I’ve not read the first two books in this series, but I applaud Jade Lee for writing Desperate Tigress, a book far removed from the typical romantic ideal and setting. The book’s unique quality alone makes it worth reading, and I plan to pick up the series’ earlier titles to make this a more complete reading experience. That the story also inspired me to further research the philosophy, situations, and ideas she writes about is icing on the cake.
Shi Po has failed. Her dedication and teaching of the Tigress religion, which suggests sex as the path to Enlightenment and Immortality, has failed her. One of two ghost (white) women she taught has reached Immortality, something Shi Ph has yet to achieve – even with years of practice – and the other reached Heaven on her first Tigress experience.
After a powerful Manchurian Chinese general searches her home and teaching compound for his son (who was with one of the ghost women), Shi Po knows she has put her family in danger. Coupled with her failure to achieve Immortality through her devotion, Shi Po decides to kill herself, to become Immortal through death, although according to her spirituality, she will be unable to return to the Middle Kingdom after reaching Heaven. Before she actually kills herself, she decides to consult her husband, Tan Kui Yu.
Kui Yu has always loved Shi Po, who made terrific sacrifices to be with him. But somewhere along the line, Kui Yi lost his connection with her and they have not been intimate since the birth of their last child years before. He cannot bear to think of Shi Po practicing her Tigress religion with other male Tigress practitioners and reluctantly took a white mistress for the last few years. But he desperately wants to rebuild his relationship with Shi Po, and convinces her to hold off her suicide for a short time in order to teach him her Tigress spirituality. Shi Po knows that Kui Yu truly doesn’t have a deep and abiding interest in her spirituality, but something in his challenge sparks a response in her.
This book has so many facets it is hard to do the story justice. General Kang is not out of the picture; he charges the couple with treason and imprisons them. It is against this backdrop that their story unfolds. Shi Po’s beliefs and spirituality were completely alien to me, but fascinating and complex. She also lives her life with bound feet and some of the most emotional moments of the book come when she is comforting a young girl in the first stages of the binding process.
Kui Yu is also a very different character, although his Chinese belief system is more westernized due to his mistress. He no longer believes whites are “ghost people” without souls, and embraces the concept of love between men and women, instead of the more traditional Chinese male ideas. Shi Po and Kui Yu do not have an easy path, but their struggle together brings them back to each other and to a realization about their life together.
Underlying their story is a larger struggle; the resistance of the Han Chinese ideals against the ruling Manchurian Chinese ideals. Until I read this book, I’m ashamed to say I knew nothing of this struggle. As I mentioned, much of the philosophy and ideas here were completely new to me, and some of it was a bit odd, frankly, but it was a very valuable learning experience that encouraged me to explore something new. That doesn’t happen enough in the romance genre, I’m afraid, and I recommend this book for that reason alone, as well as for its unusual and compelling romance.