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REVIEW: Play of Passion by Nalini Singh

Dear Ms. Singh,

I have a terrible time keeping up with series, even those I’m heavily invested in. Off the top of my head, I can think of half a dozen series by different authors that I initially loved but can’t find the energy or wherewithal to continue reading. That I’m anxious for the 10th book in your Psy/Changeling series minutes after having finished Play of Passion says two things: 1. holy fucking hell, I’ve read nine books in this series (along with various short stories and free things on your website, and 2. the last installment was good enough to have me pissed off that I read the last page of the book.

Play of Passion by Nalini SinghWith Play of Passion, the action has moved firmly back into Changeling territory, our H/H are Indigo Riverie and Andrew Kincaid, both members of the SnowDancer wolf pack. This is the first book in the series that brings together a Changeling H/H from the same species, but don’t think that it’s a snore. Both Indigo and Drew have appeared in previous installments, with Drew’s siblings getting their own books (Caressed by Ice and Branded by Fire). Indigo is a Lieutenant and the highest-ranking female member of SnowDancer. Yep, Indigo is a dominant female and for her the pickin’s are slim, since only Hawke (the pack leader) and a handful of other lieutenants are as dominant as she. Drew is SnowDancer’s tracker, which includes being responsible for hunting down rogue wolves. Due to the nature of his job, Drew operates out of the normal pack hierarchy, appearing laid back and harmless so that all pack members will trust him even though one day he may be called upon to hunt and kill them.

The story begins with Indigo and Drew out in a storm hunting for a juvenile that they’re trying to prevent from going rogue. During the adrenaline rush after the hunt, Drew shifts and is on Indigo in a hot (and I mean hot) second, and Indigo is shocked by her reaction to the younger, less dominant, and totally unsuitable Drew. Afraid you’ve heard this before? I can’t completely argue against that: generally dominant Changeling women don’t want a more submissive man. However, the devil is in the details, and the characters, histories and emotional makeup are different enough that you are not reading the same story twice. Drew’s interest in Indigo started in adolescence as admiration. It has since coalesced into something much more intense, and very difficult to deal with because Indigo refuses to see Drew as anything but a platonic companion.

I loved reading about the relationship dance between these two characters. Drew is desperate to have Indigo, and all rationality, along with his easy-going personality, fly out the window when he realizes that he may have…er…screwed the pooch by first jumping all over her, and then by acting like a dominant overprotective schmuck toward a woman that needs absolutely no protection. To make up for lost ground Drew does flattery and groveling on a level superior to anything I’ve ever witnessed, and wish I could experience first hand!

Strong, likable female characters are abundant in this series, and Indigo is no exception. She’s the cool, collected lieutenant that everyone in the pack can depend upon for a logical decision. Indigo’s no cold automaton though; she provides affection, attention, and instruction to all the pack members (including the delicious and irascible Hawke) in equal measure. But when it comes to her interaction with Drew, he isn’t the only one that is smacked by the crazy stick. Indigo’s usually calm and controlled demeanor is shot to hell when she realizes that Drew wants her and both her body and her emotions go haywire when he’s around. Her wolf can’t make sense of Drew’s position, actions or level of dominance which scares her. And for good reason Indigo fears any sort of long term involvement with a less dominant male. She tries to rationalize away her feelings, but it just ain’t happening. When the two of them manage to come together, it’s a true union of heads, hearts and souls.

The overarching story of the Psy/Changeling world is worked seamlessly into Play of Passion. The fracturing of the Psy Council, along with appearances by the ‘Ghost’ fit easily into the book, and the main focus thankfully does not leave Indigo and Drew. Because they are some seriously hot stuff. While I still haven’t figured out who the Ghost is, I have a few ideas, but could be totally off base, so I’m not going to bring them up here or in the comments, but feel free to air it out. The diversity of personalities, and Ms. Singh’s ability to maintain their individuality across nine books while bringing the Psy/Changeling world story to an even higher level of tension shouldn’t keep surprising me, but I can’t help myself. I’m chomping at the bit for Kiss of Snow. A.

