Thursday, February 25, 2010

High Five, Low Five Review of Tigers and Devils by Sean Kennedy for the DIK Book Reading Challenge

Sean Kennedy
Tigers and Devils
Dreamspinner Press, March 2009
Genre & Keywords: Contemporary, M/M Romance, Sports, Coming Out, Film, Australia
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Heat level:
1 out of 3 flames

I’ve read this M/M romance for the DIK Challenge, it’s a full length novel and I bought it as an ebook (my pdf-file has 605 pages but the paperback about 360).
This is one of my High 5, Low 5 reviews. The High Five are five things that have impressed me or that I really enjoyed, and the Low Five are five things that had me shaking my head in a less admiring way.

Every once in a while you read a book that you don’t want to finish because you’re not ready yet to ‘live’ without the characters you’ve just learned to know and love. Tigers and Devils is such a book for me! The main characters Simon and Declan and almost all of the secondary characters as well, have become so dear to me while I was reading their story, that I just wanted to keep reading about them. Knowing at the same time that when I did do that, their story would come to an end… So I managed to slow down a little, but not much, and in the end I finished their story way too soon. Now all I have left is trying to convince others to read Tigers and Devils so that I can talk about Simon and Declan a little bit more with other people.
Back 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.

High 5

• Simon as the narrator
I love Sean Kennedy’s choice to voice this love story through Simon. He’s a brilliant narrator. I’m usually not a big fan of first person narratives, although I’m learning to appreciate them more and more after reading L.B. Gregg’s and Josh Lanyon’s stories. But in Tigers and Devils it’s really Simon’s voice that made me fall in love with the book (and with him as a side effect). He’s witty, funny, self mocking and perceptive in telling his and Declan’s love story. He knows he can be stubborn and a drama queen but he can’t help himself. He’s constantly commenting on his own narrative, like when he and Declan first kiss:

I was surprised that he tasted like beer, but at the good point, before it becomes stale and a little rank. I know I’m not exactly selling the romanticism here, but I was pleasantly thrilled by it at the time.
But most of all he had me laughing out loud all the time with very short intervals at times, like the next two quotes on the same page, not far apart from each other:

“So what are you going to wear?”
I looked at her, wondering if she thought I had suddenly grown a vagina in the past five minutes. “Clothes.”
She sighed. “Men.”
(Btw I think I would find this type of joke less amusing in a M/F romance then in this story)

And a few lines further down the page:

I pictured myself trying to be cool and debonair over coffee with Declan – and then falling comatose into my latte and drowning before him.
He was a footballer; he had quick reflexes. Hopefully his resuscitation skills would be just as good.

Simon is also the foot in his mouth kinda guy. That’s actually how he and Declan met and what Declan liked about him. At the party where they first ran into each other Simon is defending Declan’s honor as a football player in the same sentence in which he calls him an arrogant prick. He didn’t know Declan was listening of course. But later on in their relationship this type of honesty still occurs and causes a few more embarrassing moments. Luckily for Simon, Declan finds this all refreshing and cute.

• Great sub characters
I like a story in which the protags are not some lonesome cowboys but have a good supportive group of friends and/or family. And both Simon and Declan have wonderful friends. Especially Simon’s best friends Roger and Fran (Roger’s wife) are very well developed, three-dimensional characters. It was a joy to read about Simon and Roger’s little squabbles and bigger fights. And Fran is just a woman after my own heart, she is great: sweet, funny, loyal and honest. Roger and Fran have their counterparts in Declan’s friends Abe and Lisa. Not as three-dimensional as Roger and Fran, because we only get Simon’s POV and not Declan’s, but as important to Declan.

• Declan’s attitude as outed gay footballer
Declan is a famous football player and as such has to deal with a lot of publicity. Media are hunting him down and eventually it’s a journalist who outs him as being gay. He stayed in the closet for a long time because of his profession and he also wants to keep his relation with Simon a secret. They manage to do that for a long time, until Declan lets his guards down when his father is hospitalized and looks for consolation from Simon, in a semi-public space. But after he’s outed, he gracefully accepts this fact, makes a public statement and doesn’t hide his sexuality any longer. Where Simon stays careful with public display of affection, Declan is way more carefree. He’s acting like a freed and proud man and never wants to hide in the closet again. I found him refreshing because of this attitude. It would have been so easy for Sean Kennedy to build some story tension with a different attitude from Declan, but the author didn’t chose for this simple way. He derived some tension from another issue between the guys. I loved Declan for his cool, controlled passion. And in between he came across as a funny guy as well. For example, when Simon tells him after a public kiss that he should be more careful, Declan responds with:

“Oh.” Declan clicked his fingers sarcastically. “I didn’t know, because I wasn’t given the queer handbook when I came out. Is there a number I can call to get one sent to me?”
“It’s like cats and hunting. It’s intuitive.”
“So you’re saying I’m a lousy cat?”

