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.
When I saw that this book was written in first person voice, I almost stopped reading it. I’m glad I persisted.
Simon Murray, a football fan, a film critic, and a gay man tells a story of how he fell in love with a football player. You’d think that the celebrity bit would define the story, and it does, up to a point. However, I found that the description of how Simon falls in love and embraces a meaningful relationship meant more than the external challenges of dating a celebrity who lives in another city in Tasmania—as opposed to in Melbourne—because it defines his character.
The protagonist and the narrator of this story isn’t an easy man. He’s flawed and difficult to his friends who know and love him despite his aloofness. Simon is terrified of commitment and at the same time it’s what he envies in others and wants desperately for himself even if he won’t admit it. He’s as stubborn as he’s loyal and he hides his insecurities behind his directness. Most people would find that off-putting but for Declan Tyler™ it’s refreshing to find someone not bending over backwards to please him. It’s Simon’s foul mouth that tempts the big scary footballer to risk exposure.
They experience a whirlwind romance with the full advantages and disadvantages of an illicit romance as well as face the challenges of a more established relationship. That is to say they get to meat the parents and other assorted friends. The story covers a period over eighteen months and shows how someone inured to single life struggles to open up and to let someone else to share his life in full. There are misunderstandings but not counting the final one they’re not treated as prolonged romance clichés but tackled and dealt with.
Although I’d classify Tigers & Devils as a modern gay fairytale, Kennedy doesn’t shy away from the darker side of being out and proud. Both Simon and Declan experience heckling and insults, but it’s never explicit. Neither are the sex scenes by the way. Things aren’t glossed over per se; the focus simply is on Simon’s personal growth and evolving relationships. You know, on the important things.
I liked how Kennedy used little things to illustrate Simon’s character. For example, the reader see all the characters through Simon’s eyes and gets only the information he thinks is important about the people he meets. That is why the reader is as shocked to learn the reason for the other WAGs shunning Lisa as Simon is. Having said that, the adverbs were killing me. And the ending felt a tad drawn-out.