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The Tiger's Bride
by Merline Lovelace
(Harl. Historical #423, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-29023-3
Harlequin is celebrating its tenth anniversary for its line of historical novels and The Tiger's Bride, by the talented Ms. Lovelace, is certainly indicative of why Harlequin has done so well for so long. I like a story that grabs you from the first sentence; The Tiger's Bride starts with a very provocative first sentence: "Sarah Abernathy had never visited a brothel before."

Sarah is a twenty-four-year-old spinster living in Macao and taking care of her beautiful younger sister and her youngest brother while her father, the Reverend Mr. Abernathy, is off doing missionary work. Sarah is worried because her father has defied the laws and has traveled to the interior of China; if this transgression is discovered, he could lose his Mission and his living.

When weeks pass and her father doesn't return, Sarah knows that she must go after him and bring him home. In order to find her father, Sarah needs someone who can escort her from port to port. And she needs someone who will be discreet about her father's current whereabouts. Sarah needs the help of the notorious Captain Jamie Kerrick.

While Jamie Kerrick has no objections to taking Sarah Abernathy to bed, he has several objections to taking her along on his South China Sea route. But Sarah has something that Jamie needs in order to make a successful trip: she can produce a pilot experienced in navigating the dangerous waters. Jamie tells Sarah that he will look for her father, but she cannot come with him.

He threatens to expose her father's defiance of the laws, if Sarah doesn't comply with his wishes and produce the pilot he needs. Jamie thinks he has bested Sarah until he sets sail and discovers that she has managed to stowaway aboard his ship.

I have happily followed Ms. Lovelace's heroes and heroines all over the world. Her descriptions of places and historical events are always first-rate. Without making it seem like a history lesson, the author provides readers with the politics, as well as the general feel for living in China during the nineteenth century.

There are a number of tried-and-true romance cliches in The Tiger's Bride. First, the heroine stows away on the hero's ship and later in the book the two are stranded on a deserted island. What keeps The Tiger's Bride from being just another nicely written romance cliche is the fact that the author doesn't linger over long on any of these events, she keeps this story moving a brisk pace.

Actually, I wouldn't have minded a longer stay on the deserted island: Sarah and Jamie's time together was romantic and a lot of fun. And, I do appreciate that Ms. Lovelace doesn't just assume that every deserted island will be loaded with fresh water and an endless supply of food. Again, it's this author's attention to details even small ones, like getting fresh water from limestone depressions which raises The Tiger' Bride to an above average read.

--Judith Flavell

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