~Shuzluva

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Sydney (better known by her handle, Shuzluva) knew that she wanted to be Han Solo's copilot after seeing Star Wars at the tender age of 5. She fell in love with romance novels over 20 years ago when she got her hands on Sandra Brown's Texas! trilogy, and in the mid 90's was overjoyed to discover romance writers had branched out into the world of SciFi/fantasy. While she enjoys the occasional contemporary or historical novel, the world of SciFi holds an unshakable fascination for her. Some of her favorite authors include Nalini Singh, Catherine Asaro and Kresley Cole, and she's always interested in adding new authors to the list.

37 Comments

  1. Christine M.
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 13:18:06

    I’m three books behind but Blaze of Memories and Bonds of Justice and sitting on my shelf and this one sounds awesome. I guess it’s time I picked them up. Great review!

  2. Vi
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 13:19:09

    My favorite books on this series are all changeling-focused. I’m in the middle of reading this book now and love getting the inside look into the wolf pack.
    Like you, I can’t believe that the 10th book is
    approaching (yay, yummy Hawke) and I’m not bored with this series. I’m hoping that there will be a Kiss of Snow excerpt at the end of Archangel’s Consort.

  3. helen
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 15:07:09

    I don’t know why exactly, but I have never been able to get into this series. At first I thought it must just be something nebulous about her writing (although I couldn’t pinpoint what) but then I read her other series and so LOVED it that I was panting with book lust the week before the 2nd in the series came out. Sooo, I gave it another try and darn it if I still don’t like them. I want to, everyone gives them such great reviews. I wish I knew why I did not care for them.

  4. ShellBell
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 15:41:38

    This is one thing that annoys me about geographical restrictions – a New Zealand author and I can’t even buy the eBook from NZ!!! I have to stop visiting author sites, especially Nalini’s when I know I am so far back in the queue at my library for PoP.

  5. Sayuri_x
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 15:57:40

    Man, I love this series so much. I think a re-read of epic proportions is on before Hawke’s book. Yum! Hawke.

  6. Janine
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 16:06:36

    I really enjoyed this one too. It’s my third favorite in the series, after Branded by Fire and Caressed by Ice. For some reason my favorite books in this series have been the ones set in the wolf den.

    I really liked both Drew and Indigo and I loved the older woman/ younger man dynamic, which is not one we see too often in romances.

    There was really only one thing that bugged me significantly which was that Drew makes a big mistake midway through the book which seemed like something he was way too smart and perceptive to do. I ended up feeling that it was contrived to allow him to grovel, which he does do beautifully as you point out.

    Otherwise though, this book was very, very good. I’d give it a high B+. Can’t wait for Hawke’s story.

  7. orannia
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 16:29:30

    Oh, great review Shuzluva – thank you! I am behind on this series – I have yet to read Bonds of Justice (BOJ), but it is on my TBR list. And since ShellBell and I are both waiting for Play of Passion from the same library system *grin* at least I have BOJ to wet my appetite :)

    Oh, and I’m so with ShellBell on the frustration of not being able to purchase a NZ author’s eBook in NZ. What’s worse is the Psy-Changeling series has only just been released (in print) in NZ – up until this point we’ve had to import the books. (Sorry, this would be better served in the geographical restrictions post :)

    @Vi – IIRC I think Nalini said on her blog that there would be a Kiss of Snow excerpt in Archangel’s Consort, but don’t quote me on that :)

  8. Amy
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 16:43:13

    Jane, I feel exactly the same way you do about this book and this series! I stayed up all night to read this, and first thing this morning I started to reread certain scenes. At one point years ago I was following several series in the romance/paranormal/fantasy lines. Right now this is the *only* series that I continue to follow, as the most recent Kresley Cole novel was a DNF for me.

