It took me a long time to finish Hungry Tigress – I simpy could not get interested in it at all. Although it had an exciting beginning, the middle was slow and talky, and the ending engaged my ick factor to a very high degree. I did not care for the characters at all…this book was a washout.
Joanna Crane has lived in China for many years, loves the Chinese and speaks the language fluently. She and father clash over her desire to read and study philosophy and she is bored, bored, bored!! So one day the feisty Joanna runs off thinking about maybe joining the Boxers, but she’s halted when her horse (the eighth she’s owned since living in China…although the book doesn’t say why, I can tell you that if a characcter is cruel to animals, I won’t like them) pulls up lame.
The Boxers were one of the most anti-Western groups who ever existed, and Joanna comes across as hopelessly stupid to think they’d accept her. Naturally Joanna is attacked by a group of Boxers and is about to be killed when she is rescued by Zou Tan, a Shaolin monk. He takes Joanna to Shi Po, a teacher of the Tigress form of Taoism. Shi Po’s brother was the abbot of the Shaolin monastery where Zou Tan studied, and he knows of the Tigresses.
Joanna and Zou Tan begin to learn the ways of the Tigress, which seem to consist of massage, self-pleasuring, and oral sex. There are lots of flowery phrases in this book – Jade Flute, Cinnabar Cave, Dragon Cloud and Dragon Seed, all of which describe the sex organs. Initially those phrases were a nice change from the usual lance, staff, and manroot, but I soon began to laugh when they appeared.
Zou Tan is a Manchu prince and his father wants him to engage the Dowager Empress’s forces. But he, increasingly attracted to the foreign devil – who would be Joanna – is beginning to have doubts. As they learn more of the Tigress teaching, they realize that if Zou Tan can introduce his dragon into Joanna’s cinnabar cave and they get their yin and yang balanced so that the flow of chi is maximized, they can reach heaven. Which they do. Then they have to confront the Dowager Empress and Zou Tan’s father.
This book is more of a treatise on Taoism than a novel. Zou Tan and Joanna talk and talk and talk (punctuated by Tigress exercises), until practically the end when Zou Tan reveals himself and he and the Dowager Empress have their showdown. Also at the end, Zou Tan and Joanna engage in sex in front of an audience, at which their fathers are present. Ick, I say, ick!!
I could not warm up to Joanna, and Zou Tan never came alive at all. None of the secondary characters amounted to much and they had all the substance of a puff of smoke.
I hope that someday I can read a good romance with an Asian setting and characters, but Hungry Tigress wasn’t it. Dull, talky, boring and silly pretty well sum up this book.