Review: Silver Silence by Nalini Singh

Review: Silver Silence by Nalini SinghSilver Silence (Psy-Changeling Trinity, #1; Psy-Changeling, #16) by Nalini Singh
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: paranormal romance
Series: , Psy-Changeling #16
Pages: 464
Published by Berkley Books on June 13th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh returns to her extraordinary Psy-Changeling world with a story of wild passion and darkest betrayal...
Control. Precision. Family. These are the principles that drive Silver Mercant. At a time when the fledgling Trinity Accord seeks to unite a divided world, with Silver playing a crucial role as director of a worldwide emergency response network, wildness and chaos are the last things she needs in her life. But that's exactly what Valentin Nikolaev, alpha of the StoneWater bears, brings with him.
Valentin has never met a more fascinating woman. Though Silver is ruled by Silence--her mind clear of all emotion--Valentin senses a whisper of fire around her. That's what keeps him climbing apartment buildings to be near her. But when a shadow assassin almost succeeds in poisoning Silver, the stakes become deadly serious...and Silver finds herself in the heart of a powerful bear clan.
Her would-be assassin has no idea what their poison has unleashed...

My Review:

An answer to entirely too many of the questions, problems and issues in the entire Psy-Changeling series boil down to the truism that “human beings suck”. This isn’t a criticism of the series, merely an observation, because, after, all, human beings do suck. And for all of their differences, all of the races in this series, whether Psy, Changeling or original recipe human, are still all variations of human, and human beings suck.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, there’s a reason for the rant within the story. So much of the non-romantic action in Silver Silence is a response to some particular human beings sucking very, very much.

Silver Silence, as the first book in the Psy-Changeling Trinity sub-series, follows the events in Allegiance of Honor, and everything that led up to this point. What was once a world with three separate and equally distrustful if not equally powerful factions is beginning to coalesce into the alliance brought about by the Trinity Accords.

The Psy, the Changelings and the Humans, at least through the loose coalitions that speak for each group, are determined to work together for the greater good. And for the continued survival of all three.

But there is an awful lot of bloody water under the damn bridge, and there are a lot of very wary members of all three groups. Particularly the humans. The Changelings and the Psy, while always distrustful of each other at best, always did have somewhat equal power. Changeling minds are immune to Psy interference. But humans, less physically threatening than the Changeling and always open to mental interference from the Psy, have a lot to forgive, particularly of the Psy. Changelings mostly left them alone, while the Psy have spent a century plucking advances out of the minds of humans, keeping those advancements for themselves and breaking the human’s minds in the process.

All too many of the Psy were a force that lived up to the old maxim about power corrupting and absolute power corrupting absolutely. No one could stop them, so they felt empowered to do whatever they damn well pleased to whoever they could.

Those days are over. Not necessarily or always out of altruism, but because the PsyNet that all Psy must connect to in order to remain healthy and function is itself sick. By walling themselves off from human emotions in specific and humans in general, the Psy have closed off a necessary safety valve for the PsyNet’s sentient mind. Psy need humans (and changelings) to willingly form bonds with them, and those bonds can’t be coerced. Without those bonds, without the breaking of the Silence conditioning that keeps them emotionally barren, the Psy will all die, but not before going on a psychopathic rampage of planet-wide proportion.

So the seemingly all-powerful Psy, whether reluctantly or willingly, must cooperate and intermingle with the Changelings and the humans. But it is in all three groups’ best interests to learn to get along. They each have something that the other lacks, strengths that the others need, and weaknesses that the others can shore up. Now that they are not all out to merely exploit each other. Business is still business, and that’s fair. But they’ve all finally acknowledged that they have to work together or things will get very, very ugly, and it won’t necessarily be anyone in particular’s fault. Once you start treating groups as “the Other”, bad things happen to both parties.

And that’s where this story comes into the whole. The Human Alliance, led by Bowen Knight, is willing to work with the Psy and the Changelings on an equal footing. There is still some distrust, but it is reasoned and reasonable distrust. But there are other human agencies working in the shadows who condemn any human who works with the others as either under Psy influence or a traitor to their race. (And haven’t we all heard those words before?)

