Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

REVIEW: Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh

AJH is not just a muser of books but also a published author. When he first approached me to do guest reviews on Dear Author I was hesitant because I did not want the guest reviews to be a platform for promoting his work. The DA readership did not deserve to be used in that fashion. I was also concerned because of the potential conflicts of interest.

Because AJH’s book is now published, there have been blurbs provided to him by various authors. In order to maintain fairness and impartiality, I have asked AJH to not post reviews of books by those authors as it would appear too much like quid pro quo. He has agreed to refrain from posting them here although he may post them at another venue.

There may be a time when AJH’s conflicts are simply too numerous for us to manuever about and at that time, we will likely have to say goodbye to AJH as a reviewer. Please keep in mind that the review list of books AJH has is not set in stone and can, and likely will, change as time goes on and we must accommodate further publishing relationships of this reviewer.

Thundercats are Go – Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh

This is a bit of a departure from my usual format, in that I’m actually reviewing a book I read about a year ago, but since I’m technically on holiday and having to take a bit of a break from the one-book-a-week format, I thought I’d fill in the gap by putting together my belated thoughts on Slave to Sensation.

Slave to Sensation by Nalini SinghThis will involve spoilers, by the way.

As I said in my review of Angel’s Blood a long time ago now, I really appreciate how completely left-field cracktastic awesome Singh’s worlds are. And looking back at the book for the purposes of this review/retrospective/thingy I think the clearest illustration of how completely nuts this setting is can be found in the opening line:

 In an effort to reduce the overwhelming incidence of insanity and serial killing in the Psy population, the Psy council decided, in the year 1969, to institute a rigorous program called Silence.” (P. 1)

 Now throughout the novel, the Psy get a lot of flak for the whole Silence policy – which admittedly is clearly a flawed and oppressive way of dealing with generations of human beings – but let’s be fair to them here, when the problem you’re trying to solve is “overwhelming incidence of insanity and serial killing” I can sort of see why you’d be tempted to wheel out the nuclear option.

Although thinking about it, I’m also not sure I’d trust a policy formulated by a body whose members hail from a species that is explicitly renowned for containing an overwhelming number of insane serial killers.

Anyway Slave to Sensation is set about a hundred years after the Silence policy was first introduced (notice that this makes it sort of SF, but set in the future of an Urban Fantasy universe, which is kind of cool) and the Silence policy has been fully implemented, causing the Psy to feel no emotions whatsoever – sort of like the Vulcans. This, according to the Psy council means that the Psy are now incapable of violence. And although I’ve just defended the Silence policy as being understandable given the problem it was designed to address, it’s fairly clear that the Psy council invest just a little bit too much in its infallibility. Again, much like the Vulcans. If nothing else, I can’t help but be a bit surprised that nobody in either Psy (or, for that matter,  Vulcan) society stood up while they were discussing this policy and said “hang on a second, don’t we call people who experience no emotions sociopaths”.

Anyway, the Psy aren’t alone in their world. They share it with the Changelings – people who transform into animals and who pretty much represent the other end of the rational-emotional spectrum. I think (but I confess I don’t remember that clearly) that there are normal humans in the world as well, but it’s been a year so I might be misremembering. The plot of Slave to Sensation revolves around the relationship between a Psy (Sascha Duncan) and a Changeling (Lucas Hunter – love that name). They meet because Sascha’s mother wants to negotiate with Lucas’ pack in order to win a lucrative contract to build bespoke housing for Changelings (whose needs are naturally very different to those of Psy or humans), but Lucas has an ulterior motive, because one of his packmates has been murdered and he’s convinced the killer was a Psy (it’s been a long time so I can’t quite remember his reasoning, I think it’s a smell thing). To track the killer, he needs somebody with access to Psynet, the Psy shared consciousness.

The book felt to me (as best I can remember) like it was resolutely Sascha’s story. The Silence didn’t work for her, so she feels emotions in a way that other Psy don’t, and the the book is far more about her learning to cope with the emotions she has been taught to repress than it is about catching a serial killer. I’m honestly not sure if I was supposed to find the identity of the murderer surprising (there are only three Psy in the book – Sascha, her mother, and a man who is blatantly evil – guess who the killer is), and really the serial-killer plot isn’t so much a mystery as a journey on which Sascha learns that pretty much her entire existence is based on a Jenga-tower of lies. I sort of assumed that it was meant to be obvious who the villain is from the outset, and the narrative tension is supposed to come from watching Sascha come to terms with the realisation that the events she is witnessing prove that everything she believes is false, and that she has both power and value, just not in ways that are recognised by Psy society.

It occurs to me, incidentally, that this was a remarkably deft way to establish a sense of world in the first book. By giving us a heroine whose worldview is constantly being challenged, the reader is able to learn about the reality of the setting at the same time she does, without her having to be arbitrarily clueless about the society she grew up in. (I mean, she is clueless about the society she grew up in, but for perfectly sensible reasons to do with it being all totalitarian and brainwashy).

I got on less well with the Changelings. It’s not that I disliked them per se, it’s just that – as I think I mentioned in my review of Angel’s Blood big cats just don’t really do it for me. Plus because they’re pack animals there are rather a lot of Changelings in the book, and I had tremendous difficulty keeping track of them all. Of course the upside to this was that Hunter’s pack felt like a real thing that really existed and had its own internal dynamics, rather than being sort of a backdrop or accessory, existing only to provide the hero with something to be the alpha of. That said, a year later I remember very little about Hunter’s pack except that I think there were kittens in it? I mean, not as a major feature or anything. I have a sort of vague feeling that the later books focus more on the other pack members, so not remembering the first thing about them might make it a bit difficult for me to pick the series up again at this point.

Overall I liked the book. I wasn’t so immediately gripped by it that I ran out to get the second, but I was left with sufficiently positive feelings about Nalini Singh’s work that I made Angel’s Blood a priority once I started reviewing at DA. I did have a couple of minor quibbles with the setup, most predominantly that the balance between the Psy and the Changelings seemed a little off, metaphor-wise. I kind of got the impression that the Psy were supposed to represent, y’know, the rational side of humanity while the Changelings were supposed to represent the emotional side. Now I admit to a bit of a bias here, because I’m kind of more of a Psy than a Changeling, but I sort of got the impression that in this reality “rational” meant “asshole” and “emotional” meant “basically alright dude.” And I get that the Psy had basically Gone Too Far, and that by switching off all of their emotions they had taken a self-destructive course of action that was ultimately destroying them from the inside, but there seemed to be no equivalent on the Changeling side of the equation. I’ve not researched the series in much detail, but I seem to recall seeing comments from one or two people who felt that the series seemed to lean too much towards the assumption that emotions were inherently good and reason was inherently bad. Obviously that’s not something that I can comment on in much detail having read one book a year ago, but it reinforces the mild impression I took away from Slave to Sensation. I understand that the most recent entry in the series Heart of Obsidian is actually the first book so far to feature a Psy/Psy couple (am I completely wrong about that? I could be completely wrong about that).