• The football rave
This book wouldn’t be the same without the love for football. It plays an important role in Simon’s life even before Declan starts to become part of it. Simon and Roger are huge fans of two different football teams, which causes some friendly rivalry between them. At one point it becomes an important symbol for their relationship when Roger shows up at a game without his infamous team scarf. Simon understands why and tells him to be proud of his team and buys him a new scarf, which is a big deal because even to have to touch the rival team's scarf is unthinkable. But for his friend he’s willing to bring this sacrifice.
The title of the book refers to the passion for football as well. Simon is a fan of the Tigers and Declan plays for the Devils.

• Beyond the HEA
I was pleasantly surprised that this story didn’t end at the point that most love stories end but took us a little bit further into the relationship. And there was some tension added in that part that made my heart wrench for those two fabulous guys. The book is structured like a football match in 4 quarters (I don’t know anything about Australian football, so I had no idea that there would be a fourth part, but I could tell by the amount of pages left that the story wasn’t at its end by far). The extra ‘playtime’ provided a good insight in their relationship which came across as very realistic, with ups and downs.

Low 5

• The love scenes
I can’t find more than one thing that I can call a Low, because there actually weren’t many in this book that are worth mentioning. If I have to name one - but it didn’t even make me shake my head or raise my eyebrows - it is that the love scenes were a bit tame and not very present. I wouldn’t have minded if the sex had been a wee bit hotter.

Those were my five highs and one low. I guess it’s obvious that I totally loved Tigers and Devils! It was a fabulous read, a heartwarming love story and an ode to friendship and football. I completely fell in love with Simon and developed a little crush on Declan too. This story gives an excellent impression of a gay relationship that has to deal with publicity, media and fame. And shows how it can be to come out of the closet, deal with a new way of public life and handle the communication with your partner in the midst of all this. Tigers and Devils made my Favorites of 2010 list for sure.

BTW There's a free story at Sean Kennedy's website that features Simon and Declan in the Tigers and Devils setting. Thanks Chris for mentioning that!


  1. I just finished this last night. OMG..I'm still thinking about it! SO GOOD!!! Thanks to you and Jenre for rec'ing it to me!

    I totally agree with ur entire review but especially with Declan and his gracefulness. I was so glad his outing didn't cause massive tension..what a nice change.

    Fran and Roger were excellent characters.

    I too wish the love scenes would have been more explicit, but overall I have no complaints.

  2. Janna, girl, you've sold me on this book!! I feel that this is the kind of romance I can sink my teeth in and be completely satisfied with and the humor from teh quotes already!! I'm off to the virtual store that sells this book!!

  3. Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did!!! And you've reminded me that I have Dash & Dingo (by Sean Kennedy & Catt Ford) on my reader. Maybe I need to try another historical... Hmm.

  4. I love this book! It was my favourite contemporary for 2009 and I keep pimping it as much as possible all over the place when I can :).

    So happy you loved it too Janna.

  5. Wonderful review. I LOVED this story, it was one of my two top favorites last year. I'm so glad you loved it as well.

    Sean's other story, Dash and Dingo, co-written with Catt Ford was also very nice. Not as fabulous as this one but with much hotter sex scenes. ;D

  6. I too loved this book. Holy hell, the blog is populated by parrots. LOL But it's hard not to love it. It's perfect and I think is ideal for someone who's a bit nervous about the genre because it doesn't have many explicit love scenes, it focusses more on the emotional than the physical so can be a good starting place for some readers.

    Chris: You must try Dash and Dingo. While it's historical a lot of their time is spent in the bush alone and it could very well take place now as when it did. It's not got that historical feel to it that I dislike and of course Australia during the time it's set is very different than Europe was at the time. Do eeeeet!

  7. Okay I admit I dig the smutty man love scenes which was a bit lacking in Tigers and Devils. But I read Jenre interview with Sean Kennedy and he said that it didn't fit the story to go in that direction. I kind of agree although my dirty half really wanted more smut. Overall this was a really heartwarming read.

