Review: Branded by Fire

Review: Branded by FireBranded by Fire (Psy-Changeling, #6) by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling #6
Published by Berkley on July 7th 2009
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 372

Strong Hero and Heroine

“Do you want to claw at me, kitty-cat?”

THE STORY: BRANDED BY FIRE brings the alliance between the DarkRiver leopards and the SnowDancer wolves to a critical point. The two changeling groups have been increasing their alliance as the novels have gone by. In BRANDED BY FIRE, Mercy Smith, a leopard sentinel and Riley Kincaid, a wolf lieutenant finally give in to the attraction that has been burning between them for a while. Their relationship has many complications. First, there is the natural problems of a wolf and a cat being in a relationship. Second, there are the potential conflicts in loyalties with the two packs. Third, both Mercy and Riley are dominant changelings and Mercy especially worries how they can manage a relationship between them.

OPINION: I loved this book because it was at its heart really about how a strong independent woman builds a relationship with a strong, independent man. While the story is dressed up in paranormal trappings, the heart of the story is universal. Because of the nature of the story, this book felt more personal and intimate than some of the others in the series that interact more with the overarching story of the series. I loved the sexy, witty dialogue between Mercy and Riley. The two are smart and clever and I loved how they fight and love one another.

WORTH MENTIONING: For fans of the series, there are some beautiful scenes in this book between Sascha and Lucas. For those scenes alone, I would have read this book.

FINAL DECISION: I really enjoyed this book because it deals with the changelings and the relationship between the two packs. I also really enjoyed how Singh dealt with a strong woman character and let her have a relationship where she was not only an equal partner, but a strong soldier as well.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BRANDED BY FIRE is the sixth novel in the Psy-Changeling series. The more I read of these books, the more I believe that a reader must start with the first novel in order to appreciate the breadth of the world and story that Singh has created.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.



Review: Hostage to Pleasure

Review: Hostage to PleasureHostage to Pleasure (Psy-Changeling, #5) by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling #5
Published by Berkley on September 2nd 2008
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 356

Complex Paranormal Romance

“If he was going to be held hostage to this unwanted compulsion, then she was damn well coming along for the ride.”

THE STORY: Dorian Christensen is a leopard changeling who cannot shift into his leopard form. A sniper and sentinel for the DarkRiver leopards, he is tormented by the murder of his sister by one of the cold Psy. When he meets Ashaya Aleine he is attracted and feels guilty about it. Ashaya is Psy and has been working for the Council to create technology to create a hive mind. When she manages to defect, the question is what are her motives.

OPINION: I really like the continuing Psy story and I was happy that Dorian gets his happy ending here. I thought the story was complex and Singh doesn’t shy away from the complexities of good and evil and endings that are not perfect. The motivations of characters are murky and it is especially interesting that readers are left to guess at who can be trusted. I liked Dorian and his story was particularly compelling. The relationship between Dorian and Ashaya was interesting but I felt less connection between them than with prior characters. My liking of the story was more intellectual than emotional. Both Dorian and Ashaya reveal more information about the changelings and Psy. I did like their story, but I did not feel the emotional kick with this story that I had with the others in this series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Fans of the series will get cameos from the prior couples who have important roles in this story.

FINAL DECISION: The story between Dorian and Ashaya is complex and interesting. Singh finds new ways to keep her series interesting. I liked this book although it was not as good as the previous books in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HOSTAGE TO PLEASURE is the fifth Psy-Changeling book in the series. The story is independent of the other books in the series, however, there is an overarching story that is threaded through all the novels and a reader who has not read the previous books in the series may miss this overarching story.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.



Review: Mine to Possess

Review: Mine to PossessMine to Possess (Psy-Changeling, #4) by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling #4
Published by Berkley on February 5th 2008
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 328

Emotional Journey Through Pain to Love

The story of two people who have loved one another most of their lives and yet have tremendous pain to overcome to find love together.

THE STORY: Clay Bennett is a leopard changeling who was raised as human by his mother. Clay is often viewed as cold and detached for a changeling. He has missed his childhood friend, Tally, for twenty years. As children, they had a special bond that was shattered when Clay killed Tally’s abusive foster father. Talin McKade spent the best days of her life with Clay as a child. When he killed to protect her, Talin ran from Clay going as far as having him told that she was dead. Twenty years later, she has come to Clay to ask for his help. Street children are disappearing and ending up dead. Talin is determined to find the remaining kidnapped children but needs Clay’s help. The anger and pain between Clay and Tally threaten to destroy any connection between them and yet the beauty of their memories brings them together.