Probably the thing I remember most about Slave to Sensation, apart from the fact that, just like in Angel’s Blood, there’s an awful lot of nipple-biting involved. Like more than I would normally expect. Apart from that, the thing that I remember most is the sheer amount of stuff that gets introduced. There’s the Psy, there’s the Changelings, there’s the relationships between the various Changeling species, there’s the Silence, there’s the fact that the Silence doesn’t work (or at least, doesn’t work as well as it’s supposed to – perhaps I’m dwelling too much on that opening line but compared to an “overwhelming incidence of insanity and serial killing” the Silence actually seems to be doing pretty well for itself), there’s the whole bizarre psychic internet thing, and the fact that the psychic internet thing has somehow come alive, and has a consciousness sort of roaming around out there doing weird stuff.

It’s a huge and complex world, and the more I hear about the series, the more interested I am in seeing more of what happens in it, but the book itself didn’t quite give me that “must read more” feeling that I understand it gives to a lot of other people.

Everything I learned about life and love from reading Slave to Sensation: If you have sex dreams about a psychic, check to make sure she isn’t having them too. Real estate deals are great ways to meet prospective romantic partners. Hard as it may be to believe, training people to feel neither joy nor sorrow, neither pity nor remorse, does not make them incapable of violence.

44 Comments

  1. Estara Swanberg
    Aug 30, 2013 @ 12:34:12

    Hmm, on the one hand I can sort of see the worry you express in the comment, Jane, in general – on the other hand I think AJH has successfully reviewed all kinds of older romance titles (and commented on their comments) without referring to his writerly side (if it came out, it was by mentioned by other commenters or if you actually went to his web site, like I did ^^). I think Janine also does a great job at balancing the status (I think she’s the one who is also a published author of the reviewers here?), so I expect similar coolness of AJH.

    I’m more worried he won’t have the time for this at some point ^^.

    @AJH: And you remember all this about a book you read a YEAR ago? I guess my way of diving into the story and only coming up at the end for air (if it does engage my emotions) makes this sort of memory totally impossible. Kudos. LOL moment of the review: you weighing the amount of nipple-biting that is usual in romance ^^

  2. cleo
    Aug 30, 2013 @ 13:38:37

    Welcome back. It’s also been awhile since I read StS – although I’ve read ALL of this series so far. I sometimes find her writing style too overwrought for my taste but I keep reading because of the worldbuilding and metaphors, as well as the characters. Sascha’s journey of having to learn how to process repressed emotions resonates for me. There may be an emotions-good bias in the series, but there’s also stuff about Changelings having to control their animal, which I read as not letting your emotions completely run the show. There’s at least one changeling murderer, iirc, but many more murderous psy.

    There are regular humans in this world – they get a little more important, or at least visible as the series goes on. Blaze of Memory has a Psy paired with a Forgotten – a descendent of Psy who left the PsyNet when Silence started. Not sure if they count as a psy-psy pairing. I don’t remember any others.

  3. Amanda
    Aug 30, 2013 @ 13:44:37

    Nalini Singh is an amazing worldbuilder . After so many years it is kind of hard for me to separate what I felt when I first read this book and what I feel for the series today. However I do remember being fascinated by the Psy race and, as you mentioned, being reminded of Vulcans .

  4. Dallas
    Aug 30, 2013 @ 15:37:49

    The first Psy/Changeling book I read was Kiss of Snow. I thought it was terrific, so I back-tracked to start at the beginning of the series. Slave to Sensation did not particularly impress me, and I doubt I’d have continued with the series had I not already been blown away by Kiss of Snow.

    I’ve now read 9 of the 12 books, and while the overarching story line remains interesting, the individual books have been hit or miss for me.

  5. Janet P
    Aug 30, 2013 @ 15:41:12

    I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed the first few Psy-Changeling books before some of my irritations with the later stories developed. I might have to go do a re-read now.

  6. cleo
    Aug 30, 2013 @ 15:47:23

    @Dallas: I had a similar experience. I started with a couple novellas and then read a couple later books (Mercy and Riley’s story and Indigo and Drew’s) before StS. I think her writing has improved over the series – I probably wouldn’t have read more if I started with it.

  7. lawless
    Aug 30, 2013 @ 16:40:59

    @Jane – I really enjoy AJH’s reviews — they are probably pretty close to the views I’d have of the same books (I’m a married woman and mother who’s a sometimes grumpy newcomer to genre m/f romance; I enjoy reading m/m romance much, much more) and save me a lot of time and trouble figuring out which authors and books I’d like and which would make me run away screaming. That makes them more helpful to me than the reviews of just about anyone else on the site.

    AJH’s reviews have been noticeably balanced so far — there are very few books he’s outright loved, and none that I remember him having no criticisms of. Instead of banning reviews of books by people who’ve given him blurbs, take a look at any such review and see if it’s a puff piece. I really doubt they would be, and if they were, the differences from his other reviews would be obvious. If he’s just as analytical as he is of other books, posting a review with a disclosure about the relationship (blurb, whatever) seems just as sensible, if not more, than telling him not to write it unless he himself feels he can’t be objective or would damage that relationship by writing a potentially negative review.

    Also, until his last posting, I wasn’t aware that he’s a m/m author, as I had never looked at the link to his website. (I spend enough time on the internet as it is.) No wonder he didn’t want to get into m/m romance when I mentioned it, but I read his reluctance completely in the opposite direction.

    I felt a little blindsided when his writing got brought up in the discussion of Sarah Mayberry’s Suddenly You. I would have appreciated all this being mentioned up front when AJH was introduced as a guest reviewer, rather than have it come out in discussion as something people associated with the site knew and not everyone else did. I did figure it out, but I had to look at his website to do that. Looking at a website link should not be mandatory to understand what’s going on.

    @AJH – The concept behind the Psy/Changeling series appeals to me more than the Angel’s Blood series (or whatever it’s called). Singh is a maybe for me, though; paranormal is not really my thing because I’m allergic to most alpha males, particularly those that inhabit paranormals.

    Once again, thank you for being helpful to another m/f romance n00b trying not to spend time and money on something I’m not going to enjoy. And while you probably dialed down the snark on this review more than was strictly necessary (but maybe there wasn’t any there to begin with), it’s probably a prudent reaction to the controversy over your last review. Once Jane posted the entire passage at issue, I concluded that it was more likely (by a huge factor) that Mayberry’s phrasing was infelicitous rather than that it was a narrative or authorial judgment. On the other hand, I agreed with you that the sentences you focused on came across as judgmental about women who breastfeed, especially in public and without shame. I would have been offended if someone had said those exact words to me, especially since “fling” has a definite negative connotation. One flings things when angry or when one doesn’t care about them, like insults or hash.

    Full disclosure (seeing as this seems to be a theme here): I was one of those women who breastfed as discreetly as I could, but I didn’t hide. For example, I would never sit in a toilet in the ladies’ room to breastfeed — eww! unsanitary — but when I was at the park, I sat in my car to breastfeed rather than out in the open. I also didn’t see the point of trying to shame mothers who didn’t breastfeed, whether or not they tried and weren’t able to (which came close to being the case with me) or never tried. Anyplace someone would give birth around here points out the medical advantages of breastfeeding, so no one needed to be reminded or judged about her decision on that matter or have to explain her reasons to some busybody stranger.

