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REVIEW: Tigers and Devils by Sean Kennedy


The most important things in Simon Murray’s life are football, friends, and film—in that order. His friends despair of him ever meeting someone, but despite his loneliness, Simon is cautious about looking for more. Then his best friends drag him to a party, where he barges into a football conversation and ends up defending the honour of star forward Declan Tyler—unaware that the athlete is present. In that first awkward meeting, neither man has any idea they will change each other’s lives forever.

Like his entire family, Simon revels in living in Melbourne, the home of Australian Rules football and mecca for serious fans. There, players are treated like gods—until they do something to fall out of public favour. This year, the public is taking Declan to task for suffering injuries outside his control, so Simon’s support is a bright spot.

But as Simon and Declan fumble toward a relationship, keeping Declan’s homosexuality a secret from well-meaning friends and an increasingly suspicious media becomes difficult. Nothing can stay hidden forever. Soon Declan will have to choose between the career he loves and the man he wants, and Simon has never been known to make things easy—for himself or for others.

I listened to the audiobook and I thought it was a such missed opportunity that the narrator did not do the Australian accents. Instead, he read the book in a neutral American accent. The voices were distinct and the characters were emoted really well but man, do the Aussie accents please!!!

Nonetheless, I had a great time with this book. This is another cute meet-cute sports-rom about a closeted footballer and an out and proud film fest director filled with snarky humor and fade to black sex scenes .

Bearing in mind that Tigers and Devils was first published in 2009, there are some slight differences in the ‘feel’ of the book, particularly in the way people were not yet so ‘woke’ so expect homophobia, dumb questions and terminologies such as ‘the woman in the relationship’.

But that’s just the rest of humanity.

Simon Murray, of the Triple F, an indie film festival, is lucky to have supportive and awesome best friends in the couple, Fran and Roger. Not only are they open-minded, they took it upon themselves to find a man for him. Their well-meaning intentions don’t always work, but it was them who forced Simon to attend The Party. Same party where Simon, like all of Australia, had football as his religion and therefore couldn’t resist opining upon the subject of Declan Tyler.

Declan was an award-winning football superstar, injured and always benched. Aspersions were cast on his abilities and Simon jumped in on a strangers’ conversation to both compliment and insult the footballer. Little did he know, the man was right behind him.

I think this is a really adorable and also a most awkward way to meet your future celebrity boyfriend. Which is what made me grab this book immediately. Adorably awkward is catnip to me and Tigers and Devils had it in spades.

Simon is a self-deprecating, self-confessed artistic wanker who couldn’t believe a football god like Declan Tyler would be interested in him much more date him. Dec is a well-mannered and very grounded superstar, perfect in every way. His only fault was that he tends to run away when things get too intense. Their romance followed the celebrity-dating-an-average-joe trope which was done in the most charming way possible.

On the other hand, there were a lot of secrecy involved. I didn’t like the way Declan was outed. I would have preferred he done it himself but it was, understandably, part of the narrative. I would have also preferred Simon and Dec to power through the storm together instead of letting the pressure tear them apart but well, that is usual how things go in romance.

The story is told through Simon’s first person POV and I loved how his ‘voice’ brought out the humor in many seemingly ordinary situations. It made the book come alive.

Fran and Roger were a hoot. The three best friends had stuck together through thick and thin but their friendship was tested here when Roger felt the need to protect his friend from the footballer. Also there’s the fear of losing a best friend to a boyfriend. Simon falling out with his friends was almost as bad as him and Declan separating.

Tigers and Devils did a great job portraying the high and lows of dating a closeted celebrity. It showed the pains of dealing with a controversial outing, and the hassles of fending off a very nosy public eager to judge your every move. It is also a story of enduring friendships where your football fanatic best friend is ready to punch a football god to defend your virtue.

As far as sports-romance go, this is something I would recommend. Do check it out if you’re up for some PG-rated jock+artist hookup featuring doofus friends, cringy scenarios and Yoda’s advice to singletons.

4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

Soundtrack: Never My Love
Artist: Knox Hamilton
Album: The Heights


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