When an evil force threatens the reclusive Katie Maddox, a shape-shifting healer with an underdeveloped ability to see the future, she needs someone to watch over her. Although the ranks of the Sentinels have been damaged by an attack by their mortal enemies, the Core, they manage to send the highly-protective Maks Altán. Unfortunately, the taciturn and private Maks is suffering from an illness that impedes his powers. Worse, he and Katie are drawn to each other–a dangerous situation, when his animal-form is a Siberian tiger and hers is a deer. Can predator and prey work as a team? Or will they destroy each other before their mysterious enemy strikes?
After The Witch’s Initiation, which raised my hopes for the Nocturne series, Tiger Bound is disappointing. I gather that in this later book in her mini-series, Durgin has departed from her formula of making the animal forms of her force-for-good, the Sentinels, large predators. Making the protagonists on the opposite end of the food-chain should be an interesting twist on her established formula.
I also appreciate that Durgin makes a point of establishing that even Sentinels who take the form of smaller, weaker animals can be powerful. Katie Maddox, who felt inferior as a teenager when she first found her animal form, reacted by removing herself from the fold and burying herself in the country. There, she used her talents to heal animals and strove to live a “normal” life. Only when she recognizes that she is not inferior–and that she has not developed her powers to the fullest because of her insecurity–can Katie move forward.
Indeed, as a concept Katie Maddox is an intriguing character. However, Durgin’s book is plagued with a flaw that drags it down repeatedly and prevents Katie from being as compelling as she might have been.
For example, while Durgin tries to establish similarities between the characters’ animal and human forms, she often “tells” rather than “shows” us what they are. Thus, we read far too often that Katie has deer-like legs, or looks startled like a deer, etc. Durgin’s descriptions of Maks have the same problem, and so do her depictions of each in their animal forms.
The repetition is exasperating. Why couldn’t Durgin use thick description rather than right-out informing us over and over that Maks and Katie resemble their animal-forms? Subtlety would be appreciated.
Another weakness in the book is Maks himself. He has an interesting backstory (which I won’t discuss) and suffers from a mysterious illness that we learn about over the course of the novel. However, he is also taciturn to the point of being opaque. Again, Durgin’s tendency to tell rather than show harms her character’s development. I get–knowing Maks’s history–why he would hold back from communicating with others. But at the same time, his repertoire of conversation is limited enough that I got tired of hearing it. Much of Maks’s outward character could be summed up by repeatedly singing “Que sera sera, whatever will be will be.”
Roger Akins, a minor character and unknowing human flunkey of the bad guy, is the most interesting figure in the book. A vile, violent man whom Katie suspects of training dogs for dog-fighting, Akins never failed to make my skin crawl. He reminds me of some of my more unsavory neighbors when I was growing up on a farm–including one who intentionally ran over cats on our road. Including, I suspect, my favorite childhood pet.
In fact, Akins gave me the creeps more than any other character, including the villain, his Core assistants, and his experimental beasts. His calculated character-assassination of Katie and poorly-concealed malice are, to me, the scariest parts of Tiger Bound.
On the plus side, unlike many recent Harlequin romances that I have read, Durgin develops her characters’ physical attraction more gradually. Early signs are given via Katie’s ability to see the future. They admire each others’ bodies without immediately getting too distracted to think about anything but sex. As their connection becomes closer (via a plausible plot device), their sexual relationship heats up.
And now I get to the most uncomfortable part of Tiger Bound. As Durgin has written it, Maks and Katie’s attraction is beyond their control (which is why I’ve tagged this “Otherworldly Love,” though I’m not quite sure I am fully happy with the designation, a trope I intended to have a more positive connotation).
To be more explicit, when I say “beyond their control,” I don’t mean in the sense of “wow, you are unbearably sexy.” I mean in the sense of “cosmically compelled.” Frequently, their early (admittedly sensual and sexy) encounters are preceded by Katie invading Maks’s mind without his consent. Later, when she realizes the cause of her tiger’s illness, she decides to “heal” him no matter how unwilling he is to be “made whole” in the necessary fashion.
Therefore, I consider the consummation of the protagonists’ relationship unambiguous woman-on-man rape. Plus, the situations I described above are not the only cringe-worthy sexual situations. This book deserves a TRIGGER WARNING.
Oh, Harlequin, Harlequin! The Nocturne line is so promising. Am I just repeatedly stumbling upon problematic books? Or is this line not for me? I have one more Nocturne on my shelf (next up, vampires!), and I do plan to read a few more to feel out the range of this series. I want to like it. Even to really like it!
However, I don’t recommend Doranna Durgin’s Tiger Bound. You could do a lot better, and in my opinion, it would be hard to do worse. Unless you read Rivertown.