ARC REVIEW: Play of Passion

Nalini Singh
Play of Passion (Psy/Changeling #9)
Berkley Sensation
ISBN-10: 0425237796
ISBN-13: 978-0425237793
Paranormal romance
November 2, 2010

Blurb via

In his position as Tracker for the SnowDancer pack, Drew Kincaid must rein in rogue changelings who’ve lost control of their animal halves- even if it means killing those who’ve gone too far. But nothing in his life has prepared him for the battle he must now wage-to win the heart of a woman who makes his body ignite…and who threatens to enslave his wolf.

A Singh paranormal romance is almost a given with me these days in the reading enjoyment department. I look forward to her two or so Psy/Changeling releases each year and with my waning enjoyment of romance in general in the last year, I sincerely love to open this series up again each time. It really needs no saying, but Singh’s romantic characters exude the kind of intense, passionate and believable romance, which is exactly what one needs when reading the paranormal variety.

I did enjoy Play of Passion, but I have to admit – this wasn’t one of my most favorite of the series. The title is very apt. There is indeed plenty of passion abounding in this installment. Right from the first few pages, we see Indigo and the younger wolf, Drew (brother to the Psy-damaged female wolf, Brenna, who is married to the Psy adopted member of the pack, Judd) square off in a heated declaration of said passion. Indigo’s long been frustrated by the lack of equal, dominant male wolves with which to socialize romantically, and she feels like she can’t take Drew seriously. When he suddenly becomes much more aggressive in getting her attention, Indigo is in for many a surprise from her subordinate. Drew, in turn, must learn how exactly to deal with such a strong, dominant female, constantly aware of any minute detail that could derail, or cement, his place in her heart.

Drew and Indigo are a very fun, sexy and achingly romantic pair. As said above, there’s definitely no lack in this book’s romance department. There’s plenty of enthusiastic loving between the pair, and it’s that changeling couple kind that’s earthy, raw and exciting. Where I began to dwindle in interest in all of it, though, was the conflict between them. Indigo is a very dominant wolf, a difficult situation for a female, even in a pack as accepting as Hawke’s. It’s been hard for her to maintain her role as one of Hawke’s main lieutenants, his right hand essentially, and still be able to connect emotionally and satisfyingly with a male.

Drew wants Indigo, no doubt about it. And we’re told often enough how he is not equal to Indigo. We’re told a lot how this is a big issue between them. Yet not at any time did I really see it to be that big a deal. Yes, Indigo resists Drew. A lot. But she also accepts him into her life sexually and romantically just as much. More even. There are so many small, seemingly minute details to their relationship, the elements that make them wolf, that are increasingly important in their dance for relationship equality that it got a little dizzying. Again, though, I mainly found these things to be a bit weak as I didn’t really feel that Indigo truly resisted Drew. I think it came off more as a situation that she’d created in her mind, both because of her own life as well as those of issues she’d seen other similar couples having. And maybe this was part of the point of their romance. But I still, in order to really appreciate the romantic outcome, need a good, strong conflict. I need to believe at one point that they might not make it. Even though I know 99.999999% of romances end in an HEA, I still need the characters to truly sweat for it. I didn’t really get that this time. Indigo’s issues, which make up most of their conflict, what there was of it, weren’t really that serious to me when she doesn’t exactly do much to resist Drew in the first place.

Another factor that I think may have contributed to that feeling was that the series arc/plot wasn’t as strongly present this time. In each successive installment there’s been some pretty major happenings that have advanced the series very impressively, assuring readers that this is all going somewhere. While I still believe that, I didn’t see a very big push in that department this time. The book is probably about 85% romance this time, the rest plot. Personally I’ve always felt the two to be about equal in page time with previous books, and with the two working extremely well together to create a believable romance full of that conflict I felt was missing this time. In all honesty, this installment felt more like a placeholder installment more than anything, hinting at bigger things to come.

