Kelsey thinks her job at the circus will be a temporary job - but how wrong she is! When she joins she discovers that she has a special connection with the beautiful white tiger that performs every night. She becomes a kind of caretaker, taking care of his food and water and making sure he's safe inside his cage. She sits by the cage every night and reads to him, or writes in her journal and tells him stories.
But when a man comes to the circus and buys Ren, the tiger, Kelsey feels that she is about to lose a great friend. She finds she is wrong, however, when the assistant of the man who purchased the tiger comes to her and states that he has noticed her special bond with Ren. He offers her the life of luxury during a trip to India, all to accompany Ren on the journey and make sure he is settled nicely into his new home. And when Kelsey says yes to this incredible opportunity, she finds that her dear Tiger is actually a prince under a 300 year old spell, and she will do anything to break the curse. Even if it means falling in love with a man she can never be with.
I absolutely adored this book from the first. Kelsey is such a believable character - she's funny, innocent, and loves greatly. Within the first ten pages, I could totally relate to her and wanted to be her friend. And I just loved her way of speaking. She has character in her dialogue and - get ready for this - I just picture her talking fast and a bit too much. Not in a bad way - she just loves explaining things and she most definitely has an opinion. It was adorable! And Ren...he was pretty much the perfect guy. He's been a tiger for 350 years, so what can you expect? He's learned patience, obedience, and gentleness. He's also very very innocent (unfortunately, his innocence is sometimes masked by the fact that he's freaking gorgeous.) This could bother some people, but never fear! Ren has bouts of anger and doesn't always make right decisions - especially when he's angry. This makes him believable amd human.
Kelsey's bond with Ren is just super amazing... With the tiger, she's comfortable - and then all of a sudden she has to get to know Ren as a man. She doesn't know how to respond to Ren when he's in human form. And I can see why...as soon as I read the description of Ren as a man I couldn't help but giggle. I wouldn't be able to speak, either, if I saw him the way that he is described. And it's not just that he's beautiful - he's serene, kind, and he loves greatly. That's one thing that really hit me about this book - the love. The love in this book is strong - and it runs much deeper than a kiss and a caress. I love that even though Kelsey notices Ren's beauty, she knows that if he was just your average guy, she could sit and talk with him for hours on end...just be with him. And still love him like she does. And Ren, even though he could get any girl, loves Kelsey. She loves him, too - so much it hurts. But then...comes the doubt. (Real life doubts, normal doubts that every girl would have if she was in love with a drop-dead gorgeous man trapped by a tiger's curse. Haha!) (Oh, and if you start to doubt the love story - DON'T. Scream and be angry with them all you want - but DON'T put the book down!) I loved Ren's response to the doubt in their relationship...but you'll just have to read it if you want to know what I'm talking about. :)
The love story was built slowly, like it should be (most of the time). They don't kiss at first, but rather let their relationship build slowly, and they don't sleep together at all. I was so thankful for this. Ren has an old-fashioned "I'm going to ask your permission" kind of attitude about love. He admits he's never felt this way about any woman and he tries so hard to please Kelsey and make her happy - not to satisfy his own desires. He respects her more than words can say and this aspect of him did NOTHING to keep ME from falling for him as well... ;)
As far as the writing goes: I liked it. Not my favorite, but it was easy to read and Colleen Houck's descriptions of people, the landscapes, and even little details were very well done and I could easily and quickly picture exactly what was being described. Things I didn't like: a few of her phrases seemed a bit out of place. Sometimes I felt that the paragraphs were too short. And there were a couple of point of view shifts, but not enough to really be noticeable. I also didn't really like that Kelsey's thoughts were in past tense. Even in the story is in past tense, I think it should always be a rule to make character's thoughts in present tense. You think, "I want to eat that dessert." NOT, "I wanted to eat that dessert." Make sense?
Favorite character: Ren. Who else? :)
Favorite aspect: A lot of things: Ren and Kelsey, Ren and Kishan (who was also a great character, by the way), Mr. Kadam's grandfatherly relationship with Kelsey, all the Indian mythology... You could definitely tell that Colleen Houck cares about her character's relationships and how they affect each other. She also was very skilled in telling about the Indian culture and mythology. It was scary, intimidating, and shocking at times. But interesting. I definitely don't believe in any of what they talked about, and have no desire to, but it was interesting all the same. I also really like that girls AND boys will love this book. It was really a good balance of romance, action, and mystery.
One word to sum up this book: I definitely think parts of the this book were sweet, but then others were action packed and sometimes frightening (the good kind of frightening, though). So I think my word would be tempestuous. It was like an ocean storm, one that carries your emotions and imagination on a wild ride that is not easy to forget. I'm impatiently awaiting book #2 and I can't wait to see what's in store for all these lovely characters!
For parents: Honestly, I think a good starting age for this book is 15-16 years old. The characters don't sleep together, but there are definitely some (steamy) kisses with some description, and lots sexual tension. The characters snuggle a bit, mostly because Ren wants to comfort Kelsey in times of struggle. Ren likes to give tender caresses, too. This is as far as it goes. I really appreciate that. No language AT ALL. Overall, a very clean book, because even though the characters kiss and hold each other, they really really love each other and respect each other enough to be rational.