OPINION: This book is deeply emotional and painful. Tally’s abuse at the hands of her foster father had an incredibly negative influence on her life. MINE TO POSSESS slowly reveals the different ways in which she has had to live with the effects including her rejection of Clay and her deliberate separation from other people. Singh does not flinch from Tally’s pain filled life including her sexual promiscuity. I believe Tally to be incredibly strong to have survived and rebuilt her life. Her reunion with Clay allows her to not just survive but to find happiness and joy. Clay has his own demons to deal with. His childhood also scarred him. His mother wanted to deny his leopard and as a result, Clay is at risk of going rogue and losing himself to the leopard part of himself. The DarkRiver leopards have made Clay one of them even when he would like to be apart. He has missed Tally and when she reappears in his life, he is understandably angry at her deception. It is difficult to read how abrupt and cutting he is with her, but he is also striking out in pain at her denial of their connection. The acceptance and understanding that builds between the characters throughout the novel is deeply moving. Singh has created an amazing world, characters and series and I can’t stop turning pages.

WORTH MENTIONING: I’m a big fan of Singh’s incorporating characters from previous books into the story. This is not a series where a couple is paired off and never seen again. She has a large cast of characters that make appearances big and small throughout each of the books.

FINAL DECISION: The romance between Clay and Tally is so complicated and layered. I love the pain and the beauty of their love. While not my favorite characters of the series, I think the book overall is my favorite because of the deeply emotional nature of the story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MINE TO POSSESS is the fourth book in the Psy-Changeling series. It can be read independent of the other books, but readers should be aware that there is an overarching story that connects all the books and is being slowly revealed as the series progresses.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.



Review: Caressed By Ice

Review: Caressed By IceCaressed By Ice (Psy-Changeling, #3) by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling
Published by Berkley on September 4th 2007
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 388

Incredibly Angst Filled Story Where the Hero and Heroine Heal Each Other

Singh has created an incredibly detailed world involving the Psy who have excised emotion from their people and their society who rule the world of humans and changelings (animal/human shapeshifters).

THE STORY: Judd Lauren is a former Psy assassin who now lives with is family with the SnowDancer changeling wolves. He is cold and has no intention of breaking Silence to admit emotion to his life because he knows that it will turn him into an indiscriminate killer. He is working with other Psy to destabilize the governing system of the Psy. Brenna Kincaid was tortured and almost killed by a Psy serial killer. Her mind was broken and raped by the Psy and Brenna is still discovering what the effects are. The changeling wolf has been changed by her experiences and she fears what she is becoming. When she dreams of a murder that happens and she feels joy in the killing, Brenna fears that she will also become a killer like the Psy who tortured her. Neither is looking for a relationship and yet Judd and Brenna and constantly drawn to one another.

OPINION: I really enjoyed this book. Both Brenna and Judd are damaged people. While others insist that they cannot help one another, their mutual pain brings them together and gives them an understanding of what the other is dealing with. This is one of those books where the pain and emotions of the characters are put on display in such an intimate fashion that the reader goes on the emotional rollercoaster that the characters are on. The book is intense and difficult to read at points. Singh, however, shows her characters in the darkness but does not leave the reader there. The beauty of CARESSED BY ICE is the light and joy brought to the characters through their relationship. I love books that rips open emotions and then bring the characters into the beauty of love. Brenna, especially, is incredibly strong and her ability to overcome and fall in love with Judd is amazing. I especially liked in this book the alternating point of view between Brenna and Judd. Singh does a fantastic job of changing her tone to suit each character and the emotional journey of Judd was compelling as well.

WORTH MENTIONING: Fans of the virgin hero will find an interesting variation here.

FINAL DECISION: I think this is a fabulous book. It is incredibly moving and emotional and I highly recommend it.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CARESSED BY ICE is the third book in the Psy-Changeling series. The book can be read independent of others in the series although the world building that is done depends upon the overarching story being developed throughout the novel. A reader can start here, but I recommend starting at the beginning to appreciate the overarching story.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.



Review: Visions of Heat

Review: Visions of HeatVisions of Heat (Psy-Changeling, #2) by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling #2
Published by Berkley Intermix on March 1, 2007
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 356

Fabulous Entry in the Psy-Changeling Series

The story of a woman isolated from the world and the man who draws her to discover more about herself than she could imagine. Singh’s Psy-Changeling series is a paranormal romance series where the Psy are a race that has eliminated emotion from their people. They coexist with humans and changelings (half human, half animal).

