Heart of the Tiger
Heart of the Tiger is a book that started strongly, muddled through its middle, and finished with a flourish. I can almost recommend it. Unfortunately, I can’t ignore the fact that somewhere in that muddled middle I set it aside for about a week and had no real inclination to pick it up again.
Miranda “Mira” Holcombe is a woman with a mission – to kill the Duke of Tallant. Tallant has been behind all of the many misfortunes to befall the Holcombe family since Mira was a girl. Currently Mira and her father are homeless because of him. Tallant laid legal claim to Seacrest, their home, ransacked it of its treasures, and delayed the Holcombe legal grievances against him in court with his considerable legal strength. He is an evil, vindictive man who preys upon the weak, and Miranda has cause to know this in an even more personal way. She will not rest until he is dead.
Miranda’s mission brings her to London, where she disguises the Holcombes’ visit to a fashionable new villa as a husband hunting expedition. Her father wishes to see her settled before he dies, and that sad date is pressing down upon them due to the stroke he suffered. Already he can’t speak or move and can only communicate through physical signals. Miranda doesn’t know how she is going to pull off either of her goals – killing Tallant or seeing her father back at Seacrest. And then the Duke’s brother enters the picture.
Michael Keynes also wants to kill Tallant. Growing up he witnessed the Duke’s many acts of cruelty and violence. When he fled England for India he vowed he’d be back when he was strong enough to take Tallant on and then take him down. He’s spent the intervening years trying to bring down Tallant’s Indian business interests. Unfortunately, his efforts have earned him an enemy, the Earl of Varden, also known as the Archangel. He intends to prosecute Michael in England. When Michael meets Miranda, he feels he has met her before. She reminds him of a tigress he once came across in India. And he can’t help but feel admiration for how brave she is. But he also can’t help stopping her from killing his brother. Because that is Michael’s job and Michael’s only.
I’d never read Kerstan before and I was impressed by a number of things in Heart of the Tiger. First and most importantly, the writing was very smooth. Kerstan has a certain descriptive flair, and her mixing of Indian and English cultural references was well done. There were some memorable scenes as well. At one point in the book a murder occurs and the way the scene is revealed by an observer in bits and pieces was quite intriguing. Also the love scene, though long in coming, was… interesting to say the least.
However, I was put off by the murderous intent of our two leads. Tallant is awful and beastly, one of those one-dimensional, truly evils sorts who does deserve to die. But murder is such an ugly thing, and both Miranda and Michael dwell on it ad nauseum. Additionally, they, and a few other characters, have such deeply ingrained, extremely tedious martyr complexes. There aren’t too many people who go about thinking, “It doesn’t matter what happens to me. I am forfeit as long as Such-and-Such is no longer free to walk the earth.” This book was full of those kinds of people.
And finally, the story contains a fairly glaring historical error. At one point a titled person in the story dies, and both his title and his financial business immediately go to his heir. This is a rather pivotal part of the story and affects all the other characters. But in reality, a title would not have so quickly passed from one person to another, especially given the fact that the dead person had a wife of childbearing age. Time would have had to pass to make sure that the wife was not carrying an heir. And it’s fairly likely that the dead man’s estate would have had to go through some kind of probate process as well. Honestly, this detail did not make much of a difference to my enjoyment of the story, but it makes the events of the last portion of the story fairly impossible.
Heart of the Tiger was not a bad romance. The protagonists are nice people who share some romantic moments, even if they are somewhat melodramatic. The writing itself is nice, nice enough that I would like to read Kerstan again, for the third book in this series, which is excerpted at the end of this one. It features some of the characters from this book, and sounds interesting.