    When I began this book, I was somewhat concerned that I’ll be reading about a relationship that I’ve already read before in this series, albeit with different character names. But even though there were somewhat similar scenes in the story, Ms. Singh did such a superb job that I still feel this relationship is unique.

    In some other novels, authors *tell* but don’t effectively *show*, so descriptions about a character’s personality often doesn’t mesh with what readers actually see depicted by that character. Here, however, Drew actually *acted* the way the author described; he was a complex character who didn’t fit any neat molds. (One very mild nit: I wish the fact that he was a dominate wolf wasn’t repeated quite as frequently as it was — I got the point after the nth time.)

    I must admit I was not overly enthusiastic when I first heard Drew was the main character for Play of Passion, and that is only due to the fact that he was never a standout character in previous stories for me. At some early point I really connected with him and started to feel his emotions, too. I think he may have jumped ahead of my other favorite heroes in this series, and he may possibly be my favorite hero right now. Perhaps I’m just a bit worn out from reading so many books with super alpha males or super intense males who wear their past pains on their sleeves that Drew really is a standout. And perhaps Drew stands out so much because the last two heroes in this series were just *okay* for me. I think I need to reread this book right away and then reread my favorite books in the series to confirm my feelings about Drew. What a chore! :-)

    In contrast, Indigo was a fine but not particularly special character for me. I felt a bit irritated with her at one point). And she seemed somewhat similar to Mercy in many respects.

    Janine, I find the three wolf-featured stories to be among my favorites, too. I would add Slave to Sensation to my top four list.

    As for the plot point that I *think* you are referencing, I didn’t feel it was contrived. I think it would have felt that way to me if I had not bought into the background presented: that Drew has been so filled with longing for Indigo for so many years that there are truly moments when he just doesn’t think so straight when it comes to her.

    Now Nalini has mentioned that the first story arc will end soon — I think with Hawke’s book. Then a second arc will begin. I wish I knew that that means for the entire series!

    Possible spoiler for those not familiar with previous books in ths series *****
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    As for the tidbits about Hawke and his potential significant other, I have a couple of thoughts. First, if Ms. Singh is going where I think she is going with Hawke — and it is hard to believe otherwise given the super huge clues we are given — I’m still not sure I feel comfortable with both the significant age and power difference; and I’m not talking about pure raw power, as all indicatications is that she may have more. But a large part of my problem with this pairing is that she was almost like a ward for him. (And yes, I’ve always disliked historical novels where the guardian and ward ends up together; there is a slight yuck factor for me, and the pairing reminds me of too much like Woody Allen’s story.) My second and somewhat contradictory thought: I may be disappointed if Ms. Singh pulls a Ms. Brockman on the Hawke storyline.

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  9. Amy
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 16:44:57

    Oops, I just noticed this review was posted by Shuzluva instead of Jane. Sorry for the mistake in my comment!

  10. Vi
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 18:23:55

    @Amy It was mentioned at RomCon that the second arc will feature the Falcons. And there will be a Psy protagonist or 2.
    My top four books match yours. Love those wolves.

  11. Tae
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 18:55:12

    Just read Bonds of Justice this last week and I’m new to Ms. Singh as of the last year. I’m interested in continuing to read the series, but not sure how excited I am about Play of Passion as neither of the characters were memorable for me.

    Now Hawke’s story, it’s like waiting for Sam and Alyssa’s book to come out – finally!

  12. MarieC
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 19:08:44

    Great review! I’ve loved all of Nalini Singh’s books! And I was so excited to see that there is a story with Indigo and Drew, though admittedly, I didn’t know that they would be the story together!

    While I haven’t read this book yet (waiting for my indy book store to get it (gotta support the locals!)), I cannot wait for this book so I can be on pins and needles for Hawke’s book.

    Regarding Hawke’s story, a little happy/bummed it’s going to be released as a hardcover first. (Happy for NS as a writer, but bummed as a buyer!)

