Tigerland

Title: Tigerland
Author: Sean Kennedy
Cover Artist: Catt Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Amazon:
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel/306 PDF pages
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5, DIK

Review Summary: A wonderful, moving sequel that is even better than the original great story.

 

THE BLURB

Sequel to Tigers & Devils

After an eventful and sometimes uncomfortably public courtship, Simon Murray and Declan Tyler settled into a comfortable life together. Now retired from the AFL, Declan works as a football commentator; Simon develops programs with queer content for a community television station.

Despite their public professional lives, Simon and Declan manage to keep their private life out of the spotlight. Their major concerns revolve around supporting their friends through infertility and relationship problems—until Greg Heyward, Declan’s ex-partner, outs himself in a transparent bid for attention.

Though Simon and Declan are furious with Greg and his media antics, they can’t agree on what to do about it. Declan insists they should maintain a dignified silence, but both he and Simon keep getting drawn into Heyward’s games. Simon and Declan will once again have to ride out the media storm before they can return their attention to what really matters: each other.

THE REVIEW

I had been hoping for a sequel to Tigers & Devils for years because I loved that book so much and felt at the time that there were many threads in the story that could be explored further, so I was ecstatic when I received a review copy of Tigerland. To say that it met my expectations would be a considerable understatement as the writing brought the ensemble cast to life once again in new and vibrant ways, refreshed but with different troubles that threatened to tear them apart.

I don’t think Sean Kennedy has written a book that I didn’t enjoy immensely even though most of his stories are angsty and I’m not fond of angst. I love his stories because he never overwhelms the readers or manipulates them with doom and gloom – any angst is relevant and appropriate to the story and lives of the characters.

Tigerland opened with a scene that had me rolling on the ground laughing until I cried as Roger, Simon’s best friend who had been entrusted with the care of an expensive fake baby by his formidable wife Fran to prove he could be a responsible parent, lost that battle as the pram escaped and the baby’s head ended up smashed beyond repair in a battle with a bicycle. When poor Roger faced the wrath of Fran with the news of the doll’s demise is a scene that will live forever in my memory. 🙂

Dec and Simon have been a couple for 5 years, and 3 years after T & D there are many changes in their lives and those of their friends. Dec had retired from the AFL after one too many injury, and he and Simon are living together and even more in love. Dec is a commentator on a local sports network and Simon is a producer for a queer television show.

Tigerland‘s main plot centres around Dec’s manipulative ex, Greg Heyward, coming out with a huge fanfare when he retires from professional football. Greg’s strategy is to get Dec back by publicly proclaiming he still loves him and that they only broke up because of Simon, which of course exasperates Simon who can see all his moves even before he makes them. Dec is definitely over Greg after he used him in the past, but he believes in letting Greg fall on his face through his own actions rather than fighting back, a source of dissension between him and Simon until Greg tries to show Simon up in a very unflattering light, at which point Dec has to decide whether to continue to ride the scandal out or protect Simon’s reputation.

One of the sub plots involves Fran and Roger who badly want to have a baby and have spent all of their scarce financial resources on various treatments that were unsuccessful, and they have run out of options and money but refuse any help from their friends. To complicate matters, everyone around them seems to be having babies and Fran is devastated. Abe, Dec’s former teammate and his girlfriend Lisa form the rest of the ensemble cast of the book and they have their own issues which test their friends’ loyalties.

Sean Kennedy is one of the premier writers in this genre and he’s at his best when he writes about complicated personal relationships. As each couple struggles with their own issues that threaten their love Kennedy manages to make them human without wallowing in their despair. It’s been such a long time that I had read a new book by this writer I had forgotten how exquisite and fresh his writing is and especially that there is no over the top prose.

Like Tigers & Devils this book is told from Simon’s first person POV and his “voice” might tend to annoy the reader at times until you realize how vulnerable he really is and that the cynical, tough persona he shows the world is a cover for his lack of self confidence and other insecurities. Dec on the other hand is so tolerant of Simon’s various idiosyncrasies that I couldn’t help but love him even more. Some readers may feel that he’s too laid back but I liked it – two Simons would have been one too many.

