I’m not gonna lie – I ended up binge reading this in a single weekend! It definitely gave me vibes from the romances I read years ago so that nostalgic feel might had heightened my appreciation. However, this is another one that is frequently recommended so I’m not alone in my enjoyment. Let’s start with the basic details below.
Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh
Psy-Changeling series: book 1 of 15
Published: March 31, 2009
Amazon: 1,622 ratings; 4.5 avg
Goodreads: 70,379 ratings; 4.09 avg
Alpha male/ mates tropes; blended dual POV
In a world that denies emotions, where the ruling Psy punish any sign of desire, Sascha Duncan must conceal the feelings that brand her as flawed. To reveal them would be to sentence herself to the horror of “rehabilitation”–the complete psychic erasure of everything she ever was…
Both human and animal, Lucas Hunter is a Changeling hungry for the very sensations the Psy disdain. After centuries of uneasy coexistence, these two races are now on the verge of war over the brutal murders of several Changeling women. Lucas is determined to find the Psy killer who butchered his packmate, and Sascha is his ticket into their closely guarded society. But he soon discovers that this ice-cold Psy is very capable of passion–and that the animal in him is fascinated by her. Caught between their conflicting worlds, Lucas and Sascha must remain bound to their identities–or sacrifice everything for a taste of darkest temptation…
As usual, despite the high ratings, there are negative reader comments and we are focusing on those:
-Annoying narrative style/ writing
-Character issues (Mary Sue FMC/ Alpha Male)
As is also usual for this blog series, I found reviews that directly contradicted these points even when the reviews were negative. I mention this just to remind all (authors and readers alike) that every book will get a variety of reviews. Now, let’s chat!
I equate with cliché with tropes and I’m okay with that. One reviewer noted with annoyance that they could tell immediately which guy the female main character would end up with – ooookay, so could I. The blurb actually tells us that. LOL! Another claimed it was simply a variation of Romeo and Juliet. My point being, many complaints noted that it wasn’t original. Alpha male – virginal female – sex – happily-ever-after. They aren’t wrong. And yet, that didn’t limit my enjoyment at all! This is where being a moody reader works to my advantage. When I finally made the time to read this one, it was exactly what I wanted!
Narrative style/ bad writing
The negative reviews aren’t wrong here either, but this time I’m more sympathetic to their point. There is a lot of redundancy and a lot of telling. We are often in the heads of the MCs without dialogue or action. If this was a description of a city or a forest, I’d probably have skipped more of them. As it was thoughts/ feelings, I didn’t mind the telling. It could have been faster or more powerful in another writer’s hands as many of the reviewers noted. Again though, I still enjoyed the read.
I actually liked both characters. Yes, they had ‘I’m different from everyone one’ going for them. And yes, character tropes are in play here as our MMC has a tragic backstory. It isn’t anything new, but I still enjoyed it. I also appreciated the number of side characters on the changeling side and would have liked to see more on the Psy side. While I haven’t read further in the series yet, I hope we get more Psy characters who don’t follow the leadership.
Back to the MMC for a moment, the Alpha thing was annoying for some readers. I didn’t think it crossed any lines personally, but that’s definitely a personal view. I don’t mind the male characters being protective as long as women are respected. There are female leaders on the Psy side and female soldiers and healers on the Changeling side – all of which command respect. The MMC did threaten to knock the FMC out to prevent her from doing something which bothered one reviewer…however, he said that after she mentioned knocking him out to stop him. Again, I like there to be a power balance even with characters having different strengths. I prefer passion/ aggression to be tempered by logic and love.
Overall, I’m rating this one high at 4 stars! It reminds me of Jayne Castle’s Harmony series and other romances I read before I started writing. It was definitely a comfort read for me!
The world building was fun for me – there’s a dichotomy of the very physical changelings versus the cerebral Psy who even have a Matrix-like style Net. There’s still some unanswered questions and some issues with the world but it’s only book 1. I see that was room to grow and change though.
While there is a fun fantasy world and a murder mystery, this is definitely more romance than urban fantasy. The focus is on the couple. If you aren’t a fan of pure romance or don’t connect with the characters, this probably won’t be a fun read for you.
Now, we’ll move on to the writer analysis so if you aren’t interested, skip down to the cute cat picture for a link to this book and next month’s read too! You’ll also find the option there to comment so feel free to share your thoughts on this book!
We’ve discussed a lot of technical writing and marketing points in previous chats but I’d like to focus on a bigger picture issue for this one.
I’m sure you’ve heard variations of the same advice I have – your cover and blurb are your split-second chance to gain a reader’s attention. Delivering on their expectations with an enjoyable read and doing so again and again is how we develop our brand and gain readers.
The covers (I’ve seen 2 versions) scream fantasy romance to me as they have a sexy guy. Neither cover have a female though she’s half of the story. The current blurb mentions both but does seem to focus on him. I think that’s an intentional marketing choice as most romance readers are female.
Of course, it’s imperative to deliver on the expectations set by cover and blurb. As most of the reviews noted, the author did just that. This is something I’m still working on as an author. I think there’s an instinctive need to put more detail than we need in order to hook as many readers as possible. I talked about this in other blogs, but I think there’s something to more targeted marketing. I also think there’s something to be said for maintaining some mystery after hinting at plot and tropes.
What are your thoughts on your covers and blurbs? Please feel free to comment with questions and insights.
One more tiny detail to note – POV. I struggle with omniscient and always use breaks to change POV. The author didn’t do that here. Again, it’s much like the old school romances such as Nora Roberts and Julie Garwood. We get both the male and female POVs in a blended fashion. I didn’t see a single review note POV. That’s not to say they didn’t notice or reference it in other ways (such as not liking the writing style), but it wasn’t something multiple readers screamed about in the reviews.
I did notice it as again it’s something I struggle with and it’s something I see mentioned often in writer groups.
We get the advice to write the story our way. I think that’s something that applies to POV. Once readers are swept into a story, they can forgive/ overlook aspects that don’t meet their usual preferences such as POV. However, it’s still helpful for us as writers to understand the technical aspects even if we choose to ignore them. We are the magicians behind the curtain so to speak. The more magic we know and the deeper understanding we have of it, the better our chances of sweeping readers into our stories.
Feel free to share your magic tips for fellow authors here! If you prefer to do a guest blog, please send me a message so we can chat!
That brings this steamy summer Book Chat to an end, my friends! Our next read is Rivers of London and you’ll find the US Amazon link below with one for Slave to Sensation. I hope you’ll check out both and share your thoughts in this post or the next. If you want to see previous chats or find out what’s coming later this year, this 2022 Fantasy Book Chat master post has both!
Until September, happy reading and writing to all!