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Book Review: Tangle of Need by Nalini Singh

Written by: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor

I’ve been thinking about the romance book recommendations I made a few weeks ago, and I realized I should have included Nalini Singh on that list.

I’m not much for “straight” romance novels.  Instead, I like the romances I read to have other things going on.  Falling in love is all well and good, but falling in love while trying to save the world from an alien invasion?  Even better.  That’s probably why I read so many novels that could probably be called “hybrids”: ostensibly another genre (fantasy, science fiction, thriller, etc.) but with strong elements of romance.  Problem is, if I’m in the mood for a romance, these books often fail to deliver as strongly as I’d like, since the focus is often most heavily on the other plot.  However, most romances focus so heavily on the romantic plot that everything else seems lacking.

Nalini Singh’s writing is the perfect blend for me.  If I’m looking for romance, her books always deliver.  She creates unique, compelling characters, and I always feel invested in their relationship.  But there are also larger things in play that show, romance or no, that these characters are not isolated from the rest of the world.

Which brings me to her latest, Tangle of Need.  The book description, courtesy of Singh’s website:

Adria, wolf changeling and resilient soldier, has made a break with the past—one as unpredictable in love as it was in war. Now comes a new territory, and a devastating new complication: Riaz, a SnowDancer lieutenant already sworn to a desperate woman who belongs to another.

For Riaz, the primal attraction he feels for Adria is a staggering betrayal. For Adria, his dangerous lone-wolf appeal is beyond sexual. It consumes her. It terrifies her. It threatens to undermine everything she has built of her new life. But fighting their wild compulsion toward one another proves a losing battle.

Their coming together is an inferno…and a melding of two wounded souls who promise each other no commitment, no ties, no bonds. Only pleasure. Too late, they realize that they have more to lose than they ever imagined. Drawn into a cataclysmic Psy war that may alter the fate of the world itself, they must make a decision that might just break them both.

Tangle of Need is the 11th book in Singh’s Psy/Changeling series…and I have to admit, I was a little skeptical before starting this one, for three reasons.  One, long-running book series tend to feel a little tired…and after 11 books, the Psy/Changeling series is one of the longest-running in paranormal romance today.  The 10th book, Kiss of Snow, was actually one of the strongest of the series, but a couple of the prior books failed to resonate with me as strongly as the earlier ones.  Which brings me to reason #2: Kiss of Snow, which told the story of wolf alpha Hawke and Psy expatriate Sienna Lauren, has undoubtedly been the most anticipated of the series since the earliest books, and it delivered.  How do  you top that?  And reason #3: in a long-running romance series, much of my enjoyment often comes from how well I’ve gotten to know the featured characters in previous books…and I couldn’t remember either Riaz or Adria at all.

I shouldn’t have worried.  Tangle of Need is a fun romance that manages to develop the Psy/Changeling world on even deeper levels.  Riaz and Adria’s relationship is much slower-building than many you see in romances, which I liked.  Both are damaged, but in ways most people can relate to: Riaz found his mate, only to find out that she was already married to another.  (For changeling wolves, mating is near-psychic bond that can only occur once in a lifetime.  Once you’ve found your mate, you never get another one—even if that mate rejects you.)  Though he feels a strong attraction for Adria, he feels like he’s betraying himself and his mate in the process—even if his mate will never belong to him.  Adria recently ended a long-term relationship with a man who was insecure because he was not as dominant as she, and retaliated by belittling her and putting her down constantly.  Neither of them is ready to get into a committed relationship, and neither of them knows whether they ever will be.

This book also continued the overarching plotline of the Psy’s accelerating decline.  Singh has populated this world with three types of beings: Psy, changelings (animal shape-shifters), and ordinary humans.  The Psy, humans with considerable psychic powers, have isolated themselves from the rest of the world and instituted Silence, mental programming that has forced the Psy not to feel emotions.  Although this book did not focus on a Psy breaking silence and beginning a romantic relationship with a changeling, as several of the previous books did, we still get to see the Psy world in considerable detail.   The Psy Council is in tatters, and civil war is looming.  Efforts to reinforce Silence have only caused it to deteriorate even more.  One of the secondary plotlines of the books follows Councilor Kaleb Krychek, an extraordinarily strong—and dangerous—telekenetic with a shady past, in his quest for an unknown woman.   Kaleb has become one of my favorite characters of the series, and I hope we get to see his book soon.

Overall, Tangle of Need is one of the stronger books in the series, both for its slow-burning romance and its continuation of the overarching story arcs.  Will readers like it as much as Kiss of Snow?  Probably not, but I think that has more to do with the level of anticipation for the previous book than the writing quality in this one.

Tangle of Need is available now.  (In this series, because of the way the books continue to build on themselves, I recommend starting at the beginning and working your way forward from there.  Slave to Sensation is the first book.)