The shining symbol of interspecies cooperation is Em-Net, a global crisis response team that provides assistance to all whenever and wherever needed. And it is personified by its extremely capable director, the Psy Silver Mercant. So Silver is attacked by stealth, from the shadows, by a patient predator who wants to see Em-Net in disarray and unable to respond, while also crippling the future of the powerful Mercant family.

But Silver is not alone when she ingests the poison that has been lurking unsuspected in her stored nutrition packets. Instead, the Bear Alpha Valentin Nikolaev is in her apartment, attempting to bait her into an un-Silent response to his rather less-than-subtle wooing. Valentin rescues Silver, and sets the events of the rest of the story in motion.

Despite her being Psy, Valentin knows that Silver is his mate. And he will do anything to protect her and keep her safe. And if that anything includes taking her to the Denhome and giving her ample opportunities to fall for both him and his clan, so much the better.

But Silver has a secret weakness, and not just her weakness for slightly clumsy Alpha Bears. Silver’s Silence conditioning is failing, and her growing emotional connection to Valentin is breaking her already vulnerable walls. But that conditioning, the Silence that keeps her ice cold and unemotional, is also the only thing keeping her alive.

Escape Rating B+/A-: This one came out right on the border between B+ and A-. I loved the relationship between Valentin and Silver. We watched it build from very small pieces into something big and wonderful and, at times, tissue-grabbing tragic. There is so much love and fear and hope built into their story, and that was marvelous.

There were also some fascinating reactions/revelations on the parts of Silver’s grandmother Ena and her brother Arwen. The Mercant family, for all of their reputation as ice-cold operators, clearly has never been completely Silent. We’ve seen other Psy families where loyalty comes to serve in place of love, and provides many of the same motivations that love does, but this is the first time we see love expressed within a Psy family, even though the words are never said. Not just that Silver loves her E-designation brother Arwen, for whom emotion is strength, but also the love between Silver and her grandmother Ena.

Valentin’s bear clan, even with the tragedy currently darkening its heart, is always a joy. Bears are real charmers, especially the cubs. And the story needs the lighter moments that they bring.

But the thing that kept this story at the border for me were the two unnamed human evil-doers who operate from the shadows and propel much of the political action of the story. They are both definitely evil. They both hate Psy, and to a lesser extent, Changelings. They both have a “Humans First” agenda that they are willing to press forward with mass murders. And they are both fanatics who are willing to murder massive numbers of humans to prove that Psy can’t be trusted, an irony which is totally lost on both of them.

They are not the same person and many of their goals and methods are not completely aligned. But as the story progresses and we get small glimpses from their own perspectives about their thoughts and motivations, it becomes increasingly difficult to tell them apart. I think one of them is exposed by the end, but because they were so amorphous and so much alike, I’m not sure who, or which, or completely if.

None of which changes the fact that I love this series, and can’t wait for the next installment. Hopefully next summer and not any later.

But I have one final comment. The covers for the US editions of this series are never as good as the UK editions. The US covers are often vaguely “cheesy”, and sometimes not even vaguely. Or, are just blah, as this one is. The UK covers are crisp and evocative portraits of the hero, and they just work. See for yourself.

US Cover
UK cover

Cass Rant on Demand: Wild Embrace by Nalini Singh

Cass Rant on Demand: Wild Embrace by Nalini SinghWild Embrace (Psy-Changeling, #15.5) by Nalini Singh
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: paranormal romance
Series: Psy-Changeling #15.5
Pages: 400
Published by Berkley on August 23rd 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

The “alpha author of paranormal romance”* presents a stunningly sensual collection of four all-new Psy-Changeling novellas, in which taboos are broken, boundaries are crossed, and instincts prove irresistible...

Echo of Silence
In a deep-sea station, Tazia Nerif has found her life’s work as an engineer, keeping things running smoothly. But she wants nothing more than to break down the barrier of silence between her and her telekinetic Psy station commander...