There is pathos, love, humour, drama, friendship and lots of fun in this book, which makes it stand above the rest. I didn’t think the author could improve on Tigers & Devils but three and half years later he comes up with another gem that made my heart ache but at the same time made me feel that the characters could weather any storm. The emotions and bonds of friendship were like a live current throughout the story.

This story also has tenderness and romance. Internal and external conflicts rear their ugly heads and Dec and Simon had to band together to fight Greg’s attempt to come between them. The world building was exceptional and one scene with a whale was so incredible and magical it brought tears to my eyes.

The MCs Declan and Simon are three dimensional layered characters and the secondary characters Fran and Roger as well as Abe, Dec’s former AFL teammate and best friend, and his girlfriend Lisa are just as well drawn. Dec and Simon are as different as night and day and although Dec had only recently come out which was different to Simon who had been out all his adult life, he didn’t suffer from the self loathing or self destructive tendencies that seem to inhabit most gay characters in M/M romance. Simon is the most complex character in this story and his love for Dec shines throughout  as he recognizes his inadequacies and self destructive tendencies that annoy others might drive Dec away but he can’t seem to help himself.

There is one bit of personal angst in the book that some readers may not appreciate but I like the fact that Kennedy weaves his disgust for the way the Australian government treats same sex couples and marriage into the story.

I must applaud Dreamspinner for allowing this book to be written without imposing American spelling on it as that would have spoiled Tigerland. It was Aussie speak throughout and so authentic  I felt as if I were in the story. I still remember Dash & Dingo, another wonderful story by Sean Kennedy and Catt Ford that suffered a different fate which pulled me out of the story whenever I encountered it.

One of the qualities I admire in this author is his ability to write impeccable female characters, something that is not normally found in this genre where women are usually characterized as spoiled bitches or trash. Kudos to Sean Kennedy for not denigrating women in his books.

The end of the book will make you stand up and cheer with a HEA that is most fitting.

In closing this very long review I hope that Kennedy will consider writing another book in this world, one from Dec’s POV, as I would really like to get to know him better and understand his relationship with Simon from his perspective. We did get a bit of his POV at the end but selfishly I would like an entire book where we hear from this wonderful character.

This is not a standalone book even though the author included enough background about Tigers & Devils. I would strongly urge you, if you haven’t read the first book, to do so before reading Tigerland.

Highly, highly recommended.

Author

I live in Canada and I love big dogs, music, movies, reading and sports – especially baseball

25 comments

  • What I like most about Tigerland was the togetherness of the MCs. I read this in close period after “But For You” by Mary Calmes and the differences were more pronounce for me.

    I guess, to brush a broad stroke on the “Matter of Time” series as a whole, separations had always been the key element Ms. Calmes use in all her three major series (this and Timing and Change of Heart series). At first I thought it might be due to the first person POV style. But Tigerland showed me that you can write in first person POV and still maintain a solid presence of the SO of the narrator. Which make Tigerland more convincing that Simon and Dec are a solid couple who made efforts to stay together.

    Like you have said Ms. Wave, misunderstanding and separation often use too much in this genre and I am for one appreciate that Mr. Kennedy didn’t cheapen the book with that. Although he did use it on the first book :p. Which, for me, was above average in how it was executed. Not quite on how it was resolved but the execution and reason for that was justifiably authentic and true to character.

    Reply
    • Hi Pete

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      There is a vast difference between Sean Kennedy and other authors in terms of how their characters deal with their personal issues. I think Kennedy’s way is much preferable by having his MCs communicate with each other.

      As you said, misunderstanding and separation for a long time, or as I call it, the Big Misundersgtanding, is a strategy a majority of M/M authors use to deal with personal crises between their MCs, to my everlasting disgust. Thankfully Kennedy had his characters worked through their issues here.

      I’m very happy you liked Tigerland. 🙂

      Reply
  • Wave you said it all for me and I definitely agree with the rating. I read Tigerland last week and was ecstatic to find it was easily as good as the first book. I would agree with others that there was no huge angst, but just enough for my tastes to keep the book flowing along nicely.