  8. Darlynne
    Aug 30, 2013 @ 16:44:07

    I feel like the outlier or misfit who never connected with this series. I couldn’t keep any of the characters straight, couldn’t tell you which titles I’d read. And you read this a year ago? Nice recall. Do you take special vitamins?

    @Estara Swanberg and Jane: I don’t see a problem with a reviewer wearing multiple hats, guidelines in place and up front. NYT Book Review does it all the time; Declan Hughes regularly reviews books by other mystery writers for the Irish Examiner.

    Now I’m curious: has there never been a review of a book at DA by another published author? If not, I stand corrected, but if so, did the review(s) carry a similar yellow warning label?

  9. AJH
    Aug 30, 2013 @ 17:13:29

    @Estara Swanberg:

    I confess I did do a small amount of internet research to remind myself of little details like how to spell Sascha and, um, what the hero’s name actually was. And, obviously, the quote I looked up again. There’s a reason I picked a quote from, well, page one. Even with my newly development romance reading skills, I was still quite surprised to recall how much nipple biting there was.

    Of course, part of the reason I can remember so much after a year is that it is actually a genuine surprising and original setting. The whole psy/changelings/humans/silence/psychic internet murder thing just isn’t something I’m likely to forget in a hurry.

    @cleo:

    Thank you :) I honestly can’t remember how overwrought or otherwise the writing was after a year but I don’t strongly remember being jarred by it at the time. ANGEL’S BLOOD the same. Of course I do read fantasy so it’s possible my overwroughtness threshold is way up there :)

    Having only read one book, I’m not really in a position to comment on the relative balance between psy and changelings in the series, I was just sort of contextualising my very hazy recollections of the book against my equally hazy recollections of things other people have said about the series. Also I’m glad I didn’t just hallucinate the regular humans.

    @Amanda:

    I think the inability to separate your initial response to something from your current feelings about it is a very common problem with series – and, also, to some extent life in general ;)

    I think if you respond initially well to a series, and then get deeper into it, that positivity reinforces itself and it’s sort of hard to see what’s a reaction to what. Also I think sometimes the reasons you end up continuing to like a series are not necessarily the reasons you picked it up in the first place, and that can be a bit odd. It’s like thinking of the way BUFFY developed over its seasons. Like when you go back to Season 1, your response is informed by you knowledge of the arcs and development of later series, and so you sort of forget that it’s just a slight campy, episodic monster-hunting show.

    @Dallas:

    I just can’t do that – I pathologically have to start at the very beginning (a wise woman once told me that it was a very good place to start). I’m actually genuinely surprised at how often that they started a series in the middle and probably wouldn’t have carried on reading if they’d read the first one first. It’s just so completely alien to the way I deal with stuff.

    I can see hit-or-missness being a particular problem with this sort of series. Coming from a fantasy background, I’m very used to a series sort of, by definition, having one protagonist (Hell, a lot of fantasy series are just one novel crudely chainsawed into bits). It’s only in romance that I’ve really seen this idea of a series being a set of books in the same world about different characters. I find it pretty interesting, to be honest, but I sometimes have trouble letting go – like when I’ve invested in someone, I’m sort of can’t easily transfer my emotional allegiance someone else who was standing around in the background.

    @Janet P:

    Hope you enjoy your re-read. Do you mind if I ask what your irritations were with the later series?

    @lawless:

    No wonder he didn’t want to get into m/m romance when I mentioned it, but I read his reluctance completely in the opposite direction.

    Omg, you thought I was a bigot :(

    Obviously, you’re addressing this comment to Jane, but I just wanted to emphasise I was very keen to keep my writing and my reviewing separate because I didn’t want there to be any suggestion that I was taking advantage of DA and using it as a promotional platform for myself or my writing. I’m sorry you felt blindsided.
    As I think I said in my review at the time, I’m actually far more into the setup of ANGEL’S BLOOD (for what it’s worth I think the series is called ‘The Guild Hunter’ series) than this one. This is a purely shallow preference for wings over claws, but actually the world building in both series is really excellent.

    @Darlynne:

    As I said to Estara, I think I’d be pretty hard pressed to forget this one: psychic Vulcans with an internet in their brain versus werepanthers ;)

    For what it’s worth, I did also have difficulty keeping the characters straight. It’s fairly clear reading SLAVE TO SENSATION that there’s a large and well-detailed supporting cast who are going to have their own books in the future but I can remember nothing about any of them. I think the hero has a second in command who is possibly related to the person who gets murdered. Or something? Like I say, been a year :)

  10. MissE
    Aug 30, 2013 @ 17:24:08

    Nalini Singh has some crazy ideas for her story worlds and I love them all. The world building in Slave to Sensation is what got me to pick up the other books in the series. Using Sascha’s journey to show the crippling effects of Silence was an interesting way to tell the story and I enjoyed watching her learn how to feel. However, now that we’re 12 books (and numerous novellas) into the series, I’m usually annoyed when Sascha shows up. She’s like this special snowflake whose sage advice is sought by everyone. I’ve really started to dislike her and don’t get what makes her so much more special than many of the other Psy characters.

  11. library addict
    Aug 30, 2013 @ 17:44:35

    I read Kiss of Snow first as well, followed by Tangle of Need and then I went back and read the entire series in order (all in 10 days or so) because I really wanted to read Heart of Obsidian when it released.

    Though the individual romances were hit-or-miss for me, there wasn’t a single book in the series I disliked. Even if I didn’t like the main couple of book, there was enough of the political background arc to keep me reading.

    Sascha and Lucas remain one of my three favorite couples. I like that the author stands by the rules she’s created for her world.

  12. Diane
    Aug 30, 2013 @ 18:05:22

    Absolutely love the series!!! I’m always waiting for the next book!!!

  13. Susan
    Aug 30, 2013 @ 21:56:54

    I pretty much agree with most of @lawless’s comments. If there was a concern about a potential conflict of interest, it should have been mentioned up front rather than tiptoeing around it with innuendo and dribbles of info. It all seemed so sordid and out of character for DA.

    Moving on. . .

    I’d been collecting the Psy/Changeling books for years without ever reading one. But I got swept up in the DA excitement for HOO and did an immersion read of the whole series (to date) a couple of weeks ago. I liked some books (and characters) better than others, naturally, but I’d give the series a solid B+.

    First books have a tough job in establishing a new world with just enough detail to make it believable, but not so much it overwhelms the central story. I think STS largely accomplished that. I liked that things touched on in this book were picked up and expounded upon throughout the series, too–there was good continuity and faithfulness to the vision set out in this book.

    The Psy definitely are reminiscent of Vulcans! Sometimes of the ones that are all nutso because of that mating ritual thing. But, just as I loved Spock and the Vulcans, I’m besotted with the Psy. I love both their rationality and coldness as well as what starts to happen as the Silence becomes more fragile. I don’t dislike the Changelings, Forgotten, or humans, but they don’t capture my imagination the way the Psy do.

