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.
Clay 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.