  8. @Mandi: I'm so happy that you loved this book too! I told you it had your name written all over it and then I got a little nervous when you bought it right away, lol. But now I'm glad I rec'ed it to you so we can share our love for this fabulous, wonderful book :)

    You're right that Declan's outing not causing a tension was a nice change. I haven't read many books in which it was like this. I think only in The One That Got Away by Urban & Aile (which I can rec as well ;))

  9. @leontine: I really think this is a book for you, you'll love it! Can't wait until you've read it and hear your thoughts :)

  10. @Chris: Yes and thank you so much for recommending it to me, although I already had it on my ereader, you made me push it up the tbr pile ;)
    You and historicals is the same as me and first POV's, it's not my favorite either but some are really good and worth it!
    I look forward to your thoughts on D&D :)

  11. @Jenre: I went over to GoodReads just now and read your review :). I didn't want to read any reviews before I wrote mine, because I didn't want them to take away my enjoyment or make me put something negative in my review (how objective is that *g*)! Your review wouldn't have, lol! You love it as much as I do :)
    And you have found yourself a pimp sistah! I will do that as much as I can as well.

  12. @Lily: Thanks! You can't say "one of my two top favorites last year" and not mention the other one, hon! Please tell me :)

    Okay, you've sold me for Dash & Dingo too with the mentioning of the much hotter sex scenes! Even if it's only half as good as T&D it still will be worth the read :)

  13. Nice review!
    I actually think I could enjoy this one, and perhaps it wo9ulöd be good that the love scenes were tame since I still am a MM virgin

  14. @Tam: Lol! Yeah, it's hard not to love this book. I saw on Goodreads a one star rating though O_o. Can you believe it?

    I agree that T&D is a good book for newbies to the genre. Although I missed some of the hotness, the sex scenes are perfect for the new-and-nervous m/m readers :)

    I really have to get me D&D. Another thing I liked about T&D was the Australian setting (although not too prominent present) .

  15. @KC: Yep, I have the same smutty half ;) but I can understand that it wasn't fitting the story. I have to find Jenre's interview, haven't seen that yet!

  16. @Blodeuedd: Thanks hon! And I really think this is perfect for you, if you're ready to give up your m/m virginity! Give it a try, sweetie :)

  17. Janna, my other favorite book of 2009 is Kelland by Paul G. Bens Jr. It's not a m/m romance although there are gay characters and relationships in the book. It's a combination of horror, mystery and suspense and it really blew me away. I loved it.

    If you'd like to know more check out my review HERE.

  18. Thanks for the title and link, Lily! I've read your wonderful review, but the mentioning of horror is making me doubt if this is a book for me :) Your review tempts me though...

  19. Well, what Tam commented about D&D not having that historical feel to it does a lot for me wanting to read it. That was helpful for me when reading Seducing Stephen recently - I didn't feel like I either needed to have a history degree to read it, or was going to qualify one as a result of having read it.

  20. That was helping me too, Chris :)
    Which reminds me to buy Seducing Stephen as well...

  21. It's not monsters killing people type of horror. More along the lines of the evil inside some people.

  22. I have this, now I need to read it. It's next on my list. :) Um...I hope.

    Yeah...I'm a little nervous, I just saw what you're reading now. *gulp* lol

  23. Sean is a terrific writer and this is my fave story of his. :)

    @Blodeuedd: My Mumma read this as her first m/m romance; one of the reasons being because most of the sex happens off page. She loved it. I would definitely recommend it to any m/m virgins out there.

  24. @Chris: I downloaded Dash and Dingo :) Couldn't help myself.

  25. @Janna: LOL! I actually just started My Fair Captain, which is one of my m/m rut challenge books...

  26. @Jambrea: Don't postpone reading it any longer, you're gonna love it!

    LOL, don't worry about Mag :) He's doing fine! I think he's hot!! I've almost finished the book and I like it. Can't wait to see how it's going to end :)

  27. @Chris: Oh I think I have that waiting on my ereader as well :D Isn't that the scifi regency novel (whatever that is ;)) with the infamous piercing?

  28. @Kris: I agree!! Can't say yet if this is my most favorite story of his because it's the only one I've read so far. But that's going to change soon :D

    I would definitely recommend it to any m/m virgins out there.

    And to everyone else! I'm so going to pimp T&D :)

  29. What everyone else said...

    This is a must read book and I agree with all your points...


  30. @EH: Yeah, we are an agreeing bunch on this book :)

  31. *claps hands*

    Oh I'm so glad you loved it! It's such a great story and Kennedy did an incredible job bringing the characters to life on the page. I agree that I didn't want the book to end. I needed more Declan and Simon!

    I have Dash and Dingo as well Chris and need to read it!

    Great review Janna!

  32. @Tracy: *grin* I agree, it feels like Simon is this real person I can call or email when I want to :) The author did a great job bringing him and the others to life!
    Thanks :)


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