Merline Lovelace

The Tiger’s Bride

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The Tiger’s Bride Summary

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In 1998, prolific romance novelist and retired Air Force Colonel Merline Lovelace published The Tiger’s Bride, a historical novel set in 18th-century China and Southeast Asia. Detailing the steamy romance between the daughter of a missionary and a ne’er-do-well privateer who is actually an English lord, the plot follows their adventures as they try to locate the heroine’s missing reckless father.

Sarah Abernathy is 24 years old and unmarried, which makes her practically an old maid in 18th century terms. She has spent most of her life looking after her younger siblings, especially after her religious zealot father started going on increasingly more and more dangerous missions after the death of his wife.

As the novel opens, Sarah’s father has gone missing during yet another one of his excursions. But this time, he isn’t the only one in danger: Sarah and her two younger siblings are now alone in Macao, China, where their situation grows dire as they run out of money and are possibly about to be homeless. Sarah comes up with a daring plan: to seek out known rogue James Kerrick, nicknamed “The Tiger,” in order to get him to help the Abernathys find their father.

Captain James Kerrick hasn’t always been a notoriously dissolute privateer, whose main claim to fame is being drummed out of the Royal Navy. He is actually an English lord, Third Viscount Straithe, whose reputation as the family’s black sheep was used against him to the point where he had no choice but to turn pirate – or at least, legal smuggler for the Crown. Now he runs his ship with an iron hand, and keeps whatever emotions he has in check at all times.

Sarah writes James a letter asking for his help, but when it goes unanswered, she decides to find him in person. Unfortunately, the best place for running into him is his favorite brothel – but this doesn’t deter the intrepid Sarah, who figures out a way to sneak inside. James has no interest in Sarah’s pleas, but he is instantly attracted to this unconventionally good looking woman with an ample chest. As they banter, he enjoys her sense of humor, her bravery, and her strength of will. Sarah, meanwhile, is floored by just how much she desires this unprincipled adventurer – a rogue who turns out to have a much more honorable heart than his bad reputation lets on.

Assuming the encounter is a one-off, James sets out on his next smuggler run only to discover that Sarah and her siblings have stowed away on his boat in order to force his hand. His initial response is to return the trio to shore at the next closest port, but Sarah’s good humor and quick thinking soon win the crew over to her side. She also displays her impressive negotiating skills when she manages to get a better deal for the ship’s goods than James had originally planned on. James agrees to let Sarah and her siblings stay aboard.

Although their desire for each other is mutual, Sarah assumes that James actually has eyes for her beautiful, slightly younger sister Abigail. She manages to convince herself that this is for the best – that the prissy Abigail will somehow tone down James’s bad impulses. But although Abigail is more conventionally attractive than Sarah, she is not that much fun, so James isn’t particularly interested.

After a few sea-going adventures, James and Sarah find themselves marooned on a deserted island in the middle of the South China Sea. While waiting for rescue, they give in to their passion and have extremely mutually satisfying sex. Still, Sarah worries about the fact that although they’ve made love to one another, James has never really told her out loud that he loves her. When they are finally retrieved from the island by the crew of James’s ship, it turns out that Abigail has found a romance of her own, with James’ second-in-command.

The last part of the novel ties up loose ends in a satisfying way. The adventurers manage to locate Sarah’s father, who turns out to be a combination of a bumbling comic figure and a disapproving religious extremist. Nevertheless, in the end, Sarah ends up exactly what the title promises: the Tiger’s bride.