    I also loved the comedy of the first scene, Roger, Simon and especially Fran had me laughing out loud.

    Simon and Dec have settled and for me it’s great to read what I consider a realistic relationship where you can see growth and comfort they have in each other.

    I also felt some pity for Greg the end but more so for Jasper.

    In closing am I allowed to say I am sure part of my enjoyment if this book comes from the fact I live and work in Melbourne and like Simon I am a long suffering Richmond supporter (the only type in the last couple of decades 🙂 ) but we live in hope.

    But none if that would worth anything if the book wasn’t as enjoyable or well written as it has been.

    Reply
    • Hi Teresa

      I have always liked Sean Kennedy’s writing and this book is an example why. His characters are well drawn and he adds enough angst to make them interesting. As for the humour he does this so well and effortlessly.

      It’s great to read about an established couple rather what we get in most books which tend to be about two men who just met each other and are testing their relationship. Here the relationship between Dec and Simon is rich and fulfilling and shows that two guys can make it.

      I used to barrack for Richmond until I realized that they probably will never win a game in my lifetime. (sorry) 🙂 Maybe some day their prince will come. 😎

      Reply
  • I am so excited! I had no idea there was a sequel and now my day is made. Tigers & Devils is one of my all time favorite books. I have it in print as well as ebook. The cover and pages are all messed up from reading it so many times. I am buying this right now! I’ll get the paperback after.

    Reply
    • Glori

      I hope you love Tigerland. The characters have changed over the past 3 and a half years but the love I felt for them before is still there. 🙂

      Reply
  • Looks like everything has already been said! I have Tigers & Devils in print and was determined to add Tigerland in print also. However I couldnt wait (I have to get my copies shipped to Australia) so I also bought the eBook for my Kindle and of course couldn’t put it down.
    Congrats to Sean Kennedy.

    Reply
    • Hey Batchelorboy55
      It’s great to hear from you and I’m so glad you enjoyed Tigerland as much as I did. I’m hoping that at some point we can offer the print copy as a free book on the site. Who knows? 😎

      Reply
  • Yup…..I absolutely LOVED this story. I adore Dec and Simon as an established couple and enjoyed the return of Roger/Fran and Abe/Lisa.

    Thank you, Sean Kennedy! Random and little updates as to how their lives are progressing would be great, too :flirt: cuz I wanna know if Roger and Fran are successful in their attempts and how it will affect the group dynamics. :yes:

    Reply
    • I’m very happy you enjoyed this book. I love the characters, and the fact that this was an ensemble cast made it a lot more interesting.

      I wish though that we could get Sean Kennedy to write a book with Dec and Simon from Dec’s POV. Of course the other supporting characters would be in the book but it would be great to have him narrate and I hope that Sean could come up with a juicy plot.

      Reply
  • Hi Stuart

    Sorry I’m late in responding to your comments.

    Probably it’s not that you’re missing something but that the other readers found something in this story that they thought was relatable. Personally I hate a lot of angst for angst’s sake, so for starters I liked this story for its lack of OTT angst.

    However I also liked the characters and the adult way that they worked through their issues, avoiding the Big Misunderstanding, which is a strategy that many M/M authors use to avoid having their MCs stay together until the end of the book when they trot out their big HEA. It was refreshing to me that the two MCs actually communicated with each other rather than slamming doors and leaving, perhaps for months or even years as is the norm in these books. Authors seem to feel that men don’t communicate so that when they do once in a while readers are amazed and some of them are disappointed.

    I looked at this story as an ensemble plot as each couple had their own issues, not just a story about Declan and Simon. However I thought that the way they (Dec and Simon) handled Greg’s return was done in an adult fashion. You may have felt that Greg was somewhat of a caricature but I didn’t think so, as he had enough power with the media, even though he had retired. Dec was working in the sports media and could look like an ass because of what Greg was doing – this couldn’t help his new career. Simon and Dec had built up a good relationship and here comes this person who wanted Dec back and used the press as part of his strategy by denigrating Simon. Maybe that wasn’t a strong enough plot as you may have wished but real people have been separated for a lot less.

