Clay Bennett is a powerful DarkRiver sentinel, but he grew up in the slums with his human mother, never knowing his changeling father. As a young boy without the bonds of Pack, he tried to stifle his animal nature. He failed…and committed the most extreme act of violence, killing a man and losing his best friend, Talin, in the bloody aftermath. Everything good in him died the day he was told that she, too, was dead.
Talin McKade barely survived a childhood drenched in bloodshed and terror. Now a new nightmare is stalking her life – the street children she works to protect are disappearing and turning up dead. Determined to keep them safe, she unlocks the darkest secret in her heart and returns to ask the help of the strongest man she knows…
Clay lost Talin once. He will not let her go again, his hunger to possess her, a clawing need born of the leopard within. As they race to save the innocent, Clay and Talin must face the violent truths of their past…or lose everything that ever mattered.
Book 0.5: Beat of Temptation (See Wild Invitation Review)
Book 0.6: Whisper of Sin
Book 1: Slave to Sensation
Book 2: Visions of Heat
Book 2.5: Echo of Silence (See Wild Embrace Review)
Book 3: Caressed by Ice
Book 3.5: Stroke of Enticement (See Wild Invitation Review)
Book 4: Mine to Possess
Book 5: Hostage to Pleasure
Book 5.25: Dorian (See Wild Embrace Review)
Book 6: Branded by Fire
Book 7: Blaze of Memory
Book 8: Bonds of Justice
Book 9: Play of Passion
Book 9.5: Declaration of Courtship (See Wild Invitation Review)
Book 10: Kiss of Snow
Book 10.5: Texture of Intimacy (See Wild Invitation Review)
Book 11: Tangle of Need
Book 11.1: Partners in Persuasion (See Wild Embrace Review)
Book 12: Heart of Obsidian
Book 12.1: Flirtation of Fate (See Wild Embrace Review)
Book 13: Shield of Winter
Book 14: Shards of Hope
Book 15: Allegiance of Honor
Over the years since I’ve first read this book I’ve had many feelings about it. Some good, some … well, not so good. For a long time this was my least favorite book – and I don’t think it’ll ever be one of my favorites. It’s too … uneasy, and hits an incredibly uncomfortable spot for me. But I have reached a new understanding with this book, and the characters that take the spotlight in it.
My biggest problem was always Talin. She had an incredibly hard childhood, filled with abuse – of many and varied kinds – and then, when she was barely old enough for school, she witnessed the very horrific death of her abuser at the hands of her best friend: Clay. Clay is Changeling, so you can imagine that it was messy and gory, and not at all something that is easily brushed past. I don’t blame Clay for that. And Talin doesn’t either. But it’s still more trauma on top of the trauma she’d already been subjected to day in and day out.
I used to be irritated with Talin. Everything Clay did was for his love of her. His care and need to care for her. Why did she treat him with such callous disregard? Why did she disappear from his life, letting him think she was dead, for so long? Why cause him that pain? Honestly, I hated Talin for a long, long, long time.
Something new happened on this read though – and this is one of the reasons I love re-reading so much – I understand Talin now. She did what she had to do in order to survive. She’d been traumatized, lost, left, and forgotten. She was a child. And Clay, though he was only a few years older than Talin, was already growing into the personality that would one day lead to his being a Sentinel. The power differential between them was so great, and the pain that Talin couldn’t forget was a barrier.
Talin needed to heal herself, become a whole person again, before being dragged under someone’s strong personality. Clay wouldn’t have done it intentionally, wouldn’t have wanted to damage her – he loved her – but when someone is broken, it’s hard to not subjugate yourself to a much stronger personality. It’s hard to not become the person they, however subtly or unintentionally, push you to being.
So Talin took that time. And I get that. I finally understand that. I don’t know if it’s me growing, or if I just finally read what was always there….I don’t know why I understand this now when I never did before, but I do. I also get the blame, and the hurt, the pain and the worry about being abandoned again. How could she feel any differently? I was still, slightly, annoyed by the fact that she basically laid claim to Clay, becoming possessive of him even with his Pack, when she didn’t really trust him. But feelings are nuanced. A person can feel many things for one person or situation at a time. Just because there were doubts doesn’t mean she didn’t already love him.
What really surprised me this time was the anger I felt towards Clay. Talin, like many sexual abuse survivors, took to hurting herself with sex. I understand this in ways that I wish I didn’t. When Talin lashed out at Clay that she’d ‘been with so many men she couldn’t remember all their names or faces’ he became angry. Rage-filled anger. Not physically directed at Talin, but emotionally he became distant until she pushed him again to address it. His anger quickly became about the fact that she should have kept herself safe and cherished, but – initially – it was possessive. She was his and no one else should have had her.
Even if she’d never been abused. Even if there was never that trauma. She could have slept with whomever she so desired in her past. Like he did. Like he did. Argh!!
Look, I get it. This is the flip side of the Changeling possessiveness. He always knew she was his. But she didn’t, and she was hurt – hurt beyond measure. For him to judge her….it enrages me.
In the end, Clay and Talin work through everything in their past and present to become a strong united couple. I feel confident in them, and their future. And while I don’t love everything they did to each other, how much they hurt each other, I finally have a new appreciation for the choices each of them made, and can look at them without the level of irritation I carried before.