Pros: Delicious meeting of two hot-blooded characters; continues a delightful series
Cons: Not quite as out-freaking-standing as the previous book; definitely not a good place to start the series
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
I started in on Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series with the absolutely amazing Hostage to Pleasure. It wasn’t the first book in the series, but it didn’t take me long to sink my teeth into this unusual world of shape-shifters (wolves, cats, rats, and more), psychics, etc. I wouldn’t recommend making Branded by Fire your introduction into the world; the plot has gotten fairly complex by now, and needs some background. However, while there’s still quite a bit going on plot-wise in this installment, the relationship between Mercy (a DarkRiver cat-shifter) and Riley (a SnowDancer wolf-shifter) definitely takes center stage.
The problem? They’re both dominant alphas, neither willing to cede any control to a partner. Riley’s always believed that he wanted a traditional submissive mate, and Mercy’s wondered whether she’d find a compatible mate at all. After all, she’d never be happy with a weak submissive, but she could never allow an alpha to dominate her. Riley’s attractive, but he’s a wolf for goodness’ sake! Even bedding him would be embarrassing at best.
They’re forced to work together, however, as the liaisons between their packs. And the kidnapping of a young researcher from DarkRiver territory throws them head-first into a very dangerous plot that’ll keep their hearts pounding and every protective instinct screaming.
Mercy & Riley have a delightful chemistry and a searingly hot attraction. The plotting of Nalini’s world keeps things interesting and provides excitement beyond just the relationship; I always prefer romances that have something else going on in them. I love the way she brings in characters from previous novels—not just the ubiquitous males, as some series do, but also the women.
I found Branded by Fire a little less distinct from some of the other series and worlds out there than Hostage to Pleasure was, perhaps because the relationship was so shifter-focused and shifters are so popular right now. As far as shifter romantica goes, however, Nalini’s work is far better than, say, Christine Feehan’s.
If you’ve been enjoying the Psy-Changeling universe so far, then by all means grab Branded by Fire! It’s a wonderful continuation of the series and a delightfully hot romance/erotica novel. The fact that it didn’t blow me away as thoroughly as Hostage to Pleasure did should definitely not be taken as a negative, considering how much I loved that book!