    But reading the books back-to-back also highlighted flaws. That nipple thing? It’s in every book. In fact, the sex scenes are all pretty much identical, like the same template was slapped down regardless of the different characters (or their previous level of sexual experience). It alternated between amusing and annoying.

    I’m also amazed at your memory. I don’t think you’ll have any problems getting back into the series if you choose to (and I think you should).

    (Apologies for any typos or weird auto-corrects.)

  14. Des Livres
    Aug 30, 2013 @ 23:02:34

    Glad to see you back AJH! I enjoy my weekly fix.

    I’ve felt a bit different from most DA commenters – I read about 5 of this series and sort of …. lost interest.

    Reflecting on it, while reading your review, I realise that I liked the world building, but haven’t really warmed to the characters.

    What will you be reviewing next?

  15. Meri
    Aug 31, 2013 @ 00:10:10

    I haven’t read anything by Nalini Singh (though I plan to eventually), so I can’t comment on the review, but I agree with everyone who wrote that AJH being an author should have been disclosed from the start. Not everyone here hangs out on Twitter, and it certainly was a surprise to see someone described as a new reader exploring the genre show up doing author interviews on various websites.

    AJH, you wrote that you were keen to keep these things separate and not create the appearance of doing promo, but I think that not disclosing who you are creates that appearance more than disclosing it, to be honest. I don’t think that’s what you’re using this platform for, I’ve enjoyed many of your reviews, and I’m fine with an author reviewing here (as Jill Sorenson did a couple of years ago) and elsewhere. I just appreciate knowing this from the start.

  16. Estara Swanberg
    Aug 31, 2013 @ 01:56:23

    *scratches head* Maybe I’m naive, but he had a link to his website in the very first review and that clearly showed that he was going to be published a few months later in ebook. From the start. It never was a mystery and one click away.

  17. JenB
    Aug 31, 2013 @ 02:41:31

    Estara Swanberg: CO-SIGN your comment a thousand times. This is not new information nor was it hidden.

    I really enjoy AJH’s reviews, and this one in particular. I wasn’t too keen on StS myself (yeah nipple biting) but perhaps there is a better Singh book in the series to try.

  18. Meri
    Aug 31, 2013 @ 03:01:43

    I don’t think anyone has suggested that AJH has been hiding the fact that he’s a writer – just that this should have been disclosed on DA in a more obvious and noticeable way, such as in the short bio that appears at the end of each review. For instance, Janine’s bio notes that she’s also an author, who her critique partners are, and what she’s published. I think that’s the way to go for anyone wearing both a writer and a reviewer hat.

  19. Marianne McA
    Aug 31, 2013 @ 04:22:17

    You could just yellow banner everything: Ms Austen gave Dear Author a copy of Pride and Prejudice for our August giveaway. We are not reviewing this book lest it appear as a quid pro quo, but plan to review Northanger Abbey even though our reviewer has often enjoyed a Bath Bun.

    I had no idea AJH writes (until the last review) or that Janine writes (until this thread). And I’m excited about that, because I trust her reviews.

    However, like most readers, I read reviews written by published authors all the time. Winds me up when they’re deceptive – as when Sunday newspapers give glowing reviews to books without revealing they’ve been written by fellow journalists working for the same newspaper group (been caught like that twice). But fair disclosure (as when Sarah F reviewed Brockmann) should cover it – why the yellow banner of shame?

    Can’t remember half as much about StS as the reviewer: but I did start there, and promptly stopped. I’ve a vague feeling it was because the Changelings murdered people and that was okay because it was in their nature, but I may be thinking of another book.

  20. Ros
    Aug 31, 2013 @ 04:25:42

    @Estara Swanberg: That’s actually not quite true. For the first few reviews, AJH didn’t have his own tag or bio, because he appeared as a Guest Reviewer. Here’s his first review, which as you can see, has no links to his website: http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/guest-review-the-flame-and-the-flower-by-kathleen-woodiwiss/ If you click on his name in the comments, it does take you there, but that’s pretty well hidden.

    I also think that it was somewhat disingenuous for him to be presented/present himself as a romance neophyte. I had clicked through to his website months ago and saw that he had a book coming out, but assumed that it wasn’t a romance since he was so new to the genre. Apparently it’s just het romance that he’s new to? Hmm. I admit, I do feel that he’s been using DA as something of a publicity platform.

  21. Ros
    Aug 31, 2013 @ 04:52:28

    @Meri: I agree. I don’t think every review of his needs the Big Yellow Banner Of Shame, but I do think the bio should be updated to make it clear that he’s a romance author, which publisher he’s contracted to, and any other relevant info.

  22. AJH
    Aug 31, 2013 @ 06:28:09

    @MissE:

    Yeah, I kind of agree that the world building is what sold me on it. I’m a little bit sad to know that Sascha winds up basically winds up being kind of like Pug in MAGICIAN. I think it’s maybe a general problem with cameos from characters whose books have already been written because their emotional arc is finished and they’re often a fan or author favourite, so there’s not a lot for them to do except come in and, as you say, offer sage advice.

    @library addict:

    I think that’s the big advantage of a strong series – even if the individual stories don’t necessarily work for you, there’s usually something to carry you through. It’s a little bit like a multi-view point fantasy novel – if you don’t like one character’s scenes, you can always just skim through them and wait until you get to the characters you do like. Unless you’re reading GRRM in which case you’ll find the character you do like was killed off page by bandits.

    @Diane:

    I can definitely see where you’re coming from. Unfortunately I really can’t commit to any long running series right now :(

    @Susan:

    I pretty much agree with most of @lawless’s comments. If there was a concern about a potential conflict of interest, it should have been mentioned up front rather than tiptoeing around it with innuendo and dribbles of info. It all seemed so sordid and out of character for DA.

    I can absolutely see where you’re coming from, and honestly I would have preferred to be slightly more open about things. I think Jane was very concerned about the possibility of this site being used as a promotional platform by a debut author, and I absolutely understand that concern. I think at the time I started writing I was sufficiently new that any reference to my books at all would have been more publicity than I’d had in my entire career.

    Now on to the good stuff…

    I’ve been consistently impressed with the way that Singh balances her world building, and specifically her world establishing, with the central story. Obviously, at the time I read SLAVE TO SENSATION I wasn’t particularly familiar with the romance genre and so I couldn’t say for certain how satisfactory the romance between Lucas and Sascha was, but I felt that the world building and the serial killer plot and the love story reinforced each other rather than conflicting.

    I also responded to the Psy a lot more strongly than I did to the Changelings – I think it’s partially just that I’ve seen shapeshifter stories before whereas emotionless telepaths with stars in their eyes not so much ;) I think one of the things that vaguely put me off reading the rest of the series was that I got the impression, perhaps unfairly, that the author was a lot less interested in the Psy than I was. In the first book it comes across a little bit that Sascha is the only good Psy or something.

    Obviously I haven’t read enough Singh to comment on weaknesses in the series but I think it’s generally true that reading things back-to-back highlights both strengths and weaknesses that you wouldn’t have noticed if you read them more spaced out. A tiny part of me is secretly pleased that the nipple biting thing is in every book. I’ve read two Singh novels now that featured it and I think if I read one that didn’t I’d feel sort of disappointed.

