Veronica sez: It’s my pleasure to introduce a Guest Contributor today- Greta van der Rol. We met in the Science Fiction Romance Brigade but we both also spin paranormal tales from time to time and she’s got a fascinating post for us about were-tigers. Take it away, Greta!
Readers of paranormal romance are used to the concept of the 'were-beast', a shape-shifter who can change from an animal to a person. Usually the idea is that the were-beast and the human are one and the same, morphing from one shape to the other, sometimes at will, sometimes because the moon is full (or something).
I've always had something of a problem with that. I enjoyed (if that's the right word' the scene in An American Were-wolf in London when the MC changes from a man to a were-wolf, and it's clearly a very painful and rather messy business, being as how, although dogs and people have the same bones, the configuration is totally different. Think knees, ankles, toes and things. Not to mention tails. Sure, fiction is about suspending belief but I usually write science fiction, so I've come up with a slightly different approach to my were-tiger-person relationship.
Just imagine you're a were-tiger, a being that exists in two dimensions, human in one, tiger in the other, with sometimes a bit of mix and match between the two – if you can keep control of the tiger part. Because that tiger part is a killer. He's savage, he's solitary and his urge is to rip out throats if he can get a chance. None of this full moon nonsense, you can change whenever you wish, and sometimes when you don't wish. You're walking around with this thing as part of your psyche. It can talk to you in your head, a constant companion, a constant threat.
Raja Asoka Bhosle (Ash for short) is a billionaire Indian businessman who can trace his ancestry back to the rulers of the Maratha Empire. He also hides a secret. He is the last of an ancient line of were-tigers stretching back over a thousand years or more, protector of the jungle in his native land. While he jet-sets the world brokering deals in Hong Kong, New York and London, he fights the illegal poaching trade which has so decimated tiger numbers.
Like tigers, were-tigers are solitary and they don't tolerate competition. But they do need to mate with another of their own kind. Tigers in the wild are facing extinction and were-tigers are even rarer than tigers. In all his years of looking, Ash has never found another. If he can't find a suitable mate, his were-tiger bloodline will end with him.
Sally Carter is an Australian doctor, escaping her broken heart by taking on a six-month contract in a foreign country. She's always liked tigers and what the hell, she might get to see one in the wild while she's over there. But she's only been in India for five minutes when she learns that the society and culture are about as different from middle-class Melbourne as it's possible to be. And there's a mysterious, legendary Black Tiger. All superstitious nonsense, of course. Then the dreams start. Pretty soon, Sally starts to doubt her own sanity, as the creature stalks her nights. Her days are busy, dispensing Western medicine in the face of prejudice, but always on the edge is Raja Bhosle, handsome, reserved and totally out of her league for far too many reasons.
Ash fancies Sally, oh yes he does. But she's European. She couldn't possibly carry the were-tiger gene. Besides, his mother doesn't approve. She thinks he should marry a nice Indian girl. So what will he do when he falls in love with the wrong girl? Will he be the last of Tengai's were-tigers, or will his family obligations overrule his heart?
Come along with me to exotic places – an Indian tiger reserve, a raja's palace, the slums of Mumbai, the bright lights of Hong Kong, and the streets of Melbourne. You'll go on a tiger hunt on the back of an elephant, chase a poacher through a stinking slum, prowl through a Hong Kong alley, attend a Hindu funeral and a Christian one, and you'll probe the secrets of the tiger temple.
Fancy a small sample? Sally's having one of those dreams.
Sally walked along a jungle path, trees crowding on both sides so thick their branches met overhead. The only sound she heard was the soft shuffle of her own footsteps, muffled by undergrowth. Unease started as a prickle in her back, as though hidden eyes watched. She picked up her pace, her heart beating faster, her mouth dry. Cold light shone ahead of her. The moon? The light disappeared, blocked by a huge shape. She halted. Oh God. A black tiger stood on the path, the massive head lowered. Glowing golden eyes glared at her. Her heart pounding, she turned and ran. The beast bounded behind her, the heavy paws thumping on the ground. Thud… thud…
All profits from the sale of the book will go to the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation to support tiger conservation.
What's my next project? Black Tiger is a stand-alone novel but there's plenty of room for more stories about Sally and Ash. The sequel, White Tiger, a work-in-progress, is about the plight of the six thousand or so tigers in America, kept in backyards, circuses, inadequate private zoos and the like. Here's a taste of the book and what it's about.
Thanks for having me. It's been a blast.
Veronica sez: It was our pleasure! And here's the blurb for Black Tiger:
He haunts the jungle – and her dreams
When Dr. Sally Carter travels to India to regroup from a broken heart the last thing she wants is to fall in love. But Raja Asoka (Ash) Bhosle is entirely too attractive to ignore, even though she knows it can only end in tears. Hers.
Ash guards his forest and the precious creatures within it, protecting the rare tigers from mindless slaughter, and a secret that lives in legend. From the moment he sets eyes on the Australian doctor, he wants her, even over the objections of his mother and the unsuitability of her cultural heritage.
While Ash fights tiger poachers, Sally struggles against cultural prejudice. Can the Legend of the Black Tiger be the bond that brings them closer together, or will it be an impossible belief that rips them apart. The closer Sally comes to understanding what the legend means, the more frequent the nightmares become. Is she losing her sanity, or is there more to Sally than she herself knows? The answers lie buried in her past.