Friday, April 11, 2008

A Story For You (Nalini Singh)

This is a love story.

This is a story of how a reader finds a writer to love. There are obstacles. There are questions and uncertainties. But as in all good romances, love triumphs, and the ending is a happily-ever-after. So, reader, settle in with a soft light, a scented candle, and whatever else gets you in the mood.

Once upon a time, there was a romance reader named… oh, let’s call her Nicola (nobody ever said I was subtle). Now, as the heroine of this love story, Nicola doesn’t quite fit the current mores and publisher’s preferences of innocence and youth. No, Nicola has been around. The dew is off the bloom, and she has multitudes of reading partners, not just a few. Frankly, Nicola is a bit of a jaded slut, reading multiple authors and books within days of each other—sometimes even the same day! Thank goodness there are no nasty LTDs (Literarily Transmitted Diseases).

A few months ago, Nicola started blogging about her conquests, dishing with other reading sluts about who gives good dialog and character, and who suffers the occasional (or chronic) plot flaccidity. Now, some people might find this unseemly, but Nicola and her readers consider it a public service.

One day, while walking through the Internet on the way to Grandma’s house…. OK, no wait, that’s too much of a stretch….

One day, while checking blogger referral stats, Nicola discovered that a google search on “alpha heroes” had led some hapless reader to her own blog, but more interestingly, there were tons of great-looking other links listed, one of which was this one.

While there was an initial spark of attraction, it couldn’t really be called love at first sight. Nicola was cautious. Those paranormal types… you just never know what kind of stuff they’ll be into. Nicola filed “Nalini Singh” under “Hmmmm. Maybe.” and continued her hedonist readership.

Then one day, a similar meander through the blogosphere led her to Jackie’s blog, Literary Escapism. Jackie focuses more on paranormal romance and fantasy, and she likes Singh, as well as enough of Nicola’s favorites to make her opinion valuable. Nicola liked Jackie’s blog enough to stay subscribed, and eventually sees several more approving mentions of Singh.

Nicola added Singh to her mental UBS checklist. This is sort of the equivalent of a one night stand, a reading experience with no strings, no commitment. Remember, Nicola is a bookslut. But apparently, Nalini Singh is just not that kind of girl, and her books are not to be found in Nicola’s favorite cheap pickup joints.

Finally, Nicola took that chance, that step across the rubicon, and asked Andrea. “Have you read any Nalini Singh?” she asked. When Andrea gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up, there was no going back. But of course, it wasn’t to be that simple… “You must read them in order!” called Andrea like the fairy godmother tolling the midnight warning, as Nicola retreated to the S’s. And did Borders’ have the first book? That would be NO.

However, Nicola is not easily dissed once she gets a taste for a new author. Before she leaves the store that day, the second book is secured and the first one is on order – to be delivered to her door. Mmmmm, service.

Finally, the day came when Slave to Sensation arrived in the mail. Nicola isn’t one to dally with the good stuff. Diving in, she read it cover to cover in one or two evenings. (Sadly, her day job sometimes interferes with the more entertaining-but-doesn’t-pay-the-mortgage pastime of reading). Verdict: Pretty good. She starts forming a mental list of nitpicks but forgets to finish it because she’s too busy rummaging in the TBR pile for Visions of Heat, which she starts immediately and likewise finishes quite quickly.

Now this time, the questions and nitpicks are a bit more formed. Aren’t these two stories awfully similar? Both have the high-level Psy woman dropping out because she needs emotion and touch, while the changeling hero is the one craving commitment and emotional attachment. Cute gender reversal. Wonder how she’d do a male Psy and a female changeling, huh? Bet that wouldn’t be so easy. Bet that would be… well that would be book 3, Caressed by Ice. Since that required a new trip to Borders, Nicola couldn’t continue wallow in the new affair for the moment, and went for a sure thing in the form of a couple of Judith McNaughts, and a new nibble from Jenna Black.

Before long though, Caressed By Ice has succumbed to Nicola’s voracious appetite, satifying the curiousity about a male Psy/female changeling combo. But now there are new questions. Considering the abandon with which Singh throws around words like humane, humanity, human, etc, isn’t it awfully curious that there are no human characters? How do humans fit into this universe, anyway? What’s their special specialness? Are they just going to be ignored, a second-class species?

Cue Mine to Possess. Singh has an uncanny talent for answering just the questions that Nicola most wants to know about… in the next book. Not only does the reader’s interest stay piqued, the author sells more books—a perfect symbiosis.

By the end of Mine to Possess, Nicola’s fate is sealed. She will ever after be a loyal reader of Ms. Singh. The Psy/Changeling universe has succeeded in capturing Nicola’s imagination. The very satisfying resolution to MTP nevertheless opens up infinite new plotting possibilities without running into the irritating tendency of some sci-fi fantasy to keep asking more intriguing questions without ever answering any, or to work up to an impossible good-vs.-evil clash.

P.S. On a note that is only tangentially related to Nalini Singh, but fits nicely into the double-entendre metaphor we have going here, it must be admitted that Nicola tends to be a bit of a size queen (can I say that if I’m not a gay man?). Assuming a certain minimum of talent, nothing makes Nicola salivate more than a nice, long thick one. Generally, Nicola is not attracted to the likes of Singh and Viehl, but makes concessions for series because over time, the effect is similar in that the universe and at least some of the characters get the opportunity for ongoing development.


Anonymous said...

hehe! best post ever!

funny, in my favorite sci-fi authors books romance is always there but often it is just implied and while the heros invariably live happily ever after, they don't necessarily end up with their almost-love interest in the story.

One of my favorites is Starman Jones by Robert Heinlein, Max ends up marooned on an alien planet with his new friend Ellie and it seems like a done deal that the two will consumate their proto-love, but Max ends up saving the whole ship and resolving all his personal issues and Ellie marries Putzie who isn't in the story at all except for the mention.

Is this a 'male romance'? hehe! The hero ends up as an astrogator and exploring the universe while the girl marries someone called Putzie?

:) nice!

Jackie (Literary Escapism) said...

See, did I not say that Nalini Singh was an awesome author! Wait until Hostage to Pleasure comes out in September. That one involves Dorian and one of the scientists that is employed by Psy Council. Here's a taste of the novel -


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