Tigers and Devils is the story of Simon Murray and Declan Tyler. Simon is the director of an independent film festival in Melbourne, Australia; he's also gay and is "out". Declan is a famous AFL football star -one of he best in the league- and definitely not "out". Their meeting is embarrassingly comical and sets the tone for the whole story: Simon has been dragged to a party by his childhood BFF, Roger Dayton, and Roger's wife, Fran. Simon is hiding out in a dark corner, listening to some strangers talk about AFL football, when he hears some disparaging comments about Declan Tyler's playing abilities. He stands up to defend Tyler and ends up couching it inside an insult, but of course he doesn't know Tyler is standing right behind him!
Tigers and Devils
Paperback: 376 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publish Date: March 9, 2009
From the author's website:
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.
What follows its the story of their relationship, the challenges Declan faces as a gay football player, the challenges Simon faces as not only his partner, but a non-famous person dating a well-known football star.
In a word: Amazing! I absolutely loved Tigers and Devils and can honestly say it is one of my favorite reads this year. I could not put this book down, Sean Kennedy's writing is so entertaining and the characters are so realistic that when I finished the book, I felt like friends had just moved away.
Simon's dry wit and sarcasm pulled me into the story immediately:
"Stereotypes are a killer," he said. "I mean, if I was to go on what you look like, I would say you're a typical arty wanker, what with your cargo pants, your Doc Martens and your all-black wardrobe."
"Ah, but I am an arty wanker," I replied. Rule one, always be self-deprecating and get in with insults about yourself before the other party can.
"Where's your beret?"
"That's for Sundays."
~Tigers and Devils, location 275
As the "arty wanker", you would think he would be the more open of the two, but you'd be wrong. Simon's gruff exterior hides his feelings of being hurt:
As he swiped us through the lobby with a security card, I wondered whether even without the secrecy built around our relationship, if we would feel comfortable with such a public display of affection. when it came down to it, I honestly did't think I would be. And I wasn't sure if it was fear or just the fact that I was reserved to begin with.
~Tigers and Devils, location 3029
Declan, on the other hand, while hiding his homosexuality from the public, is more accepting of his feelings and knows what he and Simon have is real and good:
"As long as I'm here in the morning," he yawned. "This was where I wanted to be all night, so that's why I came here."
There was a deliciously gooey feeling in my belly, damn it. "I'm flattered."
"I love you," he whispered.
~Tigers and Devils, location 5712
Simon and Declan were funny and stubborn and sweet and frustrating - they love each other and both want to protect the other from being hurt. There are misunderstandings and scandals and touching, heartwarming scenes. I loved every page of it. The sex scenes are light - not explicit at all, and I'd say they're a perfect fit for the story.
Not only did I adore Simon and Declan, their friends were amazing as well. Sometimes, when you're reading a story, you kind of skip over the friend parts - not so with Tigers and Devils. Roger and Fran were integral to the story and their support of Simon (and more than a few whacks on the head when he was being a stubborn idiot) was touching. Everyone needs BFFs like Roger and Fran. Declan's friend couple, Abe (a teammate) and Lisa were great. I enjoyed the scenes were Lisa takes Simon to the games.
I find that in general m/m stories are a bit short, but that was not the case with Tigers and Devils, as a matter of fact, I didn't want it to end. The length is necessary to cover how much time passes during the course of the story; this is not an "immediate attraction" story but could be a real relationship with all the ups and downs that can happen there. I like that the author didn't end with their getting together and fading to HEA - we got to see what happens after that, when things get rough and disagreements happen.
I cannot say enough how much I enjoyed Tigers and Devils. If you've never read m/m romance before then this would be a perfect book to start with. If you are a regular reader of m/m romance, you cannot miss Tigers and Devils, it's a must read!