Sunday, September 25, 2011

Tiger's Quest by Colleen Houck

Kelsey Hayes is back at home after spending the summer in India, but she's upset that Ren, who is no longer solely tied into his tiger form except for an hour a day, hasn't tried to contact her. After the adventure they shared and the love that she thought flowered between them, she thought he loved her, but when he doesn't try to contact her in any way, she decides to get on with her life, going to college, albeit living in private housing rather than a dorm, and living her life.

However, when she's finally decided to take her romantic life in her own hands and go on a date with a guy she met through her Kung Fu class, who should return to her life but Ren, who is equally upset that Kelsey didn't contact him over the ensuing time that they were apart, and he is not only going to college with her, but lives in the house next door to her own. Kelsey, though she longs for the return of the closeness that she and Ren shared in India, is nonetheless not sure that she and Ren- who is, after all, a Prince, are totally right for each other. She is still determined to go on dates with other boys, as she is sure that Ren is only fixated on her because she helped fight off part of the curse.

Ren, for his own part, is blisteringly angry that Kelsey wants to see others, but he is determined to back off and show her that their love is true. So as she goes on dates with guys from college, he takes her out on dates as well, and she has to admit that, next to Ren, all other guys are not measuring up. Soon, she is sure that she loves Ren, but he still holds her at arm's length, determined to make her see that they should be together by showing her how the other men she would date are either jerks or not what she is interested in.

Finally, the semester is over, and Kelsey travels back to India to help break the next part of the curse. But when Ren disappears, she and Mister Kadam are sure that Lokesh is behind his disappearance. So where does that leave Kelsey? Well, she can still help break more of the curse with Kishan, Ren's brother who happens to be the Black Tiger to Ren's White Tiger.

Kelsey doesn't know if she can trust him, because of his behavior last summer, when she and Ren broke the first part of the curse. Kishan wants Kelsey as his own, but for now, he is willing to back off pursuing her strenuously because he realizes how much she misses Ren and wants to find him. But to break this form of the curse, he and Kelsey must call on the aid of the Goddess Durga, and find a tree that touches the sky- the entrance to which they will find somewhere in the Himalayas. But as Kishan and Kelsey journey together, she finds herself softening towards him. She will maybe not fall for him the way she fell for Ren, but she could definitely see herself doing so at some point, and her feelings for the brothers become confused.

But by the time they come together to rescue Ren from the forces of Lokesh, a reversal worse than anything else she has experienced thus far in her relationship with Ren hits Kelsey with unexpected force. Suddenly, everything she thought she knew about the two of them and her own feelings is up in the air. Could this be the end of a relationship between Ren and Kelsey, or can it be saved to return to what they had before?

I was very much looking forward to the sequel to Tiger's Curse, that I read back in May, and this volume didn't disappoint. The first volume ended on an undecided note, but in this book Ren and Kelsey came back together as neither seems to be able to forget the other, no matter how much time or distance separates them. And while the first book reminded me of "Twilight" a bit, this one reminded me of "New Moon", with Ren's somewhat antagonistic brother being added to the mix. He promises to take care of Kelsey and not make any moves on her, but with how much time they will be spending alone in each other's company, can Kelsey believe his promises?

It was certainly possible in this book to feel somewhat sorry for Kishan. Unlike his brother, Ren, he succumbed more fully to the nature of the Tiger and lost something of his human nature. As a result, he's more of a "Bad Boy", and more likely to resort to violence and rage. But as with Ren, being with Kelsey draws him back to more of his human nature, and he obviously feels something for her, something a bit big-brotherly and something romantic as well. The ending of the book was a real shock, as Kelsey has done so much to be there for Ren and to rescue him from his imprisonment by Lokesh, who certainly doesn't want to give either Ren or Kishan up- or the power he gets from their imprisonment. But by the end of the book (an ending I am not going to give away), I felt bad for Kelsey and Ren both- and for Kishan as well. It was saddening and shocking after all that had gone on and all Kelsey had gone through, like getting thrown face-first into a wall.

This book was great, and the ending makes me want to read the third book even more than I wanted to read this book after reading the first. These two books are so strong in story and character. and although I compare them to the "Twilight" series, they are so much the better for having a stronger heroine who doesn't just fumble around tripping over her own feet and waiting to be rescued, that even the elements that bring to mind the Stephanie Meyers series are made immeasurably better. Highly recommended, but read "Tiger's Curse" first to understand the characters and what is going on. I can only hope the third book is the icing on the wonderful cake of this series.

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