I have been sitting on this review for a month or so, for various reasons, and the wait has almost killed me. Colleen Houck is my new YA hero, because Tiger’s Curse sucked me in like I haven’t been sucked in for months. Why was I blown away, you ask? These are bold statements, especially since I’ve had a run of enjoyable reads recently, like Awakenings and Touch of Power. The difference is Houck managed to connect every single one of my favorite elements of YA fiction in such a way that I itched to keep reading. I hurt for this book; it was a physical need. Yes, this book sounds like my new boyfriend, and in many ways it has exactly what I’m looking for in a mate: adventure, magic, and tons of hot sexual tension and old-fashioned romance.
The story begins as Kelsey Hayes, our protagonist, finishes high school and gets a temp job working at a traveling circus for a few weeks. Part of her job is to attend to the gorgeous white tiger that is the main attraction. She feels a connection to this beautiful, fierce animal, and as time passes she spends more of her free moments with him, reading to him and talking to him as if he could understand her.
Enter a tall dark stranger. This man comes along to purchase the tiger. He is set to release him back in the wilds of India, and after seeing Kelsey’s connection with the animal, he asks her to escort the creature and see that he arrives safely at his new home. Circumstances don’t end up playing out as planned, and Kelsey’s barely in the unfamiliar country before she finds herself left in a tiny town bordering the Indian jungle with nothing but the tiger to keep her company.
Terrified out of her mind, she follows the tiger deep into the jungle, where eventually the truth emerges: the tiger is actually an Indian prince named Ren who is cursed to spend only 24 minutes of every day as a man. He has been trying to break the curse for centuries, and for some reason Kelsey’s presence is starting to loosen the chains of the curse’s bondage. With her help Ren hopes to finally find a way to be free of his tiger form forever. Kelsey is happy to help; but falling for this charming prince Ren was an unexpected emotional detour she wasn’t ready for! As the book continues, Kelsey battles her feelings for Ren while living the adventure of a lifetime.
I had started to wonder if I was getting immune to romance in books, as I hadn’t felt the wonderful tingle some good literary lovin’ can bring on in a while. I am happy to report that this isn’t the case at all; I just needed some old-fashioned chivalry in the form of a delicious Indian prince. Clearly I don’t have high standards at all. The romance between Kelsey and Ren gave me tingles the entire time, and I was shouting out loud in frustration as the tension building up to the first kiss seemed to drag on in a deliciously unbearable fashion.
The adventure in this book was equal to the romance in my eye. It was the best kind, an ancient quest through mazes and puzzles with the aid of a gorgeous goddess. In a word, perfect. Plus, the way Houck handles the ancient religion and the modern Indian culture brought the story to a wonderfully lush level that most YA these days doesn’t reach.
All these elements created a book that left me breathless. I couldn’t wait to start book two, I was ravenous for more of the story. YA fans who love adventure and romance, this book is a must read. No debates. Fall in love with Kelsey and Ren along with me; you won’t regret it!
Tiger’s Curse hit shelves on January 11th, 2011.