Praise for In Her Keeping
“A warm and inspiring novel of second chances, starting over, and learning that happiness comes in all forms and all (tiger) stripes."
...New York Times bestselling author, DEBORAH SMITH
"Valerie Joan Connors scores a home run with her wonderful story about two fascinating subjects: true love and tigers."
…New York Times Bestselling Author, HAYWOOD SMITH
“Valerie Joan Connors knows her tigers, both real and ephemeral. In Her Keeping is a cinematic tale of love lost, and love found.”
...JESSICA HANDLER, author of Braving The Fire: A Guide to Writing Through Grief and Loss, and Invisible Sisters: A Memoir.
"Valerie Connors' novel offers a refreshing variant on a woman's journey of self-discovery. On the surface In Her Keeping appears to be about Sylvia Holt re-channeling her desire for motherhood by nurturing big cats. Deep down, however, this is a story about her reconnection with people and her renewed trust in the wisdom of the heart."
...GEORGE WEINSTEIN, Author of Hardscrabble Road and The Five Destinies of Carlos Moreno
Sylvia Holt’s life is almost perfect. The only thing missing is the child she wants so desperately. But after too many failed pregnancies, more than her share of heartache, and the discovery that her husband is not the man she thought he was, Sylvia walks away from her old life. She moves to her vacation home in North Carolina, hoping the fresh mountain air and magnificent scenery will help her begin to heal her shattered life. Her search for a new reason to get up in the morning leads her to a tiger sanctuary located on the adjacent property and Sylvia finds herself caring for a two-month-old tiger cub. She also finds herself in the middle of a battle to protect the sanctuary from criminals who are intent upon purchasing the sanctuary property, tigers and all, in order to trade in tiger parts on the black market. When the sanctuary owner refuses to sell, the bad guys turn up the heat, and Sylvia learns that her ex-husband is right in the middle of it all. But when the safety of the animals is threatened, the bad guys soon discover that they’re messing with the wrong girl.
Excerpt from In Her Keeping - the arrival of Jasmine and her mother at the Tiger Hills Sanctuary in North Carolina...
We walked outside just as two men climbed out of the truck. They opened the big back doors, and slid the ramp down to the ground. Inside the back of the truck there were two cages. One of them filled up about a third of the cargo area. In the space nearest the cab of the truck was a second, smaller cage.
When the first cage was rolled down the ramp to the ground I panicked for a moment, because I thought the tiger inside was dead. She lay on her side with her head propped up on a small pillow of straw. Then I saw that her eyes were covered with a bandana that was wrapped around her head.
“What’s wrong with her?” I asked Ethan, my voice shaking.
“She’s fine. It looks like she needed a little sedative for the trip, that’s all. Right Ben?”
“That’s right,” Ben said. “She was extremely agitated when we put her in the truck, so we had to calm her down some. She’ll be fine in a few hours.”
The relief on my face must have been obvious because Ethan, Ben and Sonny all chuckled.
Sonny jumped into the back of the truck and unloaded the second cage. I walked over and looked inside. What I saw in that cage both warmed and broke my heart. The poor little cub was so thin its ribs were showing, and its fur was dirty and matted. But in spite of its pathetic physical appearance, the cub’s behavior was perfectly adorable. There was a stuffed toy of some sort in the cage, although it was too filthy to identify, and the cub was rolling around with it, and trotting around the cage as if she hadn’t a care in the world. She needed a bath, and then some food.
While Ethan helped the men unload the adult female tiger into her new home, Greg showed me how to clean up the cub and prepare her bottle. She smelled the milk instantly, and when I sat down on the floor with it, she crawled into my lap and went after the bottle like she hadn’t been fed in weeks. When she finished the bottle, I loosened my grip on her to see if she wanted to move, but she stayed in my lap. She rolled over on her back and batted at my hands with her paws as I tried to pet her full little belly.
“Looks like the two of you are bonding,” Ethan said, entering the kitchen area of the out building where the food is prepared. “Shall we see how she likes the nursery?”
“Sure,” I said, getting to my feet without putting down the cub.
I held her up on my shoulder like a baby, and she nuzzled her fuzzy little head into my neck and fell asleep. When we got to her cage in the nursery, I didn’t want to put her down. I could have held her like that forever.
“Can we stay with her for a while?” I asked.
“For a while. But she needs to get used to her new home,” Ethan said.
“Won’t she be lonely?”
“She will,” he said. “We won’t leave her alone for very long though. She’ll need to eat again in a couple hours. Greg will keep her in his room tonight. Don’t worry.”
“Easier said than done, I think.”
“You’re just a big old softie, aren’t you Sylvia. If I didn’t know better, I’d think maybe you’re the one who’s lonely.”
“You might be right Ethan,” I said. “Not to change the subject or anything,” I totally wanted to change the subject, “What’s her name?”
“That’s up to you. She doesn’t have one yet.”
“What? She’s a month old, for heaven sakes.”
“It wasn’t the warmest home I’ve ever seen. But the good news is that you can name her yourself.”
“I wouldn’t know where to start. Isn’t there some type of protocol or something?” I asked.
“We usually name them alphabetically, if they don’t already have a name when they arrive. The last cat we named was Isis, so we would probably name her something that begins with J. Her mother’s name is China.”
I thought for a moment. China made me think of incense, and when I was a moody teenager spending all my time in my bedroom, I used to burn Jasmine incense.
“Let’s call the cub Jasmine then. Is that okay?”
“I think that’s a fine name for a little girl cub. Jasmine it is."