Jaguar Eyes had an intriguing premise to it. A man discovers the Amazons and wants to prove to the world what he has found. Unfortunately, for most of the book, the man acts like a creep toward the heroine, destroying a great deal of my enjoyment.
Daniel Heywood sets out to make a name for himself and prove to his father that he can amount to something. His ship docks in South America, and the crew is attacked by natives. Daniel is injured and wakes up in a village where he discovers the only inhabitants are women. They are the Ama’zons of Eldra’to. One of the Ama’zons, Vanessa, tends him and an attraction develops between them. Daniel makes plans to escape the village and wants to take Vanessa back to England with him to prove his find of the legendary Amazons.
Daniel doesn’t start off being a creep, and creep may be a little too harsh a word for him. Completely insensitive may be a better description. While you’ll sympathize with his desire to prove himself and share his desire to find out more about the Ama’zons, you may start to dislike him when he sleeps with Vanessa, who is almost completely innocent about men, in order to persuade her to go back to England with him. You may start to dislike him even more when he refuses to let her come into contact with any other people on the ship and once they arrive in England for fear she’ll start to change and sully the purity of his discovery.
Vanessa is an interesting character. Claybourne does a better job with her and strongly conveys what she is feeling and thinking. Her pride, curiosity and dignity come shining through as does her sincerity and just plain niceness. You’ll really get a sense of Vanessa’s feelings as she reacts to hearing people’s reactions to her.
The attraction between Vanessa and Daniel is obvious, just as it is obvious that Daniel begins to feel more for Vanessa than just scientific curiosity. And to be fair, when Daniel sleeps with her, he does feel an attraction. However, the whole situation just smacks of Daniel’s manipulation of Vanessa. Even though the attraction is there, it takes forever for Daniel to admit his feelings are love.
I liked the way Claybourne compared Daniel and Vanessa. The two characters are similar to each other in the ways they try to prove themselves worthy of love – Daniel to his father and Vanessa to Daniel. I also liked the way Claybourne brought historical figure Charles Darwin into the story and gave him a cousin who taught Vanessa how to be a lady. Daniel’s parents are also brought into the mix, and while his father warmed up as the story progressed, his mother never did. There is a plotline involving Vanessa’s fulfillment of a prophecy that she’ll save her people, that seemed a bit anticlimactic.
My positive reaction toward Vanessa and my negative reaction toward Daniel canceled each other out, leaving me feeling quite average about this book. Fortunately, Claybourne’s writing is smooth and made it easy to read. If a jungle setting and fish out of water story appeal to you, you might like Jaguar Eyes.