THE STORY: Faith NightStar is an F-Psy. She foresees the future for the business interests of her family and the Psy. She has been isolated since she was three years old. Something has changed and she foresees a murder. Faith begins to have questions. In her investigations, she runs into Vaughn D’Angelo, a jaguar changeling who is a sentinel with the DarkRiver leopards. Faith and Vaughn are drawn together again and again. They end up hunting another Psy murderer who seems to be threatening Faith in her mind.

OPINION: VISIONS OF HEAT is a compelling book. The combination of the cold, emotionless Psy and the sensual, emotional Changelings make a great deal of tension. This disparity in how the characters see the world make this a true different worlds story. I loved the character of Faith. For a woman who has been isolated her entire life, she is not weak. She grows and stretches throughout the story and I appreciated that. I also really liked that Vaughn knows that she is a strong woman even when Faith doesn’t. One of my favorite scenes is where Faith is fighting the evil that surrounds her and sees that Vaughn has watched over her but not interfered. When she asks why, he says that he knew that she could handle it. Although admittedly dominating and possessive, Vaughn is empowering in surprising ways. The plot of the story develops the overarching story of the series, but is also self-contained and doesn’t require that a reader be familiar with prior book in the series. Finally, I love the very sensual, lush way that Singh writes in this book without being purple prose. It reflects the life of the changelings and I really appreciate how she changes in tone depending on what part of the world is being discussed.

WORTH MENTIONING: Fans of SLAVE TO SENSATION will be happy to know that Sascha and Lucas play important roles in this book.

FINAL DECISION: I have been very impressed with this series. The writing, characters and plot have been excellent and I recommend it.

CONNECTED BOOKS: VISIONS OF HEAT is the second book in the Psy-Changeling series. I reader does not have to read the first book in the series, although the story will be better appreciated with the background of that book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.



Review: Slave to Sensation

Review: Slave to SensationSlave to Sensation (Psy-Changeling, #1) by Nalini Singh
Series: Psy-Changeling #1
Published by Berkley Sensation on September 5th 2006
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 352

Fabulous, Unique, Emotional Paranormal Romance

The story of a world where the Psy, a cold emotionless race, rules over humans and Changelings (a type of animal shapeshifter). What happens when a Psy and a Changeling fall in love.

THE STORY: Sascha Duncan is a 26 year old Cardinal Psy. The Psy were conditioned to remove emotion from their makeup. Sascha has a secret. She is falling apart because she feels emotion. She has been hiding that fact for years and fears that she is losing control and will be sent to rehabilitation where defective Psy are essentially erased. As part of her job, she begins working with Lucas Hunter, a leopard changeling. Lucas and his pack are searching for a Psy serial killer (who isn’t supposed to exist because of the Psy conditioning). Lucas believes that he can use Sascha to discover the killer. Something about Sascha, however, attracts Lucas and he is determined to find out everything about her.

OPINION: I loved this book. I really felt the fears of Sascha as she discovers her true self and I loved how she claims her own identity by the end of the book. Lucas is sexy and playful and Singh’s depiction of him just makes a reader want to reach out and pet him. I was impressed with the world building that Singh does. She depicts the world without droning on and on about the details. She world serves the story. I was instantly enthralled by the story and wanted to know the outcome not only of the romance but also the plot itself. Although Sascha is at a difficult part in her life, she is strong and determined and immensely likeable. I admire strong heroines who are also likeable. The romance was sexy and sweet. There was absolutely nothing about this book that I didn’t like.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are two prequel novellas to this book. They can be read before or after this book.

FINAL DECISION: SLAVE TO SENSATION was a surprise to me. Singh has created a unique world with great characters. I was instantly sucked into the story and couldn’t stop turning the pages. The story has emotional depth and I believed in the characters and their world. I highly recommend this book and can’t wait to read more.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SLAVE TO SENSATION is book one of the Psy-Changeling series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.



Review: Indiscreet

Review: IndiscreetIndiscreet (Horsemen Trilogy, #1) by Mary Balogh
Series: Horsemen Trilogy #1
Published by Signet on February 2nd 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400

Complex, multi-faceted Characters are Classic Balogh

FINAL DECISION: Complicated, lovely with characters who have faults and yet love strongly, INDISCREET Is the story of characters who make mistakes but end up finding the happiness they don’t know that they need.

THE STORY: Rex, Viscount Rawleigh visits his twin brother and is looking for a woman to occupy his time. He sees the young widow, Catherine Winters and she seems perfect to Rex. He proceeds to make an improper proposal that Catherine rejects as she is living a virtuous life. Rex isn’t deterred, however, as he can’t seem to avoid her and his attraction to her. Catherine has her own problems because she knows she must resist Rex but she is also tempted by him.

