'Tiger's Curse' not typical teen romance

Published: Saturday, June 11 2011 2:00 p.m. MDT

"TIGER'S CURSE," by Colleen Houck, Splinter, $17.95, 402 pages (f)

Immortal, devastatingly handsome, rich, perfect boyfriend? Check.

Ordinary, unnoticed girl turned heroine? Check.

Love triangle? Double check.

"Tiger's Curse," the first of a series, may fit the template of current popular teen romance novels, but dismissing it as a "been there, done that," would be a mistake.

Kelsey Hayes, suffering the recent loss of both her parents, decides to take a temp job with a visiting circus in hopes to make enough money to cover tuition for community college. Her new job requires her to care for a white tiger, Ren, which she quickly comes to love, trust and care for.

In a whirlwind of events, Kelsey discovers that her white tiger is actually 300-year-old devastatingly handsome prince of India, placed under a curse after being betrayed by his brother Kishan. Kelsey travels to India with Ren where she discovers that she is the chosen one of the Indian goddess Durga to break the tigers curse.

Author Colleen Houck uses bright and exotic Indian culture and customs to weave riddles and adventures that Kelsey, Ren and long-time family friend Mr. Kadam must unravel and brave to break the curse. Together, Kelsey and Ren also seek out and find Kishan, who was cursed as a black tiger.

Slowly Ren and Kelsey fall in love, but Kelsey hasn't let anyone into her heart since her parents died, and she is afraid to love and lose again. Things only get harder when it seems that Kishan has his eye on Kelsey, too. In the end, Kelsey's insecurities and fears force her to do things she doesn't really want to do.

Houck has crafted a page-turner of a story that will leave you excited, frustrated, enchanted and picking sides. "Tiger's Curse" is a teen appropriate action-packed romance novel. While the characters engage in battles and fights, the scenes are not geared towards malicious violence. Houck writes a sweet love story without suggestive behavior or innuendos.

"Tiger's Curse," which was released in November 2010, is the first of five books and was in the top 10 of the New York Times children's chapter books best-sellers list. The second book "The Tiger's Quest" is scheduled to be released June 7 and the third book will be released later this year.

Hikari Loftus earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Utah in journalism.

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