    As I said above, I think when the salient features are psychic Vulcans serial killers and werepanthers, they’re fairly easy to remember :)

    @Des Livres:

    Actually I can see where you’re coming from on not warming to the characters. As I said above, I was very very hazy on the supporting cast of SLAVE TO SENSATION, and I’d actually forgotten the hero’s name. Although since I come from a fantasy background, any characterisation is at all is a set up so actually reasonably competent characterisations and very strong world building is win/win for me.

    I think the other thing (working from my sample set of two) is that Singh’s characters don’t seem particularly warm to me in general. Raphael in ANGEL’S BLOOD is genuinely a total sociopath, and the heroine is kind of cold and damaged as well. In SLAVE TO SENSATION, Sascha’s whole arc is how she deals with the consequences of a lifetime of emotional repression. And I think that can sometimes make her easier to emphasise with then sympathise with. Though obviously people’s experiences will vary massively here.

    My article schedule is a bit shaky at the moment. The vague plan was re-visit some people who I’d reviewed previously, although some of those are off the table now. I think – all being well – it’ll be JD Robb next week. I’m not sure what I’ll do after that, possibly HEART OF STEEL.

    @Meri:

    First things first, I would definitely recommend Nalini Singh. I’ve enjoyed the first books of both series, and they have very similar strengths.

    As for the other stuff, I should stress that I’ve my chief concern was to abide by Jane’s wishes and policies, and I very much understand and support her decisions. I think, honestly, part of the problem here was that, at the time I started reviewing, I was in kind of a transitional space. I was only an author in the sense that I’d had a couple of manuscripts accepted by a small press – and it was actually my editor at that press that got me into genre romance. Again, obviously I don’t want to speculate about Jane’s thinking but I suspect that because, at the time, I was in no way established at the author being introduced as a writer on a site as large as DA would have felt a lot like promotion.

    I think if I’d been more established when I’d started writing, I’d probably have been more upfront about it.

    @JenB:

    Glad you’re enjoying the reviews :) Obviously I’ve only read two Nalini Singh books so I can’t really recommend another one to you if you didn’t like StS. And according to Susan nipple biting is kind of a theme so if that’s your deal breaker, you may have to steer clear.

    @Marianne McA:

    Obviously I agree that transparency is important and I think fair disclosure would be another reasonable policy, but the policy I’ve been told is in force here is simply not to write about writers with whom you have a personal or professional relationship of any kind. I can absolutely see why this policy is in force, because Jane is obviously very concerned about DA being used as a promotional vehicle for specific authors. It’s become a particular problem for me because I’ve been asked to read a number of books by authors who I’m now not able to write about on this site. I think this review got the yellow banner treatment because Jane was aware that I was quite concerned about not being able to write about books the community had asked me to write about, so she very kindly offered to explain the situation.

    Back on the subject of the book, I honestly can’t remember either if the Changelings kill people or not. Hell, I couldn’t even remember if there were normal humans in this world. And I did get a vague sense of pro-shapeshifter bias. That said, I think my overall reaction was probably a lot more positive than yours, I think probably because I come from a fantasy background and, therefore, good guys who kill people is completely fine with me :)

    @Ros:

    I also think that it was somewhat disingenuous for him to be presented/present himself as a romance neophyte.

    For what it’s worth, I genuinely don’t have much of a background in romance. I read a lot of fantasy and YA and there’s a lot of crossover there, and I read a hell of a lot of queer fiction and obviously romantic and sexual relationships are an important part of that. So I sort of stumbled into romance reading (and writing) by the back door.

    I don’t think it’s necessarily a contradiction to be both new to a genre and writing in it, and I certainly don’t think it’s wrong to acknowledge that other people are far more experienced in a genre than you are.

    Hmm. I admit, I do feel that he’s been using DA as something of a publicity platform.

    I’m sorry if I’ve come across that way. It certainly wasn’t my intent. As I said above, when I first started this project, any mention of my books at all would have essentially been more publicity than I’d ever received. I suspect this was part of the reason that I was asked not to mention them. I was very happy to abide by that policy and I understand why it is in place.

    I do think the bio should be updated to make it clear that he’s a romance author, which publisher he’s contracted to, and any other relevant info.

    I would have been perfectly happy to put that information in my bio from day one but, at the time, Jane didn’t feel it was appropriate. And ultimately it’s her site and her decision.

  23. lawless
    Aug 31, 2013 @ 07:34:23

    There’s a lot I’m grateful to DA for, such as the Daily Deals and the giveaways. But the policy about conflicts is, imo, unwise and unsustainable. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that the only person writing for the site regularly with a publishing deal is AJH, but it all smacks vaguely of treating him differently because he’s a he, especially when his next review after a highly gendered controversy is preceded by a yellow box of shame.

    Like @Darlynne and @Marianne McA, I would rather see the site adopt a disclaimer policy than continue its prohibition policy. Moreover, my view of the site is now more negative — not because of anything AJH has done, but because of the site owner’s decisions. Transparency from the beginning, or at least from when he was no longer a guest reviewer, would have been more appropriate and appreciated. In that regard, I agree with the points @Meri made (or maybe it’s the other way around).

    An initial disclaimer something along the lines of “AJH is a neophyte to romance in general, but he has a m/m manuscript under contract with a small press” would have been useful. No mention of the book’s name, no mention of the press’ name, hence information, not publicity. That would, I hope, address @Ros’ concerns. Then it would be obvious why he would not be reviewing m/m and I wouldn’t have assumed that he wasn’t addressing it because he was a bigot or otherwise disinterested in the genre. I also wouldn’t have made some other assumptions that in retrospect were heterosexist of me.

    In the absence of transparency from the beginning, the site should not have let AJH start his reviews.

    @Susan’s comment succinctly summarizes my position about how this has been handled — thanks! — and points out how this hole and corner method of proceeding has backfired, which is why I think the conflict of interest policy isn’t sustainable in the long run. Instead of promoting open and vibrant discussion, it discourages it because it restricts posting from people who may have the most to say. Where does it stop? Commenters may be (and often are) posting from biased positions, too. Will the site start banning author comments?

    @AJH – I hope I’ve made clear that my quarrel is with site policies and not you.

  24. Deljah
    Aug 31, 2013 @ 07:35:39

    I read Slave to Sensation earlier this year and didn’t like it. I didn’t like Lucas and his relationship with Sascha didn’t really pull me in. Whatever kind of “cat” Lucas was pulled me out of the story and sent me off to google. Something about the coloring (was he a black leopard? a spotted panther?) and whether or not that type of cat lives in a pack in nature…

    Beyond this, it was hard for me to rejoice in love with this couple at the end. It seemed to me that as long as Sascha got away and the one super-obvious killer of cats was eradicated, everyone was fine with a number of other serial killers being on the loose and with other Psy abuses continuing. That just didn’t sit well with me. Not currently interested in reading further in the series, but I may re-visit at some point.