    Even though Dec and Simon were great together cracks were beginning to form in their relationship because of Dec’s way of handling Greg by not confronting him, something Simon disagreed with, and this continued for most of the story. Maybe this conflict wasn’t serious enough to break them up but it certainly was a big enough irritant throughout the book to make things unpleasant between them.

    I don’t believe that every plot has to be something earth shattering – sometimes simple things work best, in my opinion. Human relationships are the most compelx to portray in a book, and when an author manages to make them not just interestng but also exciting to me, they have my vote. However, I realize that “exciting” is relative – again, a matter of perspective.

    Since Dec had retired I didn’t expect there would be any disappointment in terms of his lost career other than the usual regret for a couple more years. After all he retired because of injuries. But maybe I was a bit naive since I don’t play competitive sports and I know it takes a long time before an athlete is really resigned to a change in his career, like retirement.

    I think your expectations about this story are probably why you were so disappointed. You already said that you expected more conflict – I thought there was a lot of conflict, but a different type than you were obviously hoping to find.

    You said that Simon and Declan “had money, friends, a good relationship, maturity and family so you didn’t see how they could be diminished by Greg”. I didn’t think that Simon was very mature – in fact he internalized everything and was self destructive, which could have destroyed his relationship with Dec if he was a different type of character. As for the money, perhaps they didn’t consider it to be important. Of course it helps to have supportive friends and family but if you screw up in your relationship, other people can’t really help.

    To summarize, I guess if you were looking for a completely different story with a different type of conflict and lots of angst this wouldn’t be the kind of book you would find interesting.

    Reply
    • Hi, Wave!
      You make excellent points. My expectations did shape my reactions. I wanted Tigerand to have a plot where the challenges to the protagonists were as interesting to me as the challenges in Tigers and Devils. I’m not big on angst, just SOMETHING to anchor my emotional investment in the protagonists. For example, I LOVE Arvin’s Simple Men. I wouldn’t call that angsty, just emotionally engaging and humorous like Tigers and Devils. Even with different perspectives, t’s fun to be able to debate the merits of a well-written book. The MM genre, unfortunately, has too many books that are simply terrible. Tigerland has many strengths. If I had star granting powers, I’d give it 5 Stu-stars for writing, 3.5 for story.

      Reply
      • Hey Stu
        I forgot to say welcome back. 🙂

        Maybe you would like to review the occasional book for us – I would love it. As I’m sure you may remember, we love to debate books here in a very civil fashion.

        I’m sorry that Tigerland didn’t quite live up to your expectation but at least you gave it 5 Stu-stars for writing. I’m sure Kennedy will be happy with that.

        Reply
  • I pre-ordered the book and devoured it in between classes and faculty meetings. I enjoyed spending time with characters I loved so much from Tigers and Devils. At the same time, the book did not work for me. Sean Kennedy’s writing is wonderful and funny, but his plotting in Tigerland is very weak.

    First, the obstacles confronting the protagonists were so minor and lacking in any significant implications for their lives. In Tigers and Devils, an active, famous professional athlete must navigate the complexities of building a relationship while being forced out of the closet. In Tigerland, an ex-boyfriend is causing media problems for a retired athlete. There’s nothing really at stake in Tigerland. What can some bad press do to them? Whatever happens, it’s clear they’ll both be financially secure and still in love. Sean Kennedy tries to conceal the lack of substantive conflict through the use of farce and melodrama.

    For example, the author makes Heyward so repellent that hatred for him has the reader rooting against him. But I was distracted by Heyward’s farcical vileness. It doesn’t make sense in the context of Kennedy’s realistic portrayal of Declan and Tyler. On the other hand, if Heyward were written as an actual person and not a cartoon, there would be no energy driving the plot at all. Having nothing at stake and a cartoon villain, Tigerland failed to engage me.

    The lack of real conflict in the plot means that Declan and Simon are never believably challenged in the viability of their relationship. Sean Kennedy demonstrates the difficulty an author has when abandoning the Big Misunderstanding in favor of two mature men who are able to successfully discuss their problems.