One of those things was an interestingly increased amount of page time between Hawke and Sienna, one of the other Psy family that was adopted into Hawke’s pack. It goes without saying, but this pair is one of the most anticipated of the entire series. While nothing’s set in stone yet with them, how can we not see and pine for their romance? I found myself lapping up these few tidbits, and I just may have enjoyed them and their supposed implications more than anything else in the book.

Play of Passion is a good book. Indigo and Drew are quite the adorable pair. She’s a very strong female character who never has to bow out to Drew or any other male (although she must learn to trust Drew and what he offers her), and Drew really is the perfect counterpoint to her seriousness with his playful demeanor. When they’re together, which is pretty much always, the pages do seem like they’re going to spontaneously combust. Singh can, as always, write a scorching hot pair. I just felt as if all the other usual elements were, if not exactly missing, significantly subdued this time. I closed Play of Passion feeling as if I’d read a nice paranormal romance, but not really anything that blew me away. The cohesiveness that the series has maintained up till this point wasn’t really there for me this time.

For all that, I am still 100% invested in this series. I hasn’t lost any steam for me. I do hope, though, to see just as escalated a plot and continued building of the world in the next book as the romance received this time. Together, they and the romance is what pitches this series far beyond most of its contemporaries.

Rating: Three and a Half Scoops

Series order:

  • Slave to Sensation
  • Visions of Heat
  • Caressed by Ice
  • Mine to Possess
  • Hostage to Pleasure
  • Branded by Fire
  • Blaze of Memory
  • Play of Passion
  • Kiss of Snow (June 2010)
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  1. Thanks for the review! Nalini gave me a copy of this book at RomCon. I sat next to her during a Sunday morning workshop, not knowing who she was. When the workshop was over, I saw her name tag and remarked that Anna Campbell recommended her books to me. Nalini pulled the book out of her purse and autographed it for me. I gave away most books I brought home from RomCon and RWA, but this one sits proudly on my keeper shelf!

  2. I think this may be my second favorite book in the series. The passion Drew and Indigo was intense and the scene with Hawke and you know who has me aching for his book in June.

    No Kaleb though *pout*

    • You’re right, Drew and Indigo were intense. I just wanted more oomph in all aspects of the book. What else can I say – this series has spoiled me!

      Kaleb? Eh. :P I’m so ready for Hawke’s book! Still think its cover, while appropriate with him being the alpha and all, looks more like a Lora Leigh sexxor sexxor sexxor title. Not that I’d complain about that.

  3. Glad to hear this series is still going strong for you! The last book I read was Dorian’s so I really need to get caught up!!!

  4. Lovely review KMont. I haven’t read this yet, but..if you don’t mind me saying you really explained why (so well IMHO) this book didn’t completely work for you. I have to read Bonds of Justice (BOJ) and Kati confirmed no skipping *grin* so hopefully I’ll pick it (BOJ) up soon so I can get on with Play of Passion as I have really been missing spending time with the Changelings. I just adore the pack dynamics – that feeling of inclusion.

    …but Singh’s romantic characters exude the kind of intense, passionate and believable romance, which is exactly what one needs when reading the paranormal variety.


  5. I just finished this book and I loved it. It isn’t my favorite, but when I’m in the mood for a bit more romance this will be a definite reread. I would have liked a bit more plot, but to me,this book felt as if it set the stage for the next one. A few little things that had to happen before we could move forward and a bit of foreshadowing of trouble to come.

  6. Good review, KMont. I just read Kati’s review for this one and she loved it. I sense that you are an overall tough book critic–which isn’t a bad thing–I tend to love them all. LOL. So I am taking that 3 1/2 scoops and running with it! I can’t wait to read this one. I love those changelings. :D

  7. Just finished the book. I think I actually enjoyed it more than Mercy’s story, although I am with you on the conflict issues between Indigo and Drew. In some ways it felt like all Drew had to do was simply wait Indigo out while she got her head straightened out but having said that I really liked spending time with the pack and seeing the dynamics and roles at work. Also good to see that Hawk is being forced out of his control/comfort zone.

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