    As to AJH’s authorial status, I became aware that he was soon-to-be-published (a while back) when I clicked through to his website to read more about him. I was interested in reading more about him. Sometimes the bio footnotes here at DA don’t tell me an awful lot.

    I hated the manner in which his writing was highlighted in that other review. It was as if he was “outed” as an author in the midst of a rebuke about how he wrote that review and his reaction to that book. As if him being an author was another reason to call that review and those reactions into question or to cause readers to view it all through a certain lens. His authorship was never really a secret and certainly not to those running this site, so why bring it up like that? I do hope this can all be worked through somehow, so that the focus can be on the books themselves and not so much on the reviewer.

  25. Meri
    Aug 31, 2013 @ 08:33:50

    @AJH:
    CD (I think) has tried to sell me on Singh in the past – I’m not much of a PNR reader, so I’m waiting for the right mood to strike me. I’ll get to it at some point :)

    Re your status: I understand this was Jane’s decision, and perhaps it would be best if she addressed it here, since I’m obviously not the only one who had concerns about how the disclosure was handled. I think a more descriptive reviewer bio would have been a better way to go than waiting several months and then putting up a huge disclaimer.

  26. Maria M.
    Aug 31, 2013 @ 09:14:59

    I found the yellow warning over-the-top and unnecessary. Potential conflict of interest? Really? His interesting reviews and thoughtful replies to comment are major reasons why I like to visit this site, and I would deplore it if they were discontinued.

    Regarding Slave to Sensation, I tried it some time ago when it was newish and much hyped and wasn’t sold on the series or author, didn’t even finish it.

    Eventually I tried another book in the series (from the public library) and came to like them after all, which for me means reading the whole series in order. Like other writers, the quality improves with practice, I guess, or maybe the more familiar the reader is with the world, the more she’ll be able enjoy it.

  27. cleo
    Aug 31, 2013 @ 09:36:42

    I’m deeply relieved that AJH’s author status out in the open (tho I agree that the yellow banner is a bit ott) because I was starting to feel really uncomfortable about it. I knew early on – I clicked over to his website probably when he was still listed as a guest reviewer. I felt awkward a couple times when people posted re reviewing mm and I felt like it was a giant elephant in the room during the last AJH thread. And it made me sooo uncomfortable.

    I do appreciate Jane’s desire to protect DA’s readers – this isn’t an author promo blog and I like it that way. I don’t completely agree with how she handled it up to now, but I can live with the ban on some authors (the same way I lived with the one year ban on Riptide reviews).

  28. emilyw
    Aug 31, 2013 @ 10:31:32

    I really like this series still. StS is one of my favorites. I admire the heck out of Singh’s imagination. Sometimes the alpha/mating bond thing gets annoying and all their relationships get a little cheesy and oh so perfect but it isnt enough to ruin the book.
    As for the reviewer’s status and disclosure I don’t care at all. I come here for book reviews and he writes exceptional ones. So… hope this hullabaloo doesnt take away something I enjoy.

  29. Darlynne
    Aug 31, 2013 @ 11:53:51

    @Darlynne: Burke, Declan Burke, not Hughes. *sigh*

    On the whole disclosure/conflict of interest thing: I don’t care what or how much a reviewer has written as an author; the proof of a reviewer’s skill is the words on the page and an intelligent reader can decide whether that review or voice works for her. If, otoh, a reviewer is a friend, relative or critique partner of the author being reviewed then, yes, that should be noted up front, that is a conflict of interest.

  30. AJH
    Aug 31, 2013 @ 11:57:00

    @lawless:

    Don’t worry, I didn’t think you had a problem with me at all. Similarly, I should probably clarify that I don’t personally have a big issue with the site’s current policies or the way they were applied in my case. I think when I first approached Jane, I put her quite a difficult position. Obviously if a known and established author had offered to write for the site, there would have been no sense in introducing them any other way. But, since I was not, any mention of my writing could, arguably, have constituted promotion and Jane has always made it very clear that she doesn’t want this site to promote specific authors.

    @Deljah:

    Obviously it’s been a year so I don’t remember that clearly but I seem to recall not being massively sold on Lucas either – again, forgot the guy’s name, so he can’t have made that big an impression ;)

    I think I had a similar reaction to the cat shapeshifter thing. I think because I live in country that has never had any big cats in it ever as far as I know, I just don’t really have a mental archetype for what I expect a black leopard to be like. And, like you, I found the black leopard / panther distinction confusion. I haven’t studied biology since 1999 :)

    I was okay with the ending because I thought it was fairly clear that the characters were just part of a much larger world. I mean, if you think about it, any contemporary romance asks you invest more the outcome of one romantic relationship than all the other terrible things that you must, on some level, know are happening in the world that those characters inhabit. I think Sascha’s escape from psynet and the defeat of the one big obvious serial killer was supposed to represent a small victory against the wider injustices of their society. In a way, I’m a lot less bothered by this in a romance than I would be in a fantasy novel because I didn’t get the impression that Lucas and Sascha getting together was supposed to represent a solution to major social problems. It’s not like a fantasy novel where once the bad guy has been killed or the plucky farm boy has become king that’s supposed to magically erase all the deep-seated issues in the society you’ve been reading about for eight hundred pages.

    @Meri:

    It’s tricky. I think Singh’s quite a friendly author for me because my background is primarily in that kind of genre fiction. I do find the relationships effective but they’re not the primary reason I’m interested in reading her books.

    Again, I say this as someone who’s only read two of her books but I think I’d see both of them as being very much “know instantly if you want to read this” type books. It’s kind of like SNAKES ON A PLANE. You only need to hear the title to know if you want to see the movie.
    I’ll certainly talk to Jane about updating my bio. To be honest, that’s probably my own inertia. I wrote it when I first started here, and Jane approved it then, and I haven’t really updated it or thought about it since.

    @Maria M.:

    Just to put the yellow warning in context, the reason we wanted to flag up potential conflicts of interest is because there were people I had been asked to write about, or write about again in some cases, who have actively and publicly supported my books. I felt I needed to explain to people why I wouldn’t be talking about some of the books I’d said I was going to be talking about, because I take my commitments very seriously and I was worried about letting people down, but Jane felt it would be better coming from her.

    As I was saying above, I’m always faintly bewildered by people who can pick up a series in the middle. That’s not a criticism, I’m actually quite envious, but I’m not comfortable unless I know I’m starting at the beginning. It might be my fantasy background showing again because it’s really difficult to start a fantasy series in the middle – since lots of fantasy series are actually more like multi-volume novels. Starting your average fantasy trilogy in book two is the equivalent of starting to read a novel on page a hundred and forty.

    I think series, like genres in fact, are things you sort of learn. So, although I think that writers obviously do get better with practice, I think readers get more out of a book if they’re read a lot of other similar books. To be honest, this even applies to literary fiction. I think when you read a long running series you gradually pick up on developing plot arcs and recurring themes and running jokes which you obviously wouldn’t in a single volume, all of which makes the experience deeper and more personalised.

    @cleo:

    I’m really sorry you felt uncomfortable about this. It was never my intent – and nor did Jane ever ask me – to hide my writing. All I was doing was not talking about it explicitly on the site. Like you, I agree that it’s important that this blog not be a platform for any specific authors.

