It is not a secret for regular readers of my humble blog, that I am a fan of the Psy/Changeling series. Early last year I made a push to finish reviewing all the full length novels in the series, on time for the release this summer of Shards of Hope, the fourteenth title.
However, and despite having won an ARC copy of this all Psy/Changeling novellas anthology back in February 2013 *wince*, I have only reviewed one of the novellas in the series: “Whisper of Sin,” from Burning up.
Operating on the principle that late is better than never, and because a second Psy/Changeling anthology (this one is all new stories, yay!) is in the works for release some time in 2016, here is my review.
Warning: there’s some graphic sex and cursing, and newcomers to the series may be lost–particularly on the last two stories–because of the world building. Read at your own risk. For readers who are behind in the series, the last two stories are spoilerish for Kiss of Snow and Tangle of Need, respectively.
Wild Invitation, by Nalini Singh
This one-author anthology was originally released in March 2013. It contains four stories, though only two were written for it. I’m reviewing them as they appear in the book, though the blurbs for the first novella is from the original release.
“Beat of Temptation”
This novella was first released as part of the An Enchanted Season anthology. It tells the story of Nathan Ryder, on of DarkRiver’s sentinels whom we meet in Slave to Sensation, and Tamsyn, his mate.
Young Tamsyn has always held a special place in her heart for her powerful fellow pack-member Nate. But as a dominant male leopard in the pack, the more experienced Nate doesn’t want to trap Tamsyn into the fierce demands of the mating bond—a bond driven by the animal within—when she’s hardly had the chance to grow into a woman. But Tamsyn knows what she wants for Christmas, and she’s going to get it…
There is a ten year age difference between these two. Tamsyn was only fifteen when both realized they are mates. Nate, already a high ranking soldier, decided to strangle his own instincts in order to give her time to grow up, to come into her own, and to explore life fully as her own person. Because once the mating bond snaps into place, there is no choice, and no one else, ever, for either of them.
The story is set in December, four years later. Tamsyn, by now DarkRiver’s senior healer, has just returned from a learning trip to New York, and is starving for the sight, and the company, of the man she loves. Nate, for all that he’s just as powerfully attracted to her, is determined to give Tamsyn more time, to allow her the freedom most changelings her age enjoy.
Only things are never that clear cut. What he thinks he’s doing, and what she feels as a result, are two very different things.
There are some sweetly poignant moments–this is the first Christmas the Pack actually celebrates together in joy, after the brutal attack that took the life of Lucas’ parents, and forced Tamsyn to step up as a healer at only seventeen years of age.
There are family and friends interfering, in their own well-meaning way, trying to help Nathan see what pretty much everyone else knows: Tamsyn is not only an adult, it has been a long time since she was a child. Inexperienced with men she may be, but that is never the same thing as naïveté.
Even though this novella is not even a hundred pages long, there’s an epilogue set after the events of both Slave to Sensation and Visions of Heat. And, despite how much I usually dislike epilogues as a rule, this one fits the characters, and I confess I like it.
“Beat of Temptation” gets a 7.25 out of 10
~ * ~
“Stroke of Enticement”
Originally released in The Magical Christmas Cat anthology, this novella is the story of another DarkRiver soldier, Zach, and his very human mate. It is set in the present of the series, sometime after the first three books.
(A) wary young teacher, skeptical about love, arouses the man–and the animal–in an aggressive leopard changeling who must prove his affections are true.
This is such a sweet story, showing how family can love each other while being absolutely clueless about what makes your loved ones tick…It has a special place in my heart.
Annie is fully human, and survived a terrible accident as a young child. As a result, one of her legs is weaker, and she often limps. She’s also the only daughter of a couple of highly recognized academics. There are a lot of fairly dysfunctional family dynamics at play, which have made Annie move away from her overprotecting mother, and wholly indifferent father.
To compensate for the bubble she had to fight to leave, she has developed a shield of self-reliance, and is determined never to become emotionally dependent on anyone. Annie may be quiet in her demeanor, but being shy is not the same as being timid. As Zach discovers soon enough.
Zach is your typical alpha/protective hero, driven to always take care of those he sees as more vulnerable or in need of help. Add the fact that his Changeling side has recognized Annie as his mate, and there’s a recipe for delicious plotting and planning.
“Stroke of Enticement” get 7.50 out of 10
~ * ~
“Declaration of Courtship”
This story takes place shortly after the events of Kiss of Snow, and though it gives away a couple of plot points from that story, it’s mostly as offhand commentary serving as background for what is happening between these two characters. However, the epilogue is spoilerific.
Grace, a shy submissive wolf, finds herself pursued by the last man she ever would have imagined: a SnowDancer lieutenant said to be “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.
Those of us who follow the series, have read mostly stories about dominant personalities finding each other, particularly when it comes to Changeling/Changeling pairings. Here, Ms Singh explores a different dynamic: one of the most submissive personalities of the SnowDancer wolf Changelings, being courted by one of the most dominant.
The conflict here has nothing to do with the innocent waif and the powerful man; Grace’s animal half literally panics when Cooper declares his intention to court her. I mean, think about it: she can barely force herself to hold his gaze for a couple of seconds at a stretch, what kind of lifelong partnership can they hope to forge together? Grace, forever afraid; Cooper, resenting her fear.
I liked how this is resolved, though I would really have liked to have a much longer story for these two characters; there were a few aspects of the conflict that, I fear, were fairly glossed over. Whether this was time constraints, or the world set up, I was left wanting more depth.
“Declaration of Courtship” gets 7.00 out of 10
~ * ~
“Texture of Intimacy”
Fair warning: Walter has been one of my most favorite characters pretty much from his introduction in Slave to Sensation, and I started wanting his story as I read Caressed by Ice. I liked the fact that he mated Lara, because I also like her a lot, and they feel like a good fit (i.e., not forced by plot demands). This short story takes place shortly after Tangle of Need.
SnowDancer healer Lara discovers the searing joys–and unexpected challenges–of being mated to quiet, powerful Walker, a man used to keeping his silence.
“Texture of Intimacy” feels more like a vignette than a short story; a bit of “a few days in the life,” if you will. Lara and Walker are still getting to know each other as a couple, and despite having been friends for years, this is very much a new side to their relationship.
Here, Ms Singh shows more how Walker’s past, as “an inmate of Silence” has shaped him, and how sometimes this conditioning can clash with his present, to the detriment of the life he and Lara are building. I really like it, but I can well see how someone who is not as invested in the characters, may wonder why it made it into a published anthology (as opposed to, say, one of the many free short stories/deleted scenes in the author’s website).
However, this is my review, and, did I mention how I love and adore Walker? “Texture of Intimacy” gets 7.50 out 10.
~ * ~
Reading these stories again, after having read all the stories published to date, made me smile for many reasons–not the least of which is seeing how many of the characters that showed only fleetingly on the page when some of these stories were written, have come into their own in the larger stories, over time.