Rating: 5 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
When I arrived in Melbourne, Australia a few weeks ago, the amount I knew about “footy” could be contained in one simple sentence, “Isn’t that rugby?” Well, yes and no, and Aussies were quick to correct me and talk about their national sport—their passion—ok, their fanaticism! I, on the other hand, latched onto one main idea: they play it in shorts… and sometimes they take their shirts off. Oh and the guys? Built like brick sh—okay, that might be TMI!
I also knew that footy was the subject of one of my absolute favorite novels by Sean Kennedy, Tigers and Devils. God, I loved that book. Until I found out there was to be a second book about my guys, the guys I loved, Declan (ex-footy player) and Simon, TV news show producer and Dec’s partner. I am pretty sure my heart skipped just a few beats when I found out that there was a sequel and then I read it and my heart stopped altogether. I was in love all over again with a country, Australia, a sport, Footy (football rugby), and two outstanding characters and their wacky, intensely neurotic, and hilarious friends.
Footy is a way of life in OZ. It is played in stadiums, in parks, and in backyards. It is a passion and footy players are this nation’s favored sons. So, in the first book when Declan was inadvertently “outed” there was a moment when the world of sports cast its eye on one of her favored sons and nearly threw him away, but Dec and Simon weathered the storm with dignity, humor, and love, causing Dec to retain his place of honor on the football field. The sequel Tigerland picks up their story a few years later. The couple is stronger, even more deeply in love, and just as wacky and delightful as before.
Declan is now retired due to injuries and sportscaster Simon has moved from film to TV and a queer sports program on a local TV station. Life is good. Fran and Roger, that crazy couple from the first novel are still in love and now trying to get pregnant. Abe and Lisa are on a break, but from the beginning of the novel it is apparent that their relationship is not entirely lost. All is relatively calm and happily plodding along. But if you know Simon and Dec, then you know that they are in many ways lightening rods for disaster and it does not take author Sean Kennedy very long to deliver the first blow to this smart and funny novel.
Before there was Simon, Dec had a closeted affair with another footy player, Greg Heyward. Heyward was, in a word, a bastard. A deeply closeted gay man who took delight in keeping Dec on a short leash and flaunting Dec’s need—his love for Greg—in his face. Their affair ended when Dec discovered that Heyward had cheated on him, more than once. As Tigerland winds up, we find out that Greg is ready to come out of the closet and intends to do so spectacularly with the assistance of a pseudo journalist who happens to be Simon’s number one nemesis. To make matters even more interesting, Greg has decided to do a “tell-all” book, which features sordid details (read lies) about Dec and Greg’s affair. Greg has one intention, to destroy Simon’s hold on Declan and hopefully win him back.
In the hands of a lesser novelist, this story would be ripe with conflict between our two main characters. Their would no doubt be heavy angst, miscommunication, threat of potential breakup, and lots and lots of long passages where the two men contemplated life without the other. Tigerland is not a tired rehashing of such an angsty tale and Sean Kennedy is definitely not a lesser author.
Instead, we are offered a couple that remain firm in their faith in each other, their trust in their relationship and their love for each other. We watch as their friends and family band around them and support them through one crushing blow after another and we see first hand how taking the high road, refusing to acknowledge those who attack us unjustly, can lead to consequences that we never saw coming. We shake with anger as we are privy to Dec and Simon’s struggle to make sense of a former lover and supposed friend of Dec’s systematically attempt to dismantle Dec’s life with and love for Simon.
It is a rare thing when a sequel turns out to be as good as the first novel in the series. It is one in a million when the sequel actually turns out to be stronger, funnier, more poignant, and more compelling than the first. Tigerland is all that and more. Sean Kennedy weaves all the threads together, touching upon Fran and Roger’s heartbreaking difficulties with getting pregnant, Lisa and Abe’s private, painful, and steady reuniting, and Greg’s nightmarish attack on Dec and Simon. Kennedy weaves them into one of the finest novels I have had the honor of reading in a long time.
I highly recommend Tigerland by Sean Kennedy to you. It is a glimpse of the finer moments of a sports figure’s life and a lesson on what it means to be a true hero and it is all wrapped up in humor, witty dialogue, splendid characters and football…er, rugby…uhm football rugby, oh for pete’s sake—Footy! This is a five-star read, one you should not miss dear reader!
P.S. Dreamspinner has generously donated a copy of both Tigers & Devils and Tigerland to our Jock Week Giveaway!