    @emilyw:

    I’m really glad you’re enjoying the reviews. That’s kind of why I’m here, and what I’m interested in doing.

    I’ve got to admit the thing I’ve had the most trouble with in the paranormals I’ve read so far is the whole mating bond concept. Part of me quite likes it because it means you can have the hero and the heroine just randomly be really into each other without having to worry too much about why. On the other hand, part of me dislikes it for exactly the same reason. I think the times I’ve seen it work best has been when there’s been a strong extrinsic plot going on. If the hero and heroine are spending all of their fighting monsters or dodging vampire hunters, then there isn’t that much space to unpack the question of why these two people are into each other in the first place. And so the destined mate / pair-bond / whatever is a sort of a convenient short-hand.

    Actually, the most interesting destined mate story I’ve read isn’t from a romance, it’s from a YA, which is Melissa Marr’s WICKED LOVELY. Basically you’ve got a guy and a girl who are have this big destined faery magic King and Queen of Summer epic love thing going, but they’re both actually in love with other people. I found it really interesting and kind of sad.

  31. cleo
    Aug 31, 2013 @ 13:14:13

    @AJH – re: reading series in order. I think it’s one of those “two kinds of people in the world” things – either you have to read them in order or you don’t. My first genre was also fantasy and I still have the habit of reading series out of order – my brother finds this appalling and inexplicable. We’ve disagreed about it for 30+ years, ever since I started the Narnia series with the 3rd book, not the first.

    ETA – I see the value of reading series in order, and I admire those who do, I’m just not that disciplined.

  32. Marianne McA
    Aug 31, 2013 @ 14:51:57

    @AJH: this – “Just to put the yellow warning in context, the reason we wanted to flag up potential conflicts of interest is because there were people I had been asked to write about, or write about again in some cases, who have actively and publicly supported my books.”
    – did finally make me go and find out what you’d written.
    It is coincidentally the next book I’m due to read, and I did hear about it first from a very enthusiastic recommendation from Brockmann as I’m still on her mailing list.
    So the warning makes more sense than it it did – though I still disagree wholeheartedly with the principle behind it.
    So, a little sad that we’ll never get your take on Robin and Jules, but congratulations on the book.

  33. Arethusa
    Aug 31, 2013 @ 15:15:06

    omg, you write. I am on your website like *that*. (Jane, please keep hosting his reviews here, please.)

    Errr, the book. I, too, prefer the Guild Hunter series, although I’ve never examined my reasons for the preference. I do know that while I enjoy Singh’s Psy/Changeling series, I had to take looooong breaks in-between reading any full Changeling pair because the, “Ugh, Me Animal Instincts Call You as My Mate” trope cloys quickly.

  34. Estara Swanberg
    Aug 31, 2013 @ 15:16:25

    @Ros: Hmm, I commented on his blog when I first followed him there, that was April 8th. You’re right about the lack of a byline in that first review which was at the end of March (I forgot there was no by-line except for guest reviewer at the time), so I most likely did click on his name in the comments – but still after the first review ^^, so I stand by that part of my comment – i.e. the information being only a click away.

    @AJH: Re: fated mates – a really well done exploration of that trope is the the main romance in the urban fantasy suspense series World of the Lupi by Eileen Wilks. She gave it a purpose and it didn’t mean instant love, just instant lust ^^ – the two concerned continue having to negotiate their relationship and what they want from it – luckily they respect each other (there’s even a case of the mate bond gone wrong in the series).

  35. Des Livres
    Aug 31, 2013 @ 20:26:42

    I think you’re right about Singh. A year or two ago I read all her archangel books but didn’t care to read each new one as they came out.

    Re future reviews: might I suggest, where appropriate, a DNF? I always feel dreadful for the book blogger who drags themselves to the bitter end of some ghastly book they utterly loathe, for the purposes of writing a review.

    A DNF with an unpacking of the reasons for putting the book down and failing to pick it up again (or hurling it against the wall) is just as satisfying a book review, I find. In addition, indifference and the reasons why, can also be just as interesting as the Hatred of a Thousand Suns, and the reasons why.

    I’d love to read your take on Robin and Jules and the other Brockmann books – perhaps you can do something about her work sometime in the future somewhere appropriate. I would be interested to read someone’s take on what she’s done from the point of view of a background in Queer fiction/discourse (hope I have the terminology correct – if not – sorry!).

    I hope Loretta Chase hasn’t also a written glowing review of your book – I’d love to read your take on her other work too. In the meantime, looking foward to JD Robb or the next Brook or whatever comes next..

  36. AJH
    Sep 01, 2013 @ 05:42:44

    @cleo:

    Oh, I agree – I wasn’t really trying to make generalisations about the types of reading background of people who prefer one method or another. I was just trying to work out my own preferences :) And, of course, whatever works for an individual is absolutely fine.

    Of course, thinking about it, the Narnia books have a controversial order anyway. Apparently there’s quite a lot of debate amongst fans about whether they should be read in chronological order (starting with THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW) or publication order (starting with THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE).
    Having said that, I think starting with THE HORSE AND HIS BOY is definitely an outlier ;)

    @Marianne McA:

    Oh gosh, I hope you like it.

    If I ever write about Brockmann again (and, of course, it won’t be here, because of the general site policies, which I’m more than happy to support) it would probably come with a personal disclaimer anyway, but I’ve just embarked on the whole Troubleshooters series, and I would like to discuss them somewhere.

    @Arethusa:

    As I think I said above I’m not a huge fan of destined mates in general and I kind of agree that the animal instincts incarnation of that trope is probably my least favourite. I think part of the reason I respond less well to shifter stories than stories about, say, vampires or angels is I don’t really get the identifying strongly with animals thing. My brother is really into animals, but I don’t even have a pet – not, err, that if I did have a pet, I’d want to have sex with it or anything. Nor does my brother. Help.

    @Estara Swanberg:

    I’m pretty sure I’ve had recommendations for World of the Lupi before – I should probably go check it out one of these days, when my TBR pile is a little bit less teetering :) It definitely sounds interesting though.

    @Des Livres:

    I’m very much in two minds about the DNF. On the one hand, I really hate the attitude which you get in a lot of fandom which suggests you aren’t allowed to criticise or complain about a book unless you’ve read all of it or, as is often the case in fantasy, the whole series or everything by that author. On the other hand, I sort of feel if I’m going to talk about a book on the internet I should probably talk about the whole thing.

    I think, for me, part of the problem is that DNF has connotations of a sort of intense dislike. One of the things you might have noticed about these articles is that because I don’t really see them as reviews, I don’t give the books rating, I just discuss my responses to them. So, in that context, DNF seems really devastating. And I think the other thing, for me, is that not finishing isn’t even a question of particularly liking or disliking it, I’ll often just put a book down and not bother to go back to it. I’m quite an easily distracted person.

    Of the books I’ve read, the only one where I think a DNF would have been more helpful might have been SUDDENLY YOU. But that wouldn’t be because I disliked the book, just because I really couldn’t get into it.

