Joint Review: Wild Embrace (Psy-Changeling #15.5) by Nalini Singh

Reviewed by: E & Marlene

BP Note: There will be spoilers for previous books in this series so if you prefer to miss those we recommend you skip this review and catch up on the series first.

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

E: I really enjoyed Echo of Silence. I have had some serious questions about the deep-sea station and its inhabitants ever since I started putting some tidbits of information Singh mentioned in various books. While I was sure I knew the identity of the Psy and that he wasn’t completely toeing the official party line I didn’t know much else about him. Then in Allegiance of Honor a major piece of information was revealed and I really couldn’t wait to see how it unfolded.

Learning about Stefan and his past along with Tazia and her struggles was a pure delight. Stefan’s growing ability to negotiate Tazia’s feelings and responses was a wonder to see even as he kept up his appearance of conforming. Tazia on the other hand while she tried to hide her feelings remained expressive. I appreciated how Tazia remained true to herself because she wasn’t rebelling against everything, she just had goals and a drive. I also really loved how Tazia’s dream field was in engineering. It really warmed my inner nerd. Throughout this story, I found Singh really highlighted the importance of family bonds blood and emotional, culture, and connection.

As a result, of the things revealed or confirmed I am now wondering just how extensive and for how long the Psy have been rebelling. I also really want more information about BlackSea because every scene involving one of their members expands their possibilities.

Marlene: For me, this was the standout story in the collection. One of the things I liked about it was the way that Tazia’s traditional culture was treated. Both that it was treated respectfully and that the way it existed made this world seem more futuristic. Her culture is traditional but the way that they have both retreated and adapted is something we haven’t figured out yet.

The romance here is marvelous. It’s very, very sweet, and we get to see the way that their emotions develop before they reach for the physical. A lot of the changeling relationships have been sex-into-love, so it was great to see a version of love-into-sex in this world.

One of the great things about Stefan is that he respects Tazi’s skills and her culture. He just plain respects her. This is in stark contrast to the final story in this collection, and I just loved the way that this one works out.

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

E: I found this one more of a collection of vignettes about Dorian starting when he was a young boy through his time figuring out how to mesh the extreme high performer he was as a man with his very inexperienced cat form. I enjoyed seeing how his friends, family, and Alpha worked with and supported Dorian without making him feel less. Seeing their joy with his successes and their equal determination to continue challenging him was an absolute delight. These made it extremely easy to understand how they kept Dorian sane during his dark days while earning his support and loyalty.

Marlene: I also saw this is a series of vignettes. This felt like a collection of “out-takes” from previous stories, because we have met Dorian before, and have encountered many of these scenes from perspectives other than his. There was nothing bad about this one, but it felt like a page-filler to make the collection big enough to be a paperback, rather than telling us anything new about this world or these characters.

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

E: Singh really switched things around with this story. Submissive wolf changeling Felix found himself courted by dominant leopard Dezi and he had to struggle with his instincts, his masculinity, species differences, and his past. Dezi dealt with some of the same issues but she had the added worries of making sure she didn’t actually “dominate” Felix and the fear of her cat never accepting a submissive mate regardless of how her human side felt.

I really enjoyed their give and take as each tried to satisfy what they needed as an individual while providing what the other person needed. Each had to make some hard decisions and decide if they wanted to give the relationship a go after a misstep. I loved the creative ways Felix and Dezi used to display their interest/attraction and to move things forward. I think one of my favorite scenes involved a date in town which didn’t quite go the way it was planned. I also thought the Pack “assistance” showed how their relationship wasn’t a separate entity but part of the greater whole. Partners in Persuasion left me with a very happy satisfied feeling as well as awe at how Singh keeps her world feeling three dimensional.

Marlene: Thinking about it again, I’m surprised at how much I liked this story. We’re not used to reading stories where the beta-hero manages to get the alpha-heroine, so the role reversal was great. We also learn more about the way that the animal interacts with the human. As a human, Felix is as strong as Dezi if not stronger, but his animal is submissive to her dominance. Finding a way to mesh those things, along with Felix the human’s need to be strong and assertive when it is needed while still being submissive was fascinating. I also liked that this did not devolve into a sexual dom/sub relationship, because those roles are not about sex in this culture.

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

E: Similar to Echo of Silence I have had several questions about Kenji and Garnet. Their obvious flirting during Pack meetings punctuated by a black eye after a celebration made for a very intriguing puzzle. As things started to unfold and Singh let me into Kenji’s thoughts the intrigue deepened. I thought the balance of tension between a long-standing attraction and resulting heat with the need to solve a murder was very deftly done. It showcased how professional the leaders in SnowDancer were in support of the Pack and yet how they remained human with needs and fears of their own.

I found the results of both the murder investigation and the elephant in the room between Kenji and Garnet touching and satisfying. Elements of both made me reach for tissues as layers within individuals were revealed. My heart might have broken a few times for young Kenji and Garnet, not to mention one of the characters involved in the investigation. But Singh put my heart pieces back together again.

Marlene: This one gives me pause. The way that the murder investigation turned out was very interesting, both in the way that it was solved and in what it said about the social structures in the pack.

However, the relationship between Kenji and Garnet didn’t quite work for me. Or that they managed to get back together didn’t quite work for me. The way that they suddenly give in at the end smacked a bit of “fated mate” syndrome for this reader, because it overrode what should have been a whole lot of very necessary groveling on Kenji’s part. He was an absolute asshat to Garnet several years ago. Now that we know his reasons, it does make a kind of sense. And I can see where she wants to forgive him. But it was way, way too easy and he should have had to work a lot harder for that forgiveness.

E: Within Wild Embrace again Singh continued to explore different aspects of her world and demonstrate how it is populated by variety of different personality types. In addition to spotlighting relationships I really enjoyed, I found the deeper look into those who constitute the heart of the world fascinating. Like always I have added to my list of supporting characters I hope Singh decides to showcase in later stories.

I give Wild Embrace an A-

Marlene: I have a more difficult time fully embracing Wild Embrace. I loved Echo of Silence and really liked Partners in Persuasion. But I had some problems with the romantic resolution in Flirtation of Fate, and Dorian just felt like filler.

I give Wild Embrace a B.

For a completely different, and much snarkier, take on Wild Embrace, check out the Cass Rant on Demand™ over at Reading Reality.

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