Series: Tigers and Devils 01
Author: Sean Kennedy
Narrator: Paul Morey
Genre: Contemporary, Sports
Length: 15 hrs, 51 mins
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (7th March 2013)
Heat Level: Low
Heart Rating: 💖💖💖💖 4 Hearts
Blurb: 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 foot-ball 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.
Review: Tigers and Devils is the first book in Sean Kennedy’s series of the same name. I’ve read this whole series a few years ago and absolutely adored it. I also absolutely adore Kennedy’s spin-off series, Get Out. The narration of this book was performed by Paul Morey, not a narrator that I am able to recognise by name, but according to my audible app and my reviews, I’ve listened and enjoyed his narrations in the past.
I feel a strong connection to these books, because this is an Aussie author, from a football (AFL) obsessed state (Victoria). I am originally from the equally AFL obsessed state, South Australia, but I get the feeling. Living in New South Wales (and recently seeing this discussion in one of by Facebook groups), I know New South Welshmen and Queenlanders won’t believe the AFL fever written in these books as being accurate but trust me it is real. Every other state other than Queensland and NSW are AFL mad, those other two heathens are obsessed with Rugby League and Rugby Union. (Jokes, I don’t follow any sport codes, but living in NSW for 3 years I hear no AFL and am absolutely sick of NRL in a way I used to hate hearing about AFL). So yes, call me obsessed with this series and I am also one of those weirdos that doesn’t like sports IRL but am a total glutton for sport romances. Add to that, the scenery of Melbourne and the feel of it is so familiar and authentic to me. Yet, unfortunately, I shake my head at how horrible culture is in the AFL that I think if any player was outed or came out, even in 2019 it would be as prickly as Declan’s journey as penned by Kennedy in 2013.
So… I guess I’m here to talk about the book.
Firstly, I’ll explain my review. Needless to say after the above outpouring, this is a 5-star book for me. However, the narration for me left a lot to be desired, which I give 3-stars, hence the 4-star overall rating.
I’ll get the unpleasant part out of the way, my opinion on the narration. And it’s a long story that I have to tell because I can be a drama queen. Ultimately, though I know it is down to an American narrator butchering the pronunciation of many words and places horribly, the saving grace was at least the butchering was done in the said American accent and not in a false Aussie accent. Since this is a long book and I was making a long flight to one of these said AFL obsessed states recently, I decided this would be the perfect way to pass time – I love the story so if I lost some details because of the noise of the planes or airports it wouldn’t matter. So, at the first airport I press play as I wait for my plane to board. I lasted less than a minute. Within the first few sentences, as main character Simon explains Aussie Rules Football and the league, I hear Melbourne pronounced Mel-born (we say Mel-ben) and Brisbane pronounced Bris-bane (we say Bris-ben). Yes, I know Australians are lazy with their talk, as a South Australian I ridicule NSW for not pronouncing all the letters and syllables in words, but… and I’m stepping down from my soap box. And so I switched to another audio and left it for 2 weeks before trying again. It took me a bit to get used to the narration and ignore the pronounciation hiccups but I am so proud that I persevered because for me the story was completely worth it.
Anecdotally, I can tell you that I know of two other Australians, both from Melbourne, who hold the same opinion as me (to the point I had to convince one of them to move onto book 2 because the narrator does change). But you can take what you will from my opinion, I would say that this is like times I read English people get annoyed at non-English narrators butchering the local accents but I listen and like the performance well enough.
As for the story itself – oh, there was a story, I hear you say? Because I feel like and have been complaining for the past 350 words.
The story is about Simon Murray, a Melbournian who works as the managing director for a local indie film festival who loves his football that this is the only conversation he happily gets involved in when his best friends, Roger and his wife Fran, drag Simon to a party against his will. It is at this part he meets AFL God, Declan Tyler (Trademark Pending), who betrayed his Victorian fans by moving to the island state Tasmania and is now on the injuries list more than the playing list.
Simon is a prickly sort of a man, his got a quick wit and a sharp tongue. He’s not antisocial I feel he’s just particular in who he hangs out with. And while he marvels at Declan Tyler on the footy field, he sees the man as a stuck-up arsehole. Declan, who is very much in the closet being that he is a professional AFL player with a multi-million dollar contract, is intrigued and he forces himself into Simon’s life. Turning Simon’s world and his heart upside down. Their relationship starts out as a secret, with only their best friends knowing about them. However, life gets complicated in so many ways, especially when you’re a football god in the public eye.
They are a quirky couple and are the epitome of the saying that opposites attract. Simon and Declan have a wonderful chemistry, which I don’t think is diminished by there not being not many (if any) actual sex scenes. I feel that there is a great intimacy reflected between the characters by the little touches and the passionate kisses which Simon describes. I really liked it and is one of those cases for me that shows you don’t need useless and seemingly never-ending sex scenes in a book to make a romance. These guys have a lot of depth and they develop so much throughout the course of the book. It felt real and for me that made the characters more relatable.
The secondary characters also have a life and depth of their own. They aren’t token characters and I loved them all as much as I love Simon and Dec. Simon’s assistant, Nyssa, his best friends Roger and Fran, as well as Dec’s best friends Abe and Lisa, all bring as much soul to the book as the MCs.
This is a great read for those that love a sports romance, I just love the fact that it has the Australian setting.