OPINION: I love Balogh’s books. She writes complex, emotional dramas and this book is no different. These characters are complicated and are placed in a difficult situation where they make mistakes. These characters have faults, make mistakes and have to seek forgiveness. Balogh doesn’t have formula characters. Rex is self-absorbed and doesn’t consider Catherine when he makes his move on her. As a result, he ends up turning her life upside down. I loved that his recognition of his own failings comes with his regret for forcing Catherine into a situation she did not want. But Catherine is no victim of Rex. From the beginning, she has complicated feelings toward him and thus she has her own responsibility in the resulting chaos. This book has a measured and deliberate romance that Balogh does so well. By the time these characters find their happy ending, they have earned it.

WORTH MENTIONING; This book features four friends who have returned from war. It is an interesting contrast with Balogh’s own Survivors’ Club series. These returning soldiers have luckily avoided the dark scars of the Survivors’ Club members. I think these two series are nicely complementary to one another.

CONNECTED BOOKS: INDISCREET is the first book in the Horseman Trilogy.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.



Review: Diamond Bay

Diamond Bay
Diamond Bay by Linda Howard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of My Old Time Favorites

FINAL DECISION: This old time romantic suspense book is one of my favorites. I love the strong dominant hero who is completely undone by the determined and independent heroine.

THE STORY: Rachel Jones, a widow and former investigative reporter, finds a man washed up on her beach. Rachel came home after her job caused the death of her husband. She now runs two souvenir shops and writes. She the stranger washes up on her beach, her instincts tell her to keep it quiet. Instead she cares for him herself. Kell Sabin is the chief of a shadowy group of U.S. agents. An attempt on his life has left him weak and vulnerable and in the Rachel’s hands. Danger surrounds the two as they grow closer even as Kell knows that they have no future because he must be alone to do his work.
OPINION: This book was one of the first romantic suspense books I ever read. I loved that this story had suspense but focused on the romance. It is limited because of the length of the novel and its origin as a category romance. The characters are more complex than a normal category romance and the story is exciting and the relationship complicated. Kell is determined to be alone because of the possible pain his life presents, but he cannot hold out against the determined love of a strong woman. I also loved that Rachel loves Kell and so she accepts him totally even if that means that he will leave her. No whining from Rachel even as her life is turned upside down. The book is part of the serious alpha male hero trend in the 1980s but Rachel is no naive innocent. She is strong and a partner.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book was first published as a category romance in the late 1980s.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DIAMOND BAY is the second book in the Rescues series. It has overlapping characters with the first book in the series MIDNIGHT RAINBOW. DIAMOND BAY can be read as a standalone but is more enjoyable as a companion to MIDNIGHT RAINBOW.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

Top 10 Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2016

The following are the Top 10 Romance books I can’t wait to read in 2016.  The order is very variable and subjective. I change my mind depending on what I have most recently read about the book.

10. The Earl Takes All by Lorraine Heath — I always seem to need Kleenex when I read Heath’s books. This year’s book seems like one for which I might have to have a box.  Edward, a twin takes his brother’s place to protect his brother’s widow who is pregnant.  The only problem is that two begin to fall in love while Edward is masquerading as his brother.  The angst that will arise makes this book be one that I am definitely want to read.

9. Guardian’s Mate by Jennifer Ashley — Ashley’s Shifter series not only are great romances but also have a lot to say about discrimination and acceptance. This book is the story of a the first female Guardian, which is a powerful position in the Shifter hierarchy.  This romance between a sassy,barrier breaking wolf shifter and a polar bear sifter who follows his own rules appears to be ready to continue this fun and thoughtful series by moving in new directions.

8. First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips — Phillips returns to her highly popular Chicago Stars series with this book about a woman who wants to be an accomplished detective and a former quarterback. Phillips Chicago Stars series books are always filled with humor and sexy situations. Phillips has also promised appearances by characters from the previous Chicago Stars books.  I love the humor and unexpected twists of Phillips novels and this one looks like it will continue that tradition.

7. The Wicked Duke by Madeline Hunter — The final book in the Wicked Trilogy is one I have been anticipating.  Lancelot, Duke of Aylebury is suspected of his brother’s murder and has been forced to retire to the country. To clear his name, he agrees to marry his neighbor’s niece.  He’s not thrilled and neither is she.  In fact, she intends on discovering his secrets and exposing them. I have been intrigued by the duke in the prior books in the series  All the brothers suffered various forms of abuse by their father and older brother and I, too, want to know the duke’s secrets.