  13. Merrian
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 20:31:29

    @ Amy, I have the same views you do about Hawke’s possible life partner.

    I think my favourite book is Caressed by Ice with two people who are broken putting themselves and each other back together.

    @Helen, That is really interesting because I love the psy-changling books and am so-so about the Archangel books. It makes me think about the discussion a couple of days ago about voice because we have the same writer’s voice in both series. Yet to me the are each quite different.

    @ the NZ girls; I share your pain sisters! Sitting here in Melbourne if it wasn’t for the fact that I live around the corner from one of the 3 specialist romance shops in the whole country that imports, I wouldn’t be reading the new book at all and no e-book either which I would prefer.

  14. orannia
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 20:45:37

    @Amy It was mentioned at RomCon that the second arc will feature the Falcons.

    Really? YAH! Love the sound of the feathered changelings! Might need to re-read snippets of Branded By Fire for their cameo :)

  15. Jage
    Nov 03, 2010 @ 00:41:43

    Am I the only person who could care less about Hawke’s storyline? LOL, I don’t know what it is, but I just don’t connect to him at all. I love the other changeling centered stories, I find the wolf pack just as fascinating as the leopard pack but then hints are dropped about Hawke and his potential significant other and it pulls me away from the story, lol.

    In regards to this review I haven’t read the book yet but hopefully I like it more than Bonds of Justice which was a really good book but not as great as the earlier ones in the series.

    And the potential falcons arc sounds awesome, lol.

  16. nasanta
    Nov 03, 2010 @ 01:02:59

    Thank you for this review. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to this book although I’ve read all of Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling book to date. This review makes me more hopeful that I will enjoy it.

    My favorite book was the first one; all the others were just OK or “like” books for me because I felt that the stories and the characters were starting to sound very similar to each other. My sister might be feeling the same way. She is just waiting for Hawke’s book, and has had no real interest in the last couple of books.

  17. Anita
    Nov 03, 2010 @ 03:36:20

    Thanks so much for the review! I tried to read her last two books but I gave up after a chapter or two. As many have pointed out earlier, the changeling is the series’ USP. And I’m chuffed changelings are back in focus. Ordering it immediately.

  18. Bella F.
    Nov 03, 2010 @ 04:57:20

    It’s funny but it wasn’t until I read this book in the series that I realized my 3 favorites were all the Kincaids! I loved Judd & Brenna, then reeally loved Mercy & Riley, and now love love love Drew & Indigo:)
    I too am chompin’ at the bit for Kiss of Snow!

  19. Ellie
    Nov 03, 2010 @ 04:58:58

    I thought I was the only one who can’t connect with this series! I keep trying, though, because her writing is so good. I loved her other series. There is just something I can’t picture about the psy world and it just holds me back.

    But I might just skim those parts to get to what sounds like a well-written romance. I’m a sucker for the guy-wants-it-more storyline.

  20. Anonymousss
    Nov 03, 2010 @ 09:56:36

    Regarding Hawke's story, a little happy/bummed it's going to be released as a hardcover first. (Happy for NS as a writer, but bummed as a buyer!)

    Ah, damn. Really? I dislike, and don’t buy, hardcovers. Ever.

  21. Las
    Nov 03, 2010 @ 19:27:32

    So I just finished Play of Passion and I loved it! I wasn’t crazy about the romances in the last two books and this was a breath of fresh air in that department.

    I don’t think that this book featured changelings is the reason the romance worked better for me. I love the changelings of course, but I’m absolutely fascinated by the Psy and the whole Changeling/Psy/Human dynamic. The problem with the previous two stories was that the only world we’d been allowed to emotionally connect with at that point was the changelings’, so the characters in Blaze of Memory and Bonds of Justice almost felt tacked on, as if they were just there to further the plot, and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, since the plot of this series has me hooked.

    I think the romances in BOM and BOJ would have worked a lot better for me if I had started out the series with them. As a matter I fact, I did start with Blaze of Memory…I read the first two chapters, loved it, and decided to stop in order to read the series in order. It was when I restarted BOM that I thought, “Why am I supposed to care about these people?” I thought the same thing about the h/h of BOJ, and that, if we were going to get a human hero, it would have made more sense for it to have been Bowen (Branded by Fire), since not only was he fresher in our memory but we actually saw more of him than we ever did of Max, including his POV.

    All that leads me to one of my complaints about PoP, which was, and I have never said this about a romance…not enough plot! Again, I’m obsessed with the Psy/Changeling dynamic and the upcoming war, and the what we got in POP was wonderful, but I really wanted more. The Psy Council stuff had me on the edge of my seat in BOJ, and I was hoping for more in the latest book. I especially wanted more glimpses of Nikita…in a very twisted way, she’s become my favorite character. I love that manipulative genius bitch and a tiny evil part of me kind of wants to see her rule the world. I mean, she can transmit viruses with her mind! How awesome is that! ;)

    My only other issue with Play of Passion were the Hawke/you-know-who scenes, for all the reasons Amy stated. I’m going to read Hawke’s story of course (and yes, I’ll pay the damn hardcover price even though I’m buying digital), I’m too invested in the plot not to, but no matter how well the love story will be written Nalini would have to become a miracle worker or I’d have to undergo a complete personality change in order for me to really enjoy the romance. Part of me is still hoping that it’s not going to happen, but realistically I can’t imagine a romance writer daring to go there.

  22. Nasanta
    Nov 03, 2010 @ 19:34:00

    Hawke’s book will be in hardcover? Darn. All the other books are in mass market paperback, and I am one of those who dislikes inconsistency in the sizes of my books in a series. Off-topic but is there a quote button in the DearAuthor app?

  23. Raine
    Nov 03, 2010 @ 19:56:01

    I literally did not put this book down. Love Indy and Drew’s story can’t wait for Hawke’s

  24. Nifty
    Nov 03, 2010 @ 21:04:40

    I’m reading Play of Passion now and am enjoying it. I knew I would, because I’m really drawn to the changelings, but both of the last two books — Max’s and Dev’s stories — were DNFs for me. So yay that I’m liking this one so much.

    Definitely looking forward to Hawke’s story. I hate that it’s going to be in hardcover, though.

  25. Jane
    Nov 03, 2010 @ 22:48:08

    @Nasanta There’s not a button but you can use the html code

    >blockquote> and >/blockquote>

  26. Edie
    Nov 04, 2010 @ 02:00:24

    I just have a question, that might be somewhat odd but I have hot buttons, darnit. LOL But what is the deal with the constant thing of a dominant female not working with a less dominant male? Yet we supposed to swallow the dom heroes + much less dominant heroines would work like a charm???
    It just puzzles me.

    And while I love this series, apart from Branded by Fire, I don’t get the Hawke fascination either???

  27. Edie
    Nov 04, 2010 @ 02:03:34

    Oh apologies, the above post is proof that my multi-tasking skills are poor, or it is just my lack of writing skills. Where did the edit button go??

  28. Las
    Nov 04, 2010 @ 08:22:20

    @Edie: The dominant female/male thing seems to be the way the changelings’ world works. I would have actually loved it if Drew had been…not submissive, but significantly less than Indigo and totally excited about that fact. I loved that scene in Branded by Fire, when Drew tells Mercy, “Man, you’re scary. Lucky Riley,” and he genuinely meant it.

  29. Janet P.
    Nov 04, 2010 @ 10:30:23

    It was intriguing to see the concept of “Maternal Dominant” brought up as a recognition that somebody doesn’t have to be an ass-kicker fighter to be valuable. But it was pretty much dropped then. I wonder if their are “Paternal Dominants?” LOL

    Totally loved the book but by the end I was starting to feel a bit sorry for Drew and all the grovelling he had to do. I mean, enough already! The poor wolf-man obviously adores
    Indy and was doing his freakin’ best to walk that line she put him on of being the perfect man, lover, and work-mate. I was more than ready to see Indy put some effort into charming Drew a bit.

