My first book read as part of the Story Siren's 2011 Debut Author Challenge!
Tiger's Curse, by Colleen Houck
Kelsey Hayes is just looking for a summer job, something to get her through to the fall when she’ll start community college. The temp agency sends her on a two-week gig to a small circus, primarily to help care for and feed the circus animals. While at the circus, she’s immediately drawn to the gentle white tiger Dihren. Since both of her parents died a few years ago, Kelsey has distanced herself from strong connections and friendships, so she enjoys Dihren’s safe companionship. She begins to spend most of her evenings with Dihren, writing in her journal, or reading out loud to the tiger. Toward the end of the circus’ time in Dallas, Oregon, the circus owner gets an offer for Dihren that he can’t refuse. Unexpectedly, Indian gentleman who is purchasing Dihren asks Kelsey to accompany them to India where his employer wants to release the tiger into a wildlife reserve. Mr. Kadam tells Kelsey that because the tiger is clearly very comfortable with her, he would appreciate her help in caring for Dihren during the journey. It’s unexpected and not your typical summer job, but Kelsey doesn’t see any reason to refuse; plus, she’ll miss her tiger once he’s gone, and welcomes the chance to spend a bit more time with him.
After a luxurious flight in a private jet with the considerate, genteel and charming Mr. Kadam, the three land in India. Mr. Kadam has hired a driver to take Kelsey and Dihren to the wildlife reserve where he will meet them; but when they stop for gas and lunch, the driver takes off, leaving Kelsey and Dihren stranded in the middle of nowhere. Kelsey discovers her backpack has been conveniently stocked with survival gear, and her cell phone is missing. With no way to contact Mr. Kadam and a huge white tiger to care for, she follows Dihren into the jungle with the idea of hiking back to civilization. But that night, Kelsey’s strange adventure becomes even stranger when her tiger turns into a man (and a drop-dead gorgeous one at that) who turns out to be a 350 year old prince who claims she is the one who will be able to break the curse he has been placed under. Before she knows it, Kelsey is on a quest to break the curse, and on an adventure that includes a shaman, an Indian goddess, temples, a dangerous world ruled by monkey-god, and – of course – love.
The best part about this book is the story – Colleen Houck mixes magic and fantasy and Indian legends and stories into a really fun adventure. The love story is sweet, and I like how it develops. At first, it’s kind of a love-at-first-sight-instant-chemistry-destiny kind of thing. Which…meh. But, as Kelsey and Ren spend more time together, their relationship starts developing past the instant chemistry stage and gets more depth.
I will say that the writing itself fell a little flat for me; it seemed stiff. But again, the story itself really carried me past the at-times clunky writing. Also, it took me a while to start connecting with the characters, but by the end of the book I was definitely invested in them and their story (and I was emphatically trying to tell Kelsey “don’t be an idiot!”). One thing about Kelsey – her character is kind of refreshing. She’s a soon-to-be college freshman, but she’s not a worldly-wise person; she she’s innocent and unsophisticated (never had a boyfriend and never even been kissed). But she’s also smart, loyal, compassionate, bookish, down-to-earth and strong.
Bottom line – a fun story and a good read. I’m looking forward to the next installment.