Tigers and Devils by Sean Kennedy
My old rating: 5 of 5 stars
My new rating would be: 3.5-4 out of 5 stars
DSP is a black hole for audiobooks. I just can’t seem to stop listening to them. It’s a nice way to revisit old favorites and I’m taking full advantage. On that quest when I saw Sean Kennedy’s fantastic T&D on audio I wasted no time getting it. It’s interesting that in the 5 years or so since I had read it my tastes have somewhat changed. Not entirely and SK is a great author but I found myself less forgiving of the main narrator this time around. You can read my full review below but here are some updated thoughts about the audiobook and re-read.
The narrator should have been Australian. Since Australia is basically a main character of the book I was disappointed the narrator was so generic. He does a good job but he makes Australia sound like some alien world he has no connection to, which is kind of unfortunate. Beyond that the story is just as engaging though it hit some of my dislike buttons hard. This time around I found Simon really annoying. He’s so insecure, petulant, and off putting that I kept asking myself why Declan put up with him. I still appreciated that the book showed 2 years of a relationship with both the highs and lows but I had a hard time getting them as a couple. I didn’t understand what Declan saw in Simon, especially since the narrator (Simon) kept asking the same question. Simon is so prickly, needy, and truthfully a wanker that it was hard to sympathize with him on occasion. I also struggled with Rodger and Fran’s alienation during the fight between Simon and Rodger as I was firmly on Simon’s side, but friendships do have ups and downs as well.
I almost quit listening a couple of times when Simon’s behavior made me want to drop kick him into the river never to be found. He’s so melodramatic and over the top that I wanted someone to tell him to calm down. He’d be an incredibly difficult person to live with and be in a relationship with, yet, I also felt as if he got shafted near the end with the big miscommunication. It seemed out of character for both men and frankly I was wondering how much rejection Simon was supposed to take from Declan and still keep trying. They do make up of course but the story shows very little of this before ending and I’d have liked to see them solidly happy again.
Overall it’s a good book, still an entertaining and engaging story but I didn’t “omg love” it like I did on first read. This is why I’m so hesitant to re-read favorites but that said, I’d still recommend it even now.
Old review but still valid!
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.