    But she saved his life, I guess that’s good too.

    Still no clues as to what an X-Psy can do that’s so scary. CAN’T WAIT!!!

  30. Melissa
    Nov 04, 2010 @ 15:30:12

    I just finished this last night, I loved it! The books with Changlings are my favorites but I just love the whole series too. It’s amazing that all of the books in the series are so good. I love how the focus of this book was the romance and the couple was fascinating enough to keep me entertained. Drew was such a great hero, he was one sexy, charming guy!

  31. Julia
    Nov 04, 2010 @ 22:38:11

    Graet Review and absolutely my opinion. I love the wolves, Play of Passion ist next to Caressed by Ice and Branded by Fire my new favorite in this series, and I really cant wait for the next book

  32. Marie Harte
    Nov 05, 2010 @ 17:18:31

    I love this whole series and wasn’t disappointed a bit by Play of Passion. The dynamics between Indy and Drew were consistent with the world Singh already created, and in showing the conflict the way she did, she made the characters’ reactions to events believable without being annoying. (I hate the heroine who is too strong, annoyingly so.) Indy never came across that way. And Drew was no wimp, but a male who matched Indy perfectly.

    The altercations between protagonists only furthered the story, and I never lost sight of their hierarchies in the pack. I was a little worried the author might make Drew suddenly Mr. Dominant, but she didn’t.

    I love the changeling stories in this series. The last two books weren’t as strong for me, but like someone else said, it might be because so much focus and attention has been given to the changeling/psy or changeling/human dynamics.

    In any case, Singh’s Psy/Changeling series are autobuys for me, and I can’t wait to find out who Ghost is, and to watch Hawke finally claim his mate. Kudos to Nalini Singh. My only complaint is there’s too much time between releases!

  33. Bronwen Evans
    Nov 05, 2010 @ 17:26:04

    @ShellBell: Try http://www.bookdepository.co.uk with free world wide delivery – the NZ $ is very strong agaisnt the poound right now – books cost around $10-$12NZ

  34. ShellBell
    Nov 05, 2010 @ 19:01:00

    @Bronwen Evans:
    thanks Bronwen but it is the eBook version I am after. I no longer buy books in print, and wouldn’t have any problems getting a copy of the paperback but the ability to buy eBooks from New Zealand is getting to be more and more difficult.

  35. Ceilidh
    Nov 06, 2010 @ 15:01:12

    Having read so many amazingly glowing reviews of this series I am half ready to pick it up myself once I have the cash, and I almost never commit to series with so many books already out.

  36. Heather
    Nov 06, 2010 @ 15:51:34

    I finally got to read this last night…my bookstore didn’t have it on release day.

    Loved the book, but wanted more about what was happening in the Psy world.

    Re the people who are icked by the Hawke story, I think for me (not a ward-story fan) I’m okay with it since the age difference hasn’t been beaten to death. Mentioned here and there, but then I can forget it. Plus, Sienna reminds me of Judd, who had my favorite book in the series. So I can’t wait.

  37. Angela
    Nov 06, 2010 @ 20:58:33

    I’m one of the few (here) that has always been anxious for the Hawke/Sienna storyline. I thought since the beginning that this would be a pairing, and it only strengthened over the progression of the series and I couldn’t wait to see Sienna grow up enough.

    Honestly the age thing never bothered me. It wasn’t exactly Hawke raising her, but her uncles. So I guess that removes the ‘ward’ thing for me that some have mentioned.

    One of the things I noticed in Play of Passion was that Sienna appeared to have matured quite a lot with her time with the cats, and I was really glad to see that. I can’t wait for their book, even more now than ever before.

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