The story opens in an alternate-history California USA, which is slightly more futuristic than our own time. For example, cars can be programmed to drive themselves. This series has the same nearly contemporary feel of J.D. Robb’s In Death series. Why is it alt-history? In this world, there are two other species besides humans, which look human but have special powers. The first are the Psy who have mental gifts such as telepathy, precognition, and telekinesis. The second are the Changelings who are shape-shifters, either of the wolf or leopard persuasion – though the books mention deer shifters and even hyena shifters. The three species co-exist in an uneasy alliance with much political backstabbing and maneuvering. The only advantage that regular humans seem to have is that they vastly outnumber the other two species.
Sascha is a gorgeous young Psy who has a serious problem. All Psy are forced to undergo extensive conditioning to strip their feelings from their personalities because the Psy culture regards emotion as corruption. Any Psy whose conditioning starts to fail will be mind-wiped. But that is what is starting to happen to Sascha and she can trust no one, especially not her cold and ruthless mother Nikita who serves on the top-secret Council. Now Sascha goes through her day-to-day life like a robot, trying not to reveal the passionate emotion that exists within. You can imagine how hard this is when she is surrounded by telepaths. To make matters worse, she can’t see a way to escape Psy society because all Psy need to plug into a neural network made up of their collective minds in order to draw strength and stability. If she is ever forced to drop out of mental connection with the Psy-Net, she will die.
The first chapter opens with Sascha’s mother Nikita summoning her for a special job. Sascha is to work with a Changeling who wants to partner with the Psy on a building project. He is Lucas, the leader of the DarkRiver leopard pack, which counts most of California as its territory. Lucas has become a person of interest to the Psy because he has just formed an alliance with the SnowDancers wolf pack that controls the rest of California. The Psy Council doesn’t want the Changelings to band together. So Sascha is supposed to keep an eye on Lucas and find out useful information to destabilize the situation. But to her horror, she finds herself attracted to him, which she knows will hasten the degradation of her mental shields and eventually reveal her ability to feel emotions.
And Lucas has his own agenda. He is hunting a Psy sociopath who has been abducting, torturing, and killing young women from the DarkRiver and SnowDancers packs. The clues indicate that the murderer is a Psy who is powerful and highly placed, but that is all the information that the Changelings can gather without infiltrating the Psy Council – which is impossible. Or is it? If Lucas can gain the trust of the exceedingly beautiful Sascha, maybe he might find a way in. Then he can execute the villain. What he doesn’t plan on is becoming wildly attracted to a cold and detached Psy such as Sascha even if she does have a sense of desperation about her that engages his strong protective streak.
You will love Slave to Sensation if you enjoy the ever-popular theme in which the romance novel heroine struggles to remain aloof despite her emotional and physical urges while the hero overwhelms her with his sheer passionate intensity. If you look for strong paranormal world-building, you will love this book. If romantic suspense is your favorite thing, you will lose yourself in the frightening scenes in which Sascha ventures in secret reconnaissance upon the Psy-Net. Through it all is the lushly romantic writing as showcased in these two descriptions:
From page 4: "Well over six feet tall, he was built like the fighting machine he was in the wild, pure lean muscle and tensile strength. His black hair brushed his shoulders but there was nothing soft about it. Instead, it hinted at unrestrained passion and the dark hunger of the leopard below the skin[ … ]Four jagged lines, reminiscent of the claw marks of some great beast, scored the muted gold of his skin [on the right side of his face]. His eyes were a hypnotic green."
From page 26: "In spite of the black pantsuit and stiff white shirt she wore like corporate armor, he could tell her breasts would overflow his hands[ … ]The curve of her hip was sensually female, her bottom a heart-shaped enticement."
The Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh is beloved worldwide, and this is one of those situations where the hype is entirely justified. If you haven’t checked it out already, don’t miss this amazing paranormal romance series.
Type of Romance: Male-Female Romance
Title: Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changelings Book 1)
Author: Nalini Singh
Publisher: Berkeley Sensation imprint (Penguin Group)
Subgenre: Paranormal Romance
Setting: alternate-history California
Level of sexual explicitness: Level 3 – Subtle. See Levels of Explicitness.
Length: about 300 pages
Viewpoint: alternating third person (Sascha, Lucas) by scene/chapter with occasional viewpoint shifts in the same paragraph.
Note: I bought a review copy with personal funds. I received no compensation for this review from author or publisher. Look on Amazon.com for Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changelings Book 1)