Rating: 5 out of 5 stars ★★★★★
Young Australian Micah Johnson is the first AFL player to be out at the beginning of his career. Retired professional football player Declan Tyler mentors Micah, but he finds it difficult, as Micah is prone to making poor life choices that land him in trouble. Nothing Dec can’t handle. He’s been there, done that, more times than he’d like to admit. Being Simon Murray’s partner all these years has Dec quite experienced in long-suffering and mishaps.
As usual, Simon thinks everything is going along just fine until his assistant, Coby, tells him a secret involving an old nemesis. Simon and Dec’s problems mash together, and to solve them, they must undertake a thousand-kilometer round trip in which issues will have to be sorted out, apologies are finally given, and a runaway kid is retrieved and returned to his worried parents.
Tigers on the Run by Sean Kennedy is the book I have been waiting for since I first read Tigers and Devils back in 2012. Ever have a book just suck you in? One that kept you superglued to the story and the characters? That was Tigers and Devils. There I fell passionately, madly in love with Simon, and Dec, plus their close friends Fran and Roger, Nyssa, even, dare I say it Jasper Brunswick (ok, more like a case of disgust with Jasper). Sean Kennedy created a cast of funny, fallible, and plain out irresistible characters who moved through a story that was full of angst, humor, and the pain and rewards that come with taking risks to become the person you want to be and to be with the person who is your HEA.
Sean Kennedy followed that up with Tigerland (Tigers and Devils #2), a book I really liked (4 stars) but that was missing some indefinable spark, an element found in the original story. Yes, the characters resolved some issues between them, Fran and Roger’s personal quest to have children was gripping and real, and all showed growth as people and/or as a couple. It’s a wonderful book but still…..
Now comes Tigers on the Run (Tigers and Devils #3) , a book I’ve already read twice! And I can happily say, the magic is back! I laughed, and cried, and laughed some more. I marveled over the crispness and intelligence of the dialog, nodded in recognition at certain events and the emotional fallout that enveloped everyone, and in general, had the time of my life. I intend to read it again…soon.
Kennedy has used the structure of an Australian football game as the format for his narrative. We open on Coin Toss, which takes us back years BD, or Before Declan as Simon calls it. It functions as a small sketch of Simon’s start towards a larger family of friends and his relationship with Dec. First chapter? That’s First Quarter and it finds our snarky, irresistible narrator, Simon, now in his “gay golden years” as he calls it, also known as his thirties! Simon and Dec are babysitting Roger and Fran’s twins and its prompting a ton of introspection in both, but mainly in Simon. Dec wants kids. Simon? He’s just not sure. That’s just one of the issues that plays out here in layers, parent/child relationships at all levels, including if one of those children is a teenager and not the most lovable one at that.
This is also a story of letting go, of putting old issues to rest and finding a way to move forward, even if part of you stubbornly wants to resist the change that’s coming. How human is that? Needing to hold onto old grudges, finding a way to forgive? Kennedy acknowledges these truths, makes it a vital, believable element of this story as well. So many layers and all so beautifully woven into Tigers on the Run. I love Sean Kennedy’s writing. It’s fluid, it feels so natural and easy, two things hard to accomplish, and it pulls your heart and mind into the story from the beginning.
That’s important too. The reader’s heart and mind. I found myself appreciating how gorgeous some of the sentences and structure of Kennedy’s writing even as I was laughing until I was bent over as Simon, or Roger or even Fran was embarked on some shenanigans. I could actually have just quoted sentence after sentence but as good as those lines are separated from the narrative, they get stronger and smarter in context. What a joy lies in discovering them as you go.
Old standing betrayals are reexamined, surprising new relationships are formed, and their “family” circle enlarges once more. And while that’s happening all the characters are growing emotionally, and intellectually. Kennedy understands people and relationship dynamics, whether its between lovers or friends or even colleagues. Most importantly, Kennedy knows how to write those relationships and changing dynamics in a way that brings these people to life. We believe in them, we feel for them. My connection to Simon, Dec, Colby, Roger and Fran (I adore these two), even Jasper is both deep and solid. By the end of the story (yes, a terrific ending too), I never wanted to let go. I’m hoping that the last paragraph is indicative of the fact that more is to come. Fingers crossed, bribes being prepared.
I just went back to look for a quote to end this one and now I’m laughing again, caught up once more in the story. Got to go, I have a story to reread. Need a new book or three to love? Pick up Tigers and Devils series from Sean Kennedy. Start at the beginning of Simon and Dec’s relationship and then work your way through their lives, mishaps and love until you reach Tigers on the Run. Its one of my Best of 2015. After you have read it, you will understand why.
Cover art by Catt Ford. It’s a cute cover but only partially reflective of the outstanding story within.
Kindle Edition, 256 pages
Published July 13th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
seriesTigers and Devils #3
characters: Simon Murray, Declan Tyler
Tigers and Devils Series stories in the order they were written and should be read:
- Tigers and Devils (Tigers and Devils #1) 5 stars
- The First Supper (Tigers and Devils #1.1) – 14 pages click on link to read.
- Tigerland (Tigers and Devils, #2)
- Tigers on the Run (Tigers and Devils #3) – Goodreads Link