The Tiger and the Tomb
In The Tiger and the Tomb, Bonnie Vanak captures the grandeur and larger-than-life passion an Egyptian romance should have, then proceeds to bury both under a mountain of misunderstandings and sheer stupidity. There are parts of the story that show how good the book could have been. Too bad I had a hard time remembering those parts when I was busy slamming the book down over and over and over again.
It’s almost painful to explain the premise. In this corner we have Nazim Ramses bin Seti Sharif, a warrior known as a Guardian of the Ages for the Khamsin tribe. His duty is to protect the tribe’s sheikh, as well as the tomb of his ancestors from grave robbers. For various and sundry reasons, he has been betrothed to Lady Katherine Smithfield, who he has never seen. In preparation for his marriage, Nazim will officially change his name to Ramses.
In the other corner, we have Lady Katherine Kalila Smithfield. The evil curator of the Giza Museum is blackmailing her by threatening her father. If Katherine doesn’t steal a map leading to an ancient tomb for him, the curator will frame her father for theft and report him to the authorities. The man she is supposed to steal the map from is an Egyptian named Ramses.
Katherine tracks down the man named Ramses and steals the map, but not before they share a passionate kiss. Ramses is immediately overwhelmed with desire for the mysterious thief. He knows the map she took from him is a fake. That doesn’t keep him from wanting vengeance on the woman who wants to rob his people.
Okay, sportsfans, here’s the scorecard: Katherine thinks she’s stealing from a man named Ramses while she’s engaged to a man named Nazim. Ramses, who is Nazim, thinks he was robbed by a beautiful Egyptian woman named Kalila while he is engaged to an Englishwoman named Katherine. He thinks “Kalila” is nothing but a dirty thief. When he catches up with her, Katherine, who is Kalila, refuses to explain why she must steal from him. The book is 341 pages long. Most of these misunderstands will last for at least 300 of them.
Let me get to the positives while I can still remember that there were some. Both Ramses and Katherine have relatable hopes and fears that allow the reader to feel empathy for them. Ramses is uncomfortable with his half-Egyptian, half-English background, while Katherine is self-conscious about the scar on her face that has been the focus of cruel remarks. Both of these elements have good emotional payoffs. The author builds a nice sense of destiny to Ramses and Katherine’s relationship, enhancing the romance by showing that they were meant to be together. Some light paranormal touches are done well. There are moments where the love story is compelling or the action is particularly engrossing that show what the book could have been.
But boy, are the misunderstandings aggravating. This is the kind of story where it is obvious that the truth coming out will make everything better. If Katherine and Ramses learn who the other person is and why she is trying to steal gold from his ancestor’s tomb, they can work together and he can try to help her save her father and stop the evil curator. Therefore, as a reader, it could not have been more irritating to watch the author drag the secrets out forever.
Early in the book, Katherine’s father figures out that Nazim is Ramses, so naturally he is interrupted in mid-sentence by a knock on the door and whisked out of the story before he can reveal this to Katherine. Later, when it seems as though Ramses has figured out the situation, he really only deduces enough to completely misjudge why Katherine/Kalila is trying to steal the treasures, allowing the misunderstandings to continue.
Just when it seems like the book can’t get any more frustrating, it hits a long stretch where the heroine stubbornly, stupidly, painfully refuses to tell the hero what’s going on. She says time after time that she cannot, will not, dares not tell Ramses the truth or her father could die. This makes no sense. She’s no closer to getting the treasures on her own and there is no way Ramses is letting her anywhere near the tomb at this point. Telling him can only help her cause. There are numerous scenarios where revealing the truth would be a good thing and none where it would be bad. Yet she will. Not. Tell. Him. No amount of words other than reading each agonizing page can express just how excruciating this part of the story is. I slammed the book down repeatedly. Soon afterward, the heroine found herself in a terrifying situation that should have been chilling, if only I hadn’t been laughing out loud that I might finally be rid of the useless twit.
There were times when I came close to enjoying The Tiger and the Tomb, but I spent most of the book being aggravated, annoyed and generally ticked off. There are times when a story is so good that I don’t mind when a Big Misunderstanding is used in the plot. This is not one of them.