Desert Isle Keeper
Tigers and Devils
By Sean Kennedy
Reviewed by Pat Henshaw at All About Romance
When I was growing up my dad was an avid Green Bay Packers football fan as well as a University of Nebraska Cornhusker football fan. (Go Big Red!) What this meant is on most Saturdays in the fall we’d go to a game, and on Sundays we’d watch one on television.
All of this was great preparation for Kennedy’s wonderful Tigers and Devils even though I’d never heard of Australian football before and had no idea what their teams were. Rabid sports fans are rabid sports fans the world over.
Because his best friend Roger and his wife Fran insist, Melbourne film festival organizer Simon Murray shows up at a party where he knows practically no one. Overhearing a group bad mouth football star Declan Tyler whose year of injuries have made him the sports target of the year, Simon defends the man — only to find Declan standing right behind him.
Through this accidental meeting, gay Simon finds out that Declan is a closet case and that they immediately click. But every time they get close, Declan runs, leaving Simon with very mixed signals.
With the encouragement of his married friends and his snippy assistant, Simon patiently waits for Declan, who is battling injuries and is playing for a new team, to acknowledge his sexuality and either admit his feelings for Simon or drop him once and for all.
Kennedy plays lightly with the story often with laugh out loud moments. However, even with this light touch, the central romance shines through and features scenes that will resonate in readers’ hearts, all because the characters are so lovable and real.
Simon is a wonderfully self-sufficient, often confident character even though he has his moments of self-doubt. He’s occasionally a jumble of nerves about his non-existent social life and a critic who hounds him. But he’s the kind of friend who banters easily and for the most part is fairly laid back.
Declan is more difficult to get to know. He’s got an image to protect and can’t come to terms with who he really is, so he flees when he’s conflicted and just about ruins any hope of getting together with understanding Simon.
While these two are the heart of the book and keep it beating right along beautifully, Kennedy adds absolutely wonderful peripheral characters in Simon’s married friends, Simon’s assistant, and the gay reporter who hounds Simon. All add to the ambiance of the book and made the book come alive.
I’ve never been to Australia, but Kennedy’s book not only made me want to visit there but also made me curious enough about Australian football that I googled page after page about it. What I found made me nostalgic about the days sitting in our family’s rec room watching American college and professional football.
I must add, for those who aren’t readers of male / male romances, there is sex in this book. There’s not a lot, and it’s not rabidly blatant. But it is there. It’s mixed in nicely with this exploration of an older man’s coming of age sexually. And the coming into self-awareness is the magical glue that makes this book so enjoyable.