6. Allegiance of Honor by Nalini Singh — This latest entry in the paranormal Psy-Changling series has been promised to be an ensemble book which covers characters from the entire series so far and having a story which pushes the series forward. This promises to be exactly the type of book I love.  I prefer books in a series where the situations and characters are interconnected.  For many business reasons, books in a series are billed as being standalones in order to not discourage new readers.  I, however, prefer to read books in order and if I am intrigued by a new book will most often seek out the prior books in the series to read in order.  Because of this, I want to feel like the books exist in the same world and time with lots of cross book appearances by characters.  This book seems perfect for me because I love the Psy-Changling series and can’t wait to see my favorites again.

5. Only Beloved by Mary Balogh — The final book in the Survivors’ Club series promises to be as intensely emotional as the others in the series.  This book follows the healing of the Duke of Stanbrook who didn’t go to war but ended up losing both his son and wife because of the war.  This series deeply examines various ways that people are damaged and how they go about dealing with life. The six men and one woman who make up the Survivors’ Club deal with physical injuries, pain, grief, emotional injuries and Balogh goes deep into the mind and soul of these characters.  Balogh has a track record of creating fantastic conclusions to series and I expect this one will meet that standard.`

4. The Angel’s Share by J.R. Ward — The first book in this series, THE BOURBON KINGS surprised me.  Many of the characters initially appeared unlikable, but I couldn’t put the book down.  It reminded me of the television series Dynasty or Dallas from the 1980s with rich, often immoral characters.  This family is really messed up but I look forward to finding out if yet another member of this wicked family can find some redemption.

3. Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas — This book was teased in the first book in the series COLD-HEARTED RAKE.  Rhys Winterborne is a commoner who has made himself into a successful businessman.  A semi-arranged engagement to the aristocratic Lady Helen Ravenel who is shy and innocent initially seems doomed. Rhys passionate approach to Helen initially frightens her, but she reconsiders and is determined to marry Rhys.  And thus, this story begins.  I am a big fan of these cross-class romances — especially with commoner heroes and aristocratic heroines.  Although I enjoyed Kleypas’s contemporary books, her historical novels are sometimes just magical.  I think this one has incredible potential.

2. A Scot in the Dark by Sarah MacLean — MacLean is always on my must buy list. Her prior series were just amazing.  Her latest has a twist being inspired by modern celebrity scandals but the story is grounded in the Regency period. This one features a Scotsman (who doesn’t love those) who comes to take control of his “inherited” ward who has posed for a naughty portrait. MacLean doesn’t disappoint and that is why this book is high on my anticipation list.

1. Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt — This book wins merely because of the first quote I read from it: “Never mistake me for the hero of this tale.”  Oh, I love me a hero who skates on the edge of being the villain.  Val is complicated and I can’t wait to dive into his psyche and for him to find a woman to bring him to heel.  Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series has been amazing.  Deeply emotional, with lush sexy characters, this series has never disappointed me.  This book has the potential to be an instant classic.

Review: Archangel’s Storm

Review: Archangel’s StormArchangel's Storm (Guild Hunter #5) by Nalini Singh
Series: Guild Hunter #5
Published by Penguin Group (USA) on September 4th 2012
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 315

The Story of Raphael’s Spymaster Jason

“She wanted to run her finger over the blade of him even if it made her bleed, wanted to dance too close to the flame, wanted to take a risk that could destroy her.”

THE STORY: The angel Jason is the Archangel Raphael’s spymaster. He agrees to go to the court of the Archangel Neha to help discover who murdered her consort. In order to be trusted, Jason agrees to a blood tie with Princess Mahiya who has a shadowy function in Neha’s court. Jason and Mahiya attempt to uncover a violent murderer while a passionate attraction blooms between them. While Jason will never tie himself to anyone, he is fascinated by Mahiya who isn’t who she appears to be.

OPINION: I liked this book, but not as much as others in the series. The emphasis on Neha’s court made me miss the energy of New York and the more aggressive Elena and Honor. Mahiya is not the weakling that she appears to be, but her strength is more subtle and she puts up with a lot from others. I liked how Jason empowers her, but I did not find the story plot as interesting as the others in the series. I want to emphasize, however, that this book is still good, just not as compelling to me as the others. In fact, my favorite parts of this book are about Dimitri and Honor.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is the second book where the focus of the story is on one of Raphael’s seven rather than Raphael and Elena.

FINAL DECISION: I liked this story, but I was not as interested in the workings of Neha’s court as I am in New York.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ARCHANGEL’S STORM is the fifth book in the Guild Hunter series. This book can be read independent of the others in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.