    I hate the Big Misunderstanding and profoundly value that Kennedy made them a mature couple. However, he failed to successfully balance their maturity as a couple with obstacles worthy of their maturity and intelligence. Even a comic novel has to have a conflict worthy of its protagonists.

    For me, it’s difficult to express dissatisfaction with a book when it gives me the opportunity to visit with beloved characters. At the same, time, I was very disappointed with the book.

    Everyone on Amazon, like here, loves the book. I’m trying to understand what I’m not seeing.

    Reply
    • Hi Stuart, would you mind talking a little bit more with me? 🙂 The reason I am asking is because I know that some readers just want to express their pov and do not like discussions, so just ignore me if you are one of those readers. I know I looove talking about the book especially if somebody has view opposing to mine.

      So, low conflict. To me Greg was not a conflict per se, he was just the means to the conflict, the conflict, or I guess the tension in this book was possible their inability to communicate. I guess to me due to Greg’s nuisanse we were able to see how much they learned the better communication and considering how much pain poor communication skills cost them in the past, to me this kind of tension made sense?

      I am also not sure if Greg was that caricature like. I despised him, but I also pitied him in a way, because he could not handle a relationship even with the guy who was helping him (can you imagine I already forgot his name?).

      Anyway, those are some of my thoughts 🙂

      Reply
      • Hi Sirius!
        I love discussing books! To me, the level of tension in the communication between Tyler & Declan never seemed that serious or threatening to the integrity of their relationship. They’d argue, then work it out. Kudos to them, but not very interesting as a novel. Simon’s conversation with Jasper (guy helping Greg) was actually more interesting than anything that happens between Simon & Declan. Simon & Declan have money, maturity, good friends, & families that accept them. Greg can’t diminish their lives in any concrete way. How do you build a story on that? I hate pointless angst, but there needs to be something to hang a novel on. I wish Declan’s disappointment at having to retire might have been explored instead. Or maybe Simon being disappointed & guilty about the changes in Declan’s body, rather than pleased. The 2 supporting straight couples get far more interesting & substantive problems than Simon & Declan. The guys bored me when they weren’t being put through their paces in the comic set pieces. Their vacation was especially dull. Those are my thoughts-in-reply.

        Reply
        • Hi Stuart, I totally get what you are saying. I think to me Dec and Simon’s characters were driving the storyline, instead of the significant plot obstacles. I mean I thought Greg could cause them pain simply by exposing them again to media, and I thought that he caused them some communication issues, but I totally agree that he did not diminish their lives in any way. The thing is I was not sure about that when he just started, because the very similar thing did diminish their lives in book one.

          I guess I loved seeing the characters growth and it was not boring to me.

          Reply
  • Yay. You loved it, I loved it too – soo much. I really loved how Dec and Simon both grew and how they truly communicate better, not perfect, but much better. Made total sense to me since they are in the relationship for several years now. Loved Fran and Lisa as much as before – ditto what you said about women in his stories. Awesomeness 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Sirius
      I’m so glad you loved this book as much as I did. I love this author’s writing for many reasons but mainly because his characters are so human, with recognizable flaws, which is strange because I realize intellectually that they are just characters. 🙂

      As for the women in Kennedy’s stories, I can’t praise him enough for not making us out to be the horrible female bitches I see in other M/M stories.

      Reply
  • I really loved this book as well. But I have to say that I found the initial joke rather cruel. It was not funny to me at all. I think it tugged my mom-heartstrings the wrong way. For me it was not a good start of the book and almost put me off reading it but I decided to continue reading because I like Simon and his voice and really wanted to read what was going on in his world.

    It’s been two weeks since I read this book and I can’t still think of that scene and find it funny. But the rest of the book I enjoyed very much.

    Mercedes

    Reply
    • Hi Mercedes
      I enjoyed that first scene because I realized from the get-go that it was a doll not a baby, so it didn’t bother me. I guess it’s a matter of perspective because I saw it as a way to lighten the mood. However, I realize that others may not exactly have my strange sense of humour. 🙂

      I love the humour in the book as well as the characters and I think that this is Sean Kennedy’s best work to date.

      Reply

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