoyable read.

If you haven’t read this book, you should. For anyone lamenting the quality of fiction, romance fiction or even m/m romance, you’ll be very thankful you picked this up. There are absolutely no explicit sex scenes with all the action as fade to black and it only enhances the novel’s appeal. This author has shot to my instant buy list with Tigers and Devils and I can’t wait to re-read this story already. One last mention – the cover. I thought the cover was wonderful, artful and fitting for the story. Perfect without the need to add naked men and simple, yet conveys the theme of the book to it’s benefit. Well done.

Get it HERE!


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