Tangle of Need

Nalini Singh
June 2012, Paranormal Romance
Berkley, $26.95, 432 pages, Amazon ASIN 0425247562
Part of a series

Grade: B
Sensuality: Warm

Communication, the experts tell us, is the key to a good relationship. Romance seems to run on bad communication - from the Big Mis to the straight out lies for their lover's good, our heroes and heroines rarely work out their communication problems before the end of the novel. I have no problem with that unless the communication in question is the snarling, nasty kind. Unfortunately, that seems to be the only way the hero and heroine of this book know how to communicate for the first several hundred pages.

The war against Pure Psy has begun and SnowDancer is at the heart of it. With their Alpha mated to the "dangerous" Psy renegade Sienna Lauren, their pack lands are ground zero for attacks designed to destroy her and all others the changelings hold dear. Sienna has proven her power and her ability to aide in protecting their home; thanks to her, the last battle went decisively in their favor. Now they wait for the next move from their battered Psy enemies, wondering where and when the attack will come.

Riaz Delgado is happy to be home after a time in Paris working as a lone wolf. He enjoyed his experience, but recent events had him longing to be among his SnowDancer pack mates. It was a surprise - not to mention horribly depressing - to find his "mate" while overseas and then to learn she is married to someone else. He has not been with another woman since, and has not wanted to be since his wolf seems convinced it would be the equivalent of cheating on his mate. Then Adria Morgan joins SnowDancer and he finds himself spiraling rapidly into a dark tangle of desire.

Adria Morgan spent many years in a toxic relationship. She is pleased to be free, happy to be among family in SnowDancer, but she knows something is missing. She longs to share skin privileges with a male who is her equal in strength and dominance. When she meets Riaz, there is an explosion of desire and need. The two should be perfect together, but he rejects her, leaving her angry and hurt. Adria is a Senior Soldier. Riaz a Lieutenant. The pack is in a state of war and the two must work together to defend their home. Yet how can they when there is an inferno every time they exchange so much as a glance?

Riaz is a pretty typical alpha jerk hero. He blames Adria for being attractive to him and shows his nice side to everyone but her (at the start of the novel, anyway). As a character, he blended into the background for me for most of the book. The only things that stood out about him were his love for his family and his angst over losing his mate. That mate issue to me felt more like a teaching moment/plot point than it did a personal issue for Riaz. I felt like I was learning about how a wolf handled this very rare situation more than how Riaz handled problems. Even though it should have been a very personal thing, it just lacked something that would make it unique to Riaz. In large part I think this was because his character development was swallowed by dealing with the issue.

Adria is one of those people who wears power - or in this case dominance - very poorly. She let the last guy she was with make her feel guilty because she was the more dominant wolf and she is determined to never be with someone weaker than she again. I found this odd since her dominance seemed to lead her into trouble from which the "weaker" wolf had had to rescue her and then nurse her back to health. I struggled to like her since she was by turns either whiny and bitchy. She is also scarred emotionally from her last relationship and is both eager to get back out there dating and fragile and afraid of being hurt again. When I boiled it all down to the basics it seemed that Adria had to be strong all day long and just wanted to be dominated when she wasn't working. That domination needed to come with a respect for who she was during the day and tenderness for the lover she wanted to be at night. I could have found that really interesting if we hadn't had to wade through so much angst to get there.

Together Riaz and Adria were a couple in a power struggle. A lot of it had to do with Adria figuring out what she needed and Riaz figuring out the dizzying combination of that recipe and how to deliver it. The nastiness and verbal blood drawing that went on while they found the road to get there just didn't work for me. When they finally get it together towards the end there are some sweet moments but I just didn't find them worth the trip.

The good news is that only a portion of this novel is actually about their romance. We spend almost an equal amount of time with Hawke and Sienna as they work out the kinks of being a mated pair. They were a joy to be with, and I especially appreciated the baking scene. We also spend a fair amount of time navigating the shark infested waters of Psy politics and the seemingly inevitable break down of the Psynet. Then we get to meet BlackSea, the first group of water changelings we've been introduced to. There is also time with the Alliance, the group of humans who have a tentative peace with the changelings and are working with them against the Psy. An important discovery has been made by the Alliance which could change the balance of power completley in this particular universe. I was pretty excited about it and have become a big fan of Bo's (head of the Alliance).

There is another side story with Alice Eldridge, a human cryogenically stored who has important information about the past. And let's not forget what is happening with the Arrows - that fascinated me most of all. All of those things were well handled and left me wanting more information about them. In many ways, I felt that the romance actually distracted from the story in this novel; I would really like for this author to spend an entire book just moving her plot along. There are so many things to keep track of and just so much happening at this point that I think it would make sense to clear some of it up. I can't rave enough about the plotting and world building being used in this series. They really are outstanding.

I would not recommend this book to someone who hasn't been following the series. You would be lost by who everyone is and what all is happening. But if you have been following the series, you will enjoy this addition - if not the romance portion of it.

-- Maggie Boyd

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