Dorian
A changeling who can never shift lives a life of quiet frustration—until he learns how to let his leopard come out and play...

Partners in Persuasion
Still raw from being burned by a dominant female, wolf changeling Felix will never again risk being a plaything. But for dominant leopard Dezi, he’s the most fascinating man she’s ever met. She just has to convince this gun-shy wolf that he can trust the dangerous cat who wants to take a slow, sexy bite out of him…

Flirtation of Fate
Seven years ago, Kenji broke Garnet’s heart. Now the wolf packmates have to investigate the shocking murder of one of their own. And the more Kenji sees of the woman Garnet has become, the deeper he begins to fall once more. But even his primal instincts are no match for the dark secret he carries...
*Booklist, starred review

Hello again! Long time, no see. Who’s up for a Cass Rant On Demand™? Clearly the person who baited me with another dip into the Psy-Changeling world. An anthology this time. Be warned, there shall be spoilers and snark ahead.

Anyone want to place bets on how many stories involve a psychic woman being saved by the mighty powers of the changeling cock?

Echo of Silence: Now wait just a moment here. What atrocity is this? A poor woman being left alone in the world to fend off the attentions of this nightmarish man-creature that respects her culture. Be warned, the following exchange may shock you.

“I can’t discard who I am like it’s an old coat.”

“I understand,” Stefan said, having already guessed at Tazia’s value system after so carefully noting every single thing about her in the year they’d worked together. “Your cultural mores are no more or less irrational than the protocol under which my people are conditioned.”

To add insult to injury, he takes this a step further by valuing her talents as an engineer.

“Your skills are necessary.”

Typical Psy. Without exposure to Changeling packs, he hasn’t yet learned that it is his job to threaten his crush (Lucas), violate her bodily autonomy (Vaughn), belittle her life choices (Clay), and piss all over her loyalty to her family (Dorian). Though I guess the latter isn’t necessary since her brother seems to have missed out on the Riley Kincaid Lecture Series: Your Sister’s Vagina is Your Property. 

Of course he’s a former Arrow. Apparently the only school on this planet that teaches how to respect women is the one with a regular torture regimen.

“No grease streaks for once,” she said, nervous.

“I have a confession.” He rose from the bed. “I only used to say that to have an excuse to speak to you. Sometimes you didn’t have grease on your face. I lied.”

Stefan, Stefan, Stefan. Pick up the phone, and give DarkRiver a call. Nate will be happy to explain to you how to infantilize the woman you are romantically interested in. Then you won’t need to worry about conversational icebreakers. (+)

Dorian. This entry is an absolute joke. It’s basically deleted scenes from prior novels, loosely compiled and told from the POV of one racist misogynist fucktard.

Anyone interested in the first time Clay met the pack? Or want to see Dorian briefly interact with the sister that was fridged before the first book? Maybe you want to know how Lucas feels about Dorian being able to shift? Anyone? Bueller? (-)

Partners in Persuasion: Here we have a recently retired supermodel, who is really into fashion and flowers, but just can’t seem to relate to women. In fact, he is so shy around them that he refuses to even make eye contact. Thankfully he has no trouble whatsoever relating to or engaging with men, so when a butch woman puts the moves on him, he tentatively agrees to give it a shot. She’s mannish enough for it to work out.

She tried to shift closer, was stopped by the way they were seated, his upper body twisted to meet her kiss. Placing her hand on his throat,  she—

He wasn’t there any longer, having jerked away to the other side of the trunk. Reeling, she tried to think what she’d done,

I hate to break it to you Dezi, but you didn’t do anything wrong. He freaked out as soon as you got close enough for him to realize you didn’t have a cock.

We’re 15 books into this series, and there hasn’t been one single queer-identified character. All we get is a shy,flower-arranging fashion model who, contrary to pages of internal monologue about how it’ll never work, deciding to hook up with Idgie Threadgoode. Give me a fucking break. Is there an previous entry in the series I missed that covers how the Psy discovered the “gay gene” and managed to suppress it from appearing in the population? (-)

Flirtation of Fate: One self-centered man baby, who firmly believes his feelings outweigh those of any and all females in his life. They will get over their shit. He is the only one who can wallow.

“You knew how awful she was to me, how she made my life a living hell, and you not only took her to prom, you dated her for a year!”

A befuddled expression on his face. “I know you two didn’t like each other, but I thought it was, you know, girl stuff.”

Let that be a lesson to all you menfolk out there. It is completely acceptable to bang a hot bully, even as she is emotionally tormenting your best friend. Teenage girls aren’t at all prone to depression and suicide in situations like this. It’s just girl stuff. Feel free to ignore it.

wild-embrace-uk-editionThe – ahem – romance between these two only appears to deepen with time. After man baby gets his jollies plowing her nemesis, he leads her on, ditches her at her birthday party to bang another girl, spends years tormenting her professionally, and ultimately decides for her that her only purpose in life is to breed. Because yeah. That is how you demonstrate your love for your true mate. Fuck this noise. (-)

In sum, only bother with the first story.

Before I move on to the grading, I need to spend just one moment addressing the cover-shaped elephant in the room. What is with the US covers?! The US cover screams P-O-R-N. Which it really isn’t. There is sex in every story, but it’s only painful when the author is forcing two clearly queer characters into a hetero-normative relationship. If you decide to buy this anthology for the first story, order it from the UK. Even man-baby’s pink hair is preferable to Mr. Nipples.

Escape Rating: D for Down With the Douchebaggery!

 

Marlene’s Notes: Cass is absolutely right about the UK vs. US covers. I always hate the US covers. The UK covers are always lots better.

Howsomever, much as I agree about the covers, I disagree about the series in general and this book in particular. For a considerably more positive take on Wild Embrace, check out my joint review with E over at The Book Pushers.

Review: Rock Wedding by Nalini Singh + Giveaway

Review: Rock Wedding by Nalini Singh + GiveawayRock Wedding (Rock Kiss, #4) by Nalini Singh
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: contemporary romance, rock star romance
Series: Rock Kiss #4
Pages: 345
Published by TKA Distribution on July 19th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh continues her Rock Kiss series with a hot, sweet, emotional contemporary romance about love and forgiveness…
After a lifetime of longing for a real family, Sarah Smith thought she’d finally found her home with rock star Abe Bellamy, even if she knew Abe didn’t love her the way she loved him. But their brief relationship, filled with tragedy and heartache, nearly destroyed her. Alone, emotions in turmoil, and already shaky self-esteem shattered, Sarah struggles to pick up the pieces in the wake of their divorce.
Abe knows he’s to blame for the end of his marriage. Caught in a web of painful memories, he pushed away the best thing in his life – the sexy, smart woman he adores – breaking them both in the process. Then fate throws him a second chance to get things right, to prove to Sarah that she means everything to him. Abe desperately wants that second chance at love...even if he knows he doesn’t deserve it.
But can he convince Sarah – now strong and independent without him – to risk her wounded heart one more time?

My Review:

rock hard by nalini singhI have enjoyed the entire Rock Kiss series, as my reviews of the previous books (Rock Addiction, Rock Courtship, Rock Hard and Rock Redemption) certainly indicate. Rock Hard is definitely my favorite. We had great fun doing one of our joint reviews over at The Book Pushers. Gabriel (AKA T-Rex) was everyone’s favorite book boyfriend.

Rock Wedding, unlike some of the earlier books, contains a story that has been brewing through the entire series. Not just because parts of this story cover the weddings of the couples that were formed in the earlier books, but because the relationship between Abe and Sarah originally predated Fox and Molly’s romance in Rock Addiction.

Once upon a time, back when Abe Bellamy, the keyboard artist of Schoolboy Choir was drowning in at least the booze and drugs part of the fabled rockstar lifestyle, he married 21-year-old Sarah. And proceeded to totally screw things up until he finally drove Sarah away. Sarah was beyond right to leave the bastard. She probably should have done it a hell of a lot sooner.

But Sarah’s departure sent Abe into what was almost a final tailspin. Just because he drove her away, doesn’t mean he actually wanted her gone. Abe dove so far into booze and drugs that his bandmates had to stage an intervention to get him out and into rehab.

rock redemption by nalini singhIt doesn’t sound like it took the first time either, but it finally did. By the time (in Rock Redemption) that Abe and the rest of Schoolboy Choir rescue Sarah from an attempted battering by the guy she makes the mistaking of hooking up with after her divorce, it is pretty clear that Sarah’s and Abe’s relationship still has a lot of unfinished business.

When Rock Wedding opens, it is equally clear that whatever is unfinished between them contains a whole lot of sexual heat – as well as a whole bunch of raw emotion that Abe is finally clean and sober and able to deal with. Along with all of the baggage that derailed their first attempt at marriage.

But it’s going to take a lot of time and effort for Sarah to trust again the one man that she knows can break her heart – because he’s already done it. And she’s not sure she wants to risk it a second time – no matter how good it feels to try.

Escape Rating B: I liked Rock Wedding, but not nearly as much as some of the other books in the series – especially the completely yummy Rock Hard.

While I usually enjoy a second chance at love story, which Rock Wedding definitely is, the romantic tension was missing in this one. Sarah and Abe get together almost at the beginning of the book. And while Sarah keeps trying to convince herself that each encounter is just a one-time thing, it is obvious to the reader, and to Sarah herself, that it isn’t. She doesn’t expect Abe to keep coming back, and her very justifiable mistrust is disarmed when he does.

A significant chunk of this story is Abe proving to Sarah that he is going to remain clean and sober and be all in for their relationship this time. He has a long way to go to prove to Sarah that he will be there for her and for the baby they accidentally made on their first night together.

There are a lot of readers that enjoy romances that are started with or furthered by the introduction of an accidental pregnancy. This reader is just not one of them. The story is well done, but this is just far from my favorite trope. That Sarah spends a lot of emotional energy trying to convince herself that this is all about the baby and not about their relationship, while it made sense in context of the story, just didn’t work as well for this reader as the other stories in the series.

Which doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a few tears in my eyes during the emotional climax of the book, because I definitely did. I liked Abe and Sarah and was very happy to see them make a family. Not just their own nuclear family, but their family of choice with the members of Schoolboy Choir, the women who have given them all a reason to keep making beautiful music, and the marvelous people who surround them.

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Review: Rock Redemption by Nalini Singh + Giveaway

Review: Rock Redemption by Nalini Singh + GiveawayRock Redemption (Rock Kiss, #3) by Nalini Singh
Format: ebook
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, rock star romance
Series: Rock Kiss #3
Pages: 316
Published by TKA Distribution on October 6th, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Kit Devigny could have loved rock guitarist Noah St. John. Their friendship burned with the promise of intense passion and searing tenderness…until the night Noah deliberately shattered her heart.
Noah knows he destroyed something precious the night he chose to betray Kit, but he’d rather she hate him than learn his darkest secret. All he has left is his music. It’s his saving grace, but it doesn’t silence the voices that keep him up at night. Chasing oblivion through endless one-night-stands, he earns a few hours’ sleep and his bad boy reputation.
When a media error sees Noah and Kit dubbed the new “it” couple, Kit discovers her chance at the role of a lifetime hinges on riding the media wave. Wanting—needing—to give Kit this, even if he can’t give her everything, Noah agrees to play the adoring boyfriend. Only the illusion is suddenly too real, too painful, too beautiful…and it may be too late for the redemption of Noah St. John.

Rock Redemption is a powerful story. It is not an easy story.

Both Kit and Noah have a lot of baggage about their pasts and their parents. But there’s a big difference. Kit has learned to deal with her parents’ benign neglect combined with extreme protectiveness. She loves them, they love each other, but they don’t hurt her anymore. Not because they aren’t still occasionally selfish idiots, but because Kit has learned not to count on them for anything. It’s a hard lesson, and it’s had some overlap into the rest of her life, but she has learned to deal with it.

Earning her own as an actor has helped her, not just for the fame and fortune, but for the validation. And the fame is certainly a mixed blessing – it’s brought her great movie parts, but also a vicious stalker.

And some of Kit’s baggage was dropped in her lap by Noah’s crap.

Noah has had a much tougher row to hoe, and has way more baggage as a result. His rich parents are cold and distant. They occasionally require his presence, but can’t look him in the face. We don’t find out what happened until fairly close to the end of the book, although there are clues dropped early on. But what happened was bad at the time, and it’s worse now in lots of ways because Noah has never had any help getting past it. The wounds are scars that he keeps picking at, and one of those ways that he picks at those scars is to pick up lots of women and have hard and meaningless sex.
rock hard by nalini singhAnd there are lots of women to pick up – Noah is a member of Schoolboy Choir, the rock bank that has featured in Singh’s Rock Kiss series. Lead singer Fox found his true love in Rock Addiction (reviewed here), drummer David, found his happy ever after with their publicist Thea in Rock Courtship (review at The Book Pushers) and in a lovely kind of side-story, businessman Gabriel woos and wins Charlotte, the very best friend of Fox’s Molly in Rock Hard (review also at The Book Pushers).

Noah has gone through his life believing that he isn’t worthy of being loved. And this in spite of the fact that he and Fox have been best friends for 20+ years. But now that he sees his friends fall in love and find real happiness, Noah is starting to envy them a bit. But he thinks he is too messed up for happy ever after. He’s sure that he’ll ruin anything he touches.

And that’s where Kit comes in. Before this story opens, Noah and Kit fell into a deep friendship that masked very real love on both their parts. But Noah, doing a classic “I’ll hurt you now so I don’t destroy you later”, let her find him with another woman. Noah and Kit weren’t even dating, but it was a betrayal and he knew it and did it on purpose.

A lot of the story in Rock Redemption is Noah and Kit recovering their original friendship and trust, to set the stage for that more that Noah can’t believe he deserves.

Escape Rating B+: There are a lot of classic elements to this romance. It is definitely a friends-into-lovers story, while at the same time being a second-chance-at-love story. It has some of the feel of good-girl-reforms-bad-boy, and it has oodles of fake-romance-turns-real.

At the same time, it’s an absolute heartbreaker. Part of the bedrock of the story is that Kit knows she loves Noah, but she is absolutely unwilling to let him off the hook on dealing with his own shit. She’ll help him, she’ll sit up with him, she’ll run with him in the middle of the night, but she won’t let him use her as an emotional punching bag. He has to own up to what went wrong in the past, and work to get beyond it. Over it isn’t possible or reasonable, but he has to stop using his past as the reason to screw up the present, and do it without booze or drugs or endless parades of women to numb the pain.

I really lRock Addiction by Nalini Singhiked Kit. She both stands up for herself and fights for what she wants. She knows just how far she will go, and doesn’t waffle on her line in the sand. She’s scared and hurt and she still does everything she can to get where she wants to be.

She also lives her life on her own terms, in spite of the crazy stalker who has broke into her house, sends her sick notes and drops presents where she trips over them. The stalker seems to be escalating their level of insane possessiveness, and it’s a constant menace to Kit’s life and happiness. But as much as I admired Kit’s strength in the face of this adversity, the reveal of the stalker seemed a bit anti-climactic at the end.

The setup of the fake-romance plotline also seemed a bit contrived, but it was necessary for the story, and it was lovely to watch the way that Noah would just about beat himself up to do whatever he could to help Kit’s career – no matter how much he hurt himself in the process.

But I still loved this story. It is, in some ways, the exact opposite of Rock Addiction, which sometimes seemed like all sex all the time. In Rock Redemption, we have a very necessary very slow burn as Noah and Kit have to find their way back to trusting each other before they are ready to love each other.

For another take (actually several other takes) on Rock Redemption, check out the Group Review over at The Book Pushers.

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