Tiger's Curse by Colleen Houck
Kelsey Hayes is a regular old high school graduate. Or so she thinks.
Kelsey ends up like many post-high school graduates in line at the temp agency in her hometown of Salem, Oregon looking for a summer job. Some recent grads might be looking for an office, fast-food or retail summer job but the one that Kelsey ends up with is a two-week overnight position as assistant to the dog and tiger trainer at the visiting circus. She starts out mainly doing clean-up and selling tickets but after a few days of walking the dogs she is introduced to Dhiren, the white Bengal tiger. She instantly feels a connection to him and, even though he looks dangerous like any tiger might, Kelsey doesn't fear him and feels comfortable enough to want to spend time near his enclosure, writing in her journal and reading him plays and poetry.
One night, Kelsey stands staring at Dhiren (she has affectionately shortened his name to Ren) and whispers to him, "I wish you were free." A couple of days later she meets a distinguished Indian gentleman named Anik Kadam who has come to purchase Ren from the circus and take him back to India and release him onto a wildlife reserve. Kelsey is hired by Mr. Kadam to come along to India as Ren's caretaker. Before leaving for India Mr. Kadam shares a story of a prince from over 300 years ago that was well-loved by all but was betrayed by his brother and betrothed. The story Mr. Kadam tells Kelsey ends with Prince Dhiran being killed and ripped limb-from-limb and his pieces tossed in the river. Upon arriving to India, Kelsey finds that the story ends much differently. Her tiger Ren is actually Prince Dhiren and it appears as though Kelsey is a daughter of the goddess Durga and can aid Ren and his brother, Kirshan, in obtaining all of the objects that will help them break their curse and live as mortal men.
The story itself was great and the added bonus of the atmosphere of India as a backdrop made it just that much better. India isn't a setting usually found in stories so I appreciated the unique aspect it delivered. Kelsey and Ren had really good chemistry and Mr. Kadam very quickly became a wonderful aspect of their journey. The magic and the ruins they visit, the curse and the cure were all well written and kept me involved in the story of Ren and his brother, Kishan and how they came to be cursed and how, through the hundreds of years hence, they lived completely different lives as captive and free tigers. I am really looking forward to see how the adventure to break the curse continues in the next two books in the series and how the relationship between Kelsey, Ren and Kishan is ultimately resolved. I had a couple of minor frustrations with the story line and the writing style. Some of the phrasing didn't catch me as being completely genuine--sometimes Kelsey's words just didn't fit the situation or the turn of phrase was very abrupt in what it was conveying. This was relatively minor and didn't affect my enjoyment of the story in the long run. I do have to admit to rolling my eyes a bit when Kelsey kept keeping Ren at arms length no matter how many times he proved himself to be trustworthy in his feelings for her. I know she has a past with losing her parents and he has a past of being a tiger for 350 years and had not ever really experienced the emotional or romantic connection of love before but she really should have given him a chance to show her he truthful in his feelings rather than just assuming he was projecting feelings of relief at seeing the end of the curse due to her. After all that she had been through--poison spikes, zombie monkeys that live underwater, baseball sized bugs and other obstacles in the various ruins and jungles they journied through--I really think she could have sucked it up and let them try to prove their love to each other. But, I guess the next two books (maybe more?) will help resolve these issues (and hopefully they don't bring about a repeat love triangle 350 years after the original one that caused the curse on Ren and his brother) and I can't wait to read them.