Re-Read Challenge: “Tiger’s Eye” By Karen Robards

31 Dec


Info:Re-Read Challenge 2009

This month:Re-Read Challenge: December!

GENRE: Romance / Historical
PUBLISHED: Avon, 1989

Lady Isabella St. Just is shocked to learn the identity of the daring champion who comes to her aid–for the man who rescues her from desperate felons is none other than Alec Tyron, the notorious king of London’s underworld. Now she is beholden to an outlaw who is repected and feared throughout the city and stunned by her own intense desire for this dark man of mystery. Fate has united these strangers from opposite lives–the beautiful aristocrate and the brazen criminal outlaw. And now that the flame has been lit, no power on Earth will quench the fire of their passion…or destroy a love that society cannot allow.


This was the second novel I read by Karen Robards (the first being One Summer). I think the main attraction was the huge difference in the main characters’ position in society (think “the lady and the gutter rat”). I really liked it, the first half better than the last, and thought it interesting that it featured a married woman who commits adultery.


Isabella is the (much) younger and unwanted-except-for-her-money wife of an earl. She spends her life on the country estate of her husband who’s in London most of the time and pretty much neglects her, something she’s used to from her family. Isabella herself has never been to London so the summons from her husband to come to London immediately is very surprising but something Isabella doesn’t hesitate to comply with. Her marriage is no love match but she knows her duties as a wife. She thinks of herself as sensible, possessing a good deal of common sense, and no real beauty.

Alec is the “king of the London underworld” which means that nothing goes on without him knowing about it. If someone dares to cut him out of a deal…Alec’s punishment is swift and merciless. He’s a gutter rat who pulled himself up in the only way and to the only position he could. But he strives to improve and educate himself, working on his language, speech, and manners. So it’s not much of a wonder that he’s fascinated with Isabella when they meet, who’s the image of a real and proper lady.

This unlikely pair meet because Isabella is kidnapped on her way to London and held for ransom in a cottage. The kidnappers acted without Alec’s knowing so Alec shows up one night. It’s the night Isabella flees because she has reason to suspect her kidnappers mean to kill her after they have the ransom. In all the confusion that night, both Isabella and Alec are shot and wounded. They are taken to a brothel Alec owns and which is run by his mistress, Pearl, and there they are confined to two connected rooms to recuperate. It’s there that their fascination with the complete difference of the other person gets the better of them and they start to fall for each other. And it’s there that Isabella learns the fact that her kidnapping wasn’t by chance, that it was planned and that she indeed should have been killed by her kidnappers. She has to accept the fact that someone she knows wants her dead, the someone presumably being her husband.

Tiger’s Eye is a story that spans more than a year and moves from London to the country to France, clearly dividing the story in distinct parts. The first part, set in London, shows how Isabella and Alec meet and how they slowly fall in love with each other. Then the story moves to Alec’s country house where Isabella and Alec truly get to know each other. Their time there is even more of an escape from the reality of their different lives than the first part so of course this idyll gets interrupted and the story moves to France. Isabella and Alec can’t hide from reality forever.

I still love the first part, the part in London, best. But then there’s a lull. Alec and Isabella need around 70 pages to get from London to the country house. On their way, there is a lot of action like more shooting, but I’m afraid that despite that and advancing the story and Isabella and Alec’s relationship in general, I thought it a bit boring. Probably mostly because I thought Isabella lost some of her common sense. At the country house, my interest in the romance writing conventions at play increased – Alec turning Isabella in a real beauty (dresses and educating her about sex) and Isabella taming Alec (teaching him to be a gentleman) – while my interest in the story decreased even more. The pace did pick up again for the last few chapters, dealing with reality, positions in society and Isabella’s husband, it also cranked up the drama a bit again but I’m afraid, reading Tiger’s Eye this time, it wasn’t enough to draw me in completely again after having lost me in the middle.

I didn’t have a problem with it but there are real-life concerns that could spoil the reading enjoyment, mainly the fact that the heroine is an adulteress (addressed as an issue only near the end of the story) and Alec’s background. Alec isn’t a benevolent Robin-Hood type of criminal, he’s the real deal (or so the reader is told). Yet apart from Alec telling Isabella

“I would have let Parren kill you if he hadn’t taken the job under the table. The fact that your life was saved in the process of protecting my turf was just bloody coincidence.” (227)

this reality of his life – that he accept(ed) harming innocents – is blanked out completely in the story. Isabella never asks herself the legitimate question if she could live with someone like that. Alec is kind to her, he’s the only one who really cares about her, he’s so beautiful, and he showed her how it can be between a man and a woman in bed – “she had no idea!” – so all is well.

Alec as the hero has to be all. He has to have all the power, trappings and dark allure the position as leader of the underworld gives him but to be a romance hero, the implications of what this actually means has to be played down into near non-existence. Because if you let yourself think about the reality of Alec’s background, the things that are not addressed in the story, he’s a rather unsavory character and not exactly hero material. The way it is, he’s a fantasy character.

I realize all this probably sounds worse than it actually is. The reason that I go on about Alec’s character so long when I went for the fantasy of his character is because it points in the same direction than my issues with the middle part of the novel. After promising a more unconventional story with a married heroine, Tiger’s Eye ignores most of the questions connected with that premise and instead turns to romance conventions and the path romances usually follow. If read for the fantasy of an utterly gorgeous man madly in love with a woman who was not really appreciated for much of her life, for the fantasy of a man willing to do all for a woman, Tiger’s Eye is a good and satisfying read.

Verdict: 4/5


4 Responses to “Re-Read Challenge: “Tiger’s Eye” By Karen Robards”

  1. nath Thursday, December 31, 2009 at 11:34 pm #

    Interesting review, Taja. From what you say, this book suffers from a pacing problem… Also, int his kind of story, I find that the meeting is always more interesting than the rest ^_^; Overall, not sure this would be a book for me. I’m still trying to pick up and read One Summer, recommended by both Cindy and Kristie 😛

  2. Taja Friday, January 1, 2010 at 11:50 am #

    nath – thanks, especially for reading it all and making sense out of it. I’m a bit miffed that my last book for the challenge was one of the books that didn’t stand the test of time for me. Or maybe my grumbling was just because I was in a hurry to get it done in 2009 and so I rushed through it all – reading and writing? Oh well.

    Oh, and now you have three who recommend One Summer (maybe I should have read that! LOL). Ignore the crazy mystery stuff and you’ll find a very nice romance. 🙂

  3. nath Friday, January 1, 2010 at 6:06 pm #

    See the problem is heroes who have been in jail are not my favorite plot devices either 😦 Most of the time, it’s a mistake and it makes it even more frustrating.

  4. Taja Sunday, January 3, 2010 at 11:53 am #

    nath – the hero in One Summer has been in jail… But it’s one example this plot device is no mistake IMO. 🙂

    I agree, it’s hard to pull of convincingly in a romance. The need to make the hero too good to be true/a fantasy man doesn’t allow it really and certain aspects are just skipped. I was surprised how romance conventions were interfering with the story in Tiger’s Eye (IMO) when I read the book for the challenge.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: