Book Review: Mine to Possess by Nalini Singh

I’ve been slowly making my way through Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series since last year, which is a really interesting paranormal romance series with some fascinating worldbuilding. I picked up book four, Mine to Possess, along with book five at the used bookstore earlier this year. I’ve really been looking forward to getting through more of the series.

Alas, while Mine to Possess had a lot of the good that I’ve come to expect from Singh, I had such a problem with the hero, Clay, that it really dampened my enjoyment of the story.

mine-to-possessClay is a leopard changeling and a sentinel with the DarkRiver pack, a group that controls a large part of the San Francisco area. He wasn’t raised with the pack, though; he was raised in the city with his human mother, and was forced to keep his leopard half subdued for most of his childhood.

Talin, the heroine (and the first human main character to show up in the books so far), is a friend of Clay’s from childhood. She’s stayed away from him for the better part of twenty years for a number of reasons, and now she works for a group called the Shine Foundation, helping troubled kids get their lives back on track.

However, someone is kidnapping and killing Talin’s kids, and she goes looking for Clay to help her find out who’s responsible and stop them before they can kill again.

Now, the actual story of this book? Absolutely fantastic. Singh does a great job with the suspense and the mystery and balancing that with the romance. Plus, I love the futuristic world she’s built up here, which we’re introduced to in the first book, Slave to Sensation, and learn more about with each subsequent novel.

We have three major races: the Psy, who have a number of diverse psychic abilities, the Changelings, who are shifters, and regular old humans. The Psy have instituted a policy called Silence, which teaches young Psy not to feel any emotion, in an effort to curb the number of Psy who were going insane. It’s worked for about a hundred years, but things are starting to crack, and it’s at the beginning of this period of change that the books actually start.

I love this world, and I love what she’s done to build up the differences between the three major races while still creating romances that bridge those gaps. I love that she makes an effort not to cast all Psy as villains or all Changelings as perfect, but points out that there is good and evil on each side. (In some books, this is handled better than others.)

And for most of the book, I loved Talin as a heroine. She had a horrific childhood, was abused by her adoptive father. She got out of that situation, but throughout her teens and early adulthood, she didn’t make a lot of good decisions and has had a lot of trouble letting people in. Since then, she’s gotten better and is now trying to help kids who were in the same position she was. She’s fiercely dedicated and cares deeply about these children who have nowhere else to turn, and I really admired that.

And Clay himself was not bad as a hero. He’s clearly devoted to Talin, determined to protect her and equally determined to help her. The changelings in this world are generally very protective and possessive, which overall seems to work.

However. (WARNING: RANT INCOMING.)

One of the things Talin did, in her era of bad decision-making, was sleep around. She explains why, and while I don’t necessarily condone what she did, I get it. Besides, she was a consenting participant in all of it. She regrets it, but she doesn’t shame herself for those decisions, if that makes sense.

When Clay finds out she’s slept with other men? He flips OUT. He just cannot fathom why she would sully herself like that. (And yes, that is the DEFINITE impression I get from his thoughts: that sleeping with a lot of men has sullied her.)

And every time I saw that thought in his head, it took everything in me not to strangle him.

What fucking right does he have to get all judgmental about this? It all happened in the past, after they’d been separated and WELL before they get together again during the course of the story. It’s not like she was cheating on him. And it’s not even her reasoning behind it that seems to drive him crazy (although that is part of it); it’s the fact that she allowed any other men to touch her at all.

And I’m just like…dude. She was supposed to psychically know at age EIGHT that you two were going to be bonded, and thus to keep herself pure and virginal until you were both old enough to consummate the relationship? What the everloving HELL?

It just infuriated me to read. Because it was almost like if she’d been having sex because she genuinely enjoyed it, he’d still be pissed that she let other men touch her.

If Talin had, at some point, called him out on being a judgmental ass about it, I probably wouldn’t have had nearly the problem I did with it. Or if Clay had done more groveling than just a very, very little bit at the end. But that didn’t happen. In fact, at one point, Talin actually excuses his behavior because he is a changeling, and mentions that she would have put up more of a fuss about his attitude if he had been human.

And that just drove me absolutely nuts to read.

I don’t mind dominant heroes. I don’t even mind possessive heroes. But that has to be tempered with a heroine who can call them out on their bullshit, who’s strong enough internally to stand up to them. And that just didn’t come across to me.

That, combined with the overall feeling that this book was kind of a bridge book, setting up the next major conflict between the Psy and the DarkRiver pack, left me feeling kind of unfulfilled by the end of it.

Book Review – Clockwork Blue by Gloria Harchar

Back in July I went on a Kindle binge, buying up a lot of really cheap or free ebooks because they all happened to be on sale the same weekend Clockwork Blue was one of the books I grabbed.

Clockwork Blue CoverReading Clockwork Blue was ultimately frustrating for a number of reasons: poor editing, a jerk of a hero (for at least the first half of the book), and way too many extraneous genre elements.

It’s a shame, because there were parts I liked and I think it could have been a good story.

Synopsis, courtesy Amazon:

Mission… Impossible: The pixies’ mission—if Allegro and Glissando are to accept it—is to secure the future of a troubled England. To achieve this, the Earl of Falconwood, better known as the Black Falcon, must marry Nicola Moore. Never mind the woman is a hoyden who makes the most atrocious hats decorated with machine parts, which she then dyes with her famous Clockwork Blue.

And certainly forget the earl is atoning for his brother’s death by purposely hovering on the fringes of the ton. Add to the mix Glissando’s tendency to slip to the side of the Mrasek, the ones who work to free the evil Lord Sethos.

But Maestro depends on the pixies—for better or for worse. To release the magic trapped in the Clockwork Blue dye—a magic that will safeguard England’s future—Malcolm and Nicola must not only wed, but they must also fall in love.

For the first half of this story, I got so irritated with Malcolm, our “hero,” that I wanted Nicola to punt him to the curb. With the whole forced marriage thing, we’re so much in Nicola’s point of view that it is difficult to ascertain Malcolm’s (or Falcon’s) motives.

Everything he does is, ostensibly, to get ahold of the dye. Which is fine, but Nicola alternates between seeing it in that light and seeing him as a project that needs to be fixed. And the back-and-forth gets really, really frustrating, particularly since he has given her NO reason to think he wants anything other than the dye.

It also doesn’t help that Nicola is constantly manipulated and pushed around for the first half of the book. She doesn’t win any victories with Malcolm. He occasionally accedes to her, but not because she’s outsmarted him or pushed him into a corner. I get the feeling that it’s all, very consciously, his decision. I hated that Malcolm saw Nicola as “malleable.” He doesn’t think he’s won a skirmish with her; he thinks he’s manipulated her into doing things his way. And that doesn’t endear me to either of the characters.

Fortunately, that aspect changed about halfway through the story, when we started getting more from Malcolm’s point of view and seeing why he thought and acted the way he did. It made him more sympathetic, but by that point I was so angry at him that it took most of the rest of the book for me to come around.

It bothers me especially because there are a few parts—a line here, a conversation there—where the characters intrigued me or made me laugh out loud, where I could see the glimmer of a relationship building. But it wasn’t enough to outweigh the problems.

Also, I have no idea why this is steampunk. Yes, Nicola puts clockwork gears on her hats and has a “barrelabout” (a…I don’t even know), but that’s it. Steampunk plays absolutely no part in the actual plot, which would’ve worked just as well as a regular historical romance.

This note on the Amazon page has been added since I read the book:

Note: This is a Christian New Adult Fantasy Romance. There are equal parts of Fantasy and Romance with hints of the Steampunk wave which is starting to become popular in the Alternate World. In Book 2, The Copper Tuners, the reader will see the Steampunk wave affecting society more.

I kind of wish this had been there when I’d picked the story up, because I would’ve expected less from the steampunk part of the story. That being said, I still wish those elements had been integrated more into the story instead of being so much window dressing.

In fact, it was the genre parts—particularly the stuff with the fairies—that made me keep rolling my eyes.

Now, I’m normally all for throwing in magic and fantasy wherever you can, but it just didn’t work quite as well here. I liked Allegro and Glissando well enough, but I was much more intrigued by the story between Nicola and Malcolm. There were a few parts where the fairies came in handy, but I don’t think it would’ve hurt the book at all if they hadn’t been there.

Besides, it seems Glissando got a makeover at some point, because the novel alternates between describing him as fat or thin or as having orange hair or green hair. I’d totally buy this if it had mentioned fairies could change their appearance at some point, but it never did, and Allegro’s description was consistent throughout the story. So I’d have a picture of Glissando in my head, and then I’d have to revise it every time I came across a conflicting description.

Then there are the Mrasek, or rather, aren’t the Mrasek. They show up in one scene early on and then vanish from the story, so completely that when one of them showed up at the climax (only mentioned by name; he doesn’t say a word) I had to search his name to figure out who he was. Why mention these super-evil villains if you aren’t going to DO anything with them?

And really, none of this extra stuff was needed. I actually liked the normal plot: Malcolm wants the dye, which just happens to be Nicola’s dowry. She doesn’t want to get forced into marriage because she saw how horrible it was for her grandmother; she wants to marry for love like her parents did. He, however, is up for doing just about anything to get said dye. There is plenty there for conflict and tension in the relationship.

Plus, there was the interesting stuff going on with the stockingers and the hosiers and the Luddite Rebellion. All of that would have been MORE than enough to craft an engrossing historical romance, but then there were fairies and “steampunk” for no good reason I could ascertain.

I don’t mind the addition of those things at all. But it has to be necessary to the story. There has to be a world built up where that’s a part of it. It has to be an ingredient in the cake, not just a decoration thrown on top at the last minute.

Now, this is the first book of a series, and maybe the fantastical aspects of this world play a larger, more integral role in future stories. (The added note on Amazon makes me think this is so.) But I really wish that had been brought in more in this book. As it is, it feels like too much was crammed into what could’ve been a really sweet historical romance.