    I’ll definitely be reading more Brockmann but, obviously, I can’t write about her here, which is entirely fair. Obviously, I’m not an expert on queer either, it’s just something that interests me.

    Fortunately, as far as I know, Loretta Chase has never heard of me. So, hopefully, that’s a go :)

  37. Susan
    Sep 01, 2013 @ 18:20:35

    I really don’t understand how any of this is such a big deal. I understand the site’s desire to protect any conflict of interest. But AJH writes entertaining, challenging, well-thought-through reviews and many of us appreciate them whether they come from a man working his way through the romance genre or a man who writes M/M books or a man who is both. I think neither his gender, his occupation, or anything other than his opinions on a book should matter. I’m actually shocked that this has escalated and warranted a big yellow warning or 30+ comments. I will continue to read, enjoy, question, comment, laugh at, repost and look forward to AJH’s reviews whenever and wherever I can find them.

  38. Kari S.
    Sep 01, 2013 @ 21:35:00

    I’m mostly a lurker on this site, but I do have a couple of things that I want to say in response to this review/discussion.

    I picked up the Psy/Changeling series a few years ago based upon a lot of rave reviews and recommendations from my fellow book group friends. (I belong to a group of women who meet and discuss romances on a monthly basis.) I think I read the first six books or so in order and became overwhelmed. (I’m pretty anal about reading series books in order, too.) I haven’t picked it up again, either. I do enjoy the Guild Hunter series with all its flaws. We get ARCs in the group and I’ve managed to get several from that series, so that I even got to read the books before the release dates! So exciting.

    I can’t wait to hear your review of Naked in Death, AJH. In Death is probably my absolute favorite series. (I’ve even managed to get a few of those in ARCs, which was very nice since otherwise I have to buy the books in hardcover.) After I read Naked in Death I went out and bought the entire series at that time (16 or so – in paperback, thankfully, but still…) and read them back-to-back. I was so hooked that I then went back and read the books all over again. I didn’t want to leave Eve’s world, no matter how grim and flawed it tends to be. It’s addictive.

    As to the controversy this week… Well, like Estara, I visited your blog a few months ago and learned about your books, and didn’t really think anything more about it. You are a brilliant writer of reviews, so why should it be a surprise that you write books as well? Frankly, one of the main reasons I’ve been visiting this site often in the last few months has been to read your reviews and the discussion that follows. Lots of discussion. Lots of fun! Don’t leave us, please! Fridays would be so dull, otherwise, and I will gladly follow you to any new venue if it becomes necessary for you to leave DA. (But please don’t. Jane, you’d be insane to let him go. I only checked DA once every few weeks before AJH began reviewing. That should tell you something.) At any rate, I look forward (hopefully) to many Fridays of enjoyable, snarky reviews in my future.

    If I was able to request only one book for you to review, AJH, it would be Loretta Chase’s Mr. Impossible. One of my favorite books in the whole wide world, and so funny! Most adorable hero ever. If I could request two, the second would be a book by Carla Kelly. All of her books are worth reading, but Mrs. Drew Plays her Hand is my personal favorite. I can pretty much guarantee a lack of super-alpha, idiot heroes in Carla Kelly’s books. No destined mates, either, but there are a few love-at-first-sights (in the interest of full disclosure).

    On the other hand, since Carla’s heroes and heroines tend to be intelligent and mostly nice people, you probably wouldn’t find much to say about them!

  39. MikiS
    Sep 03, 2013 @ 01:39:23

    I’m one of the readers of this series who prefers the books that include at least one Psy over the changeling/changeling pairings. It wasn’t so much the mating thing that bothered me as the dominance fights. I could hardly finish Tangle of Need. But I still love this series, overall.

    Regarding rational=bad, emotional=good being a possible theme, I think one of the ongoing story arcs in this is that one of the problems the Changelings have is their tendency toward isolationism. How many times in the series has Singh commented that the Changelings are too focused on themselves, too easy to anger by setting one clan/pack against another, etc.

    So at the same time the Psy are learning the dangers of their choice of Silence, the Changeling see the value of the Snow Dancer and Dark River packs working together and being more involved in the world. Someone above commented that at the end of Slave to Sensation, she got the feeling that the other psy murderers were ignored. If you think of how the early Hawke acted – he often would say that Psy actions didn’t matter as long as they didn’t affect his pack (well, probably it was indirectly said – “why should we involve ourselves, it doesn’t affect us”).

    I think that if the Psy and Changelings are opposite ends of the spectrum, this series tried so show that neither extreme was preferable.

  40. cleo
    Sep 05, 2013 @ 03:08:42

    @AJH: I read Voyage of the Dawn Treader first (the third in publication order, which I still think of as the “right” order, even though I kind of ignored it) – I stumbled on it in the library, I had no idea it was a series or there was a correct order, I just was intrigued by the first sentence (from memory) – “There once was a boy name Eustace Clarence Scrubbs and he almost deserved it.” Still one of my favorite first lines ever.

    @MikiS: What a good point – I hadn’t quite clued into the fact that both the Changelings and Psy are shown as needing to change / slowly changing over the series. But I agree.

    ETA – I agree about Tangle of Need and the dominance struggle. Ugh. I loved Mercy and Riley’s book and their struggle for dominance. Think that was the first changeling – changeling book, so it seemed fresh to me. But I’m kind of over it now.

  41. Full Disclosure | Something More
    Sep 08, 2013 @ 22:53:41

    […] recent example of the complexity of disclosure for the author-reviewer is the so-called “yellow banner of shame” at Dear Author. I do not mean to criticize Dear Author here; I think Jane’s […]

  42. Willaful
    Sep 09, 2013 @ 11:51:56

    Starting with The Horse and His Boy makes perfect sense! It’s the best one. :-) And kind of a stand alone, though you’ll miss a few things. No, but seriously, I am very, very, very pro published order. The chronological thing makes no sense at all.

    I never got into this series, but have very much enjoyed the first couple of Angel books. It might be because I listened to them instead of reading them, I dunno. I keep meaning to try this one again, perhaps when they invent the 30 hour day.

  43. Belinda
    Sep 13, 2013 @ 02:17:40

    I also started with Angels’ Blood and Archangel’s Kiss before trying the Psy/Changeling books, which I found somewhat lacking in comparison. Loved the world building but Sascha and Lucas didn’t grab me the way Elena & Raphael did. The second book is my least favourite of the series as the changeling male is extremely overbearing and the strength of the Psy heroine did not come through to me, but stick with it until book three, Caressed by Ice which features a Psy hero and wolf changeling (one of my favourites). Personally, I like the books with the wolves better than the leopards. This series really hits it stride around book six and gets better from there.
    In this series, the bonding is not automatic – the female changeling, Psy or human need to accept it. The presence of the mating bond, or the lack there of have divided some readers (books 10 & 11), but the result has always rung true to me. This is now one of my favourite series, I’m glad I stuck with it.

  44. Pen
    Dec 02, 2013 @ 18:33:31

    Just read the highlighted box about AJH. I really hope you don’t ‘have to say goodbye’ to this reviewer, because he’s far and away the best one I’ve come across.

%d bloggers like this: