I first heard of Nalini Singh on Squawk Radio. Christina Dodd could not stop raving about Singh’s terrific paranormal debut, Slave to Sensation. In that book, Singh introduces two races: the Psy, a race of psychically gifted people, who defeat a rampant psychosis that seemed to come along with their gifts by breeding emotion out of their day-to-day lives, enabling them to be dispassionate about everything. The Changelings are werekind, in most cases for her series, predators. In the case of Nalini Singh’s newest book, Hostage to Pleasure, leopards.
Dorian Christensen is unique among his pack, he is a latent leopard, meaning that he cannot shift to his animal form. This doesn’t stop him from being both a sniper and a sentinal for the DarkRiver pack when he mets Ashaya Aleine, an M-Psy (meaning she specializes in medical related psychic work), who has called in a favor that she did for his pack recently. She wants the DarkRiver pack to kidnap her son, Keenan. Ashaya is heading up a medical group that is working in secret to create a neural implant that will effectively enslave her race. She objects to the work she is doing, and refuses to allow the Psy council, the ruling party of her race, to use her son against her. So, she asks for him to be kidnapped by the Changelings. Keenan is taken by DarkRiver and is secreted away. At the same time, Ashaya fakes her death in order to escape and is very quickly sent to be protected by DarkRiver as well, by a mysterious entity that we’ve met throughout the series, but do not know, the Ghost.
When Ashaya arrives with DarkRiver, Dorian is immediately drawn to her. This infuraties him, as he has a tragic and horrible history with the Psy that has left him deeply scarred, and terribly angry. Ashaya finds herself fascinated by Dorian, but also quite intimidated by him. Her son, on the other hand, has linked himself psychically to Dorian and trusts him utterly. Ashaya herself has many secrets, ones that could get her killed and endanger her son. She and Dorian spend a lot of time circling around each other somewhat like magnets, both drawn and repelled. Dorian can’t fight his attraction to her, and yet is enraged by what he sees as her lack of emotion, especially towards her son. Ashaya is terrified of all of the emotion she is feeling and fears she is becoming insane. On top of that, she has others, unknown to DarkRiver, that would be endangered should she reveal her secrets. But her attraction to Dorian is threatening to overwhelm her ability to remain dispassionate and imperical about her life and those responsibilities.
I found this the fifth book in the series to be the most emotional. Which of course, is ironic, as the Psy feel no emotion. As Ashaya fights against her emotions and her feelings for Dorian, she is slowly uncovered to be a heroine of deep and abiding loyalty and a mother with a ferocious protective instinct. She is strong willed and dynamic, and possesed of an iron backbone and therefore is a more than ample foil to Dorian’s dominant instinct. Dorian, although latent, is a powerful force in the pack and is fighting his own demons. But once he realizes that Ashaya is his mate, her pursues her with the relentlessness of, well, a predator. He is protective and fierce and as loving and tender as one could wish a hero to be. This entry in the series is among my favorites, although I’d be hard pressed to choose which book I love best — they are all fantastic. The book stands alone, although readers who begin with this should be forewarned to have the other books in hand when you start. Once you start this series, you’ll want it to go on and on and on.