After being kidnapped, tortured, and mind-raped by a brutal Psy serial killer, wolf changeling Brenna Kincaid has struggled to regain her sense of self. Before her ordeal, she had a promising career ahead of her as a tech genius, and she wants nothing more than to get back to a normal life. It hasn't been easy, though, and just as she begins to put the past behind her, terrifying dreams of death that seem all too real begin to surface, making her think that she's either losing her mind or that she might be turning into something evil herself because of what was done to her. Then the first dead body from one of her nightmares is found, leaving her even more frightened. The only person who can seem to calm Brenna's fears is a Psy who has taken refuge with her wolf pack. Her sensual changeling side is deeply attracted to him and wants nothing more than to be near him, but getting past his cold, emotionless Psy veneer could prove challenging.
As an Arrow, an elite Psy warrior, Judd Lauren did terrible things at the bidding of the Psy council. He's a lethal assassin who can kill without remorse using his specialized telekinetic gifts. When his family was threatened, he defected with them in order to save his young nieces and nephew from rehabilitation, and they now live under the protection of the SnowDancer wolf pack. However, Judd is a man caught between two worlds. No longer truly one of the Psy, but not fully integrated into the pack, he isn't quite sure where he fits in anymore. Then Brenna seems to take a liking to him, and to his surprise, he discovers that the feeling is mutual. However, Judd's training in the Silence protocol is so deeply embedded in his mind that each time he even touches Brenna it brings him tremendous pain. Despite that, it soon becomes clear that living without her isn't an option. But what is he to do when each step they take toward becoming closer causes his telekinetic power to attack his own body in such a way that it will eventually kill him if they remain on their determined path?
Caressed by Ice is the third full-length novel in Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series. It pairs Brenna Kincaid, the SnowDancer wolf who was kidnapped in the first book, Slave to Sensation, with Judd Lauren, a Psy who defected from the PsyNet with his family to save them from rehabilitation. The entire Lauren clan has been harbored by the SnowDancers ever since, and as a former soldier, Judd sometimes helps them with sticky situations involving the Psy, while trying to keep the full nature of his powers under wraps. In the previous two novels, we've had female Psys coupled with male leopard changelings, so this new pairing of a female wolf changeling and a male Psy was an intriguing one that I looked forward to exploring, and I wasn't disappointed. Most of the heroes in this series so far have been pretty intensely alpha, which is always a hit and miss proposition for me. Whether I like an alpha male depends on how he's written. When I discovered in the previous book that Judd seemed equally as alpha as the changelings, I had a few reservations, but they soon dissipated in light of his sexiness and vulnerabilities. Brenna was the perfect mate for him, a strong woman with a few alpha tendencies of her own, but an underlying gentleness and vulnerabilities that made her likable and relatable. So I very much enjoyed this book, which has edged into the top spot as my current favorite of the series so far.
After her ordeal of being kidnapped, tortured, and brutally mind-raped by a powerful Psy serial killer, Brenna was a broken shell of her former self. It's taken a lot of time and work with Sascha, the empathic, healer Psy, to find some peace and normalcy in her life again. But just as things start settling down for her, she begins to have frightening, blood-soaked dreams and visions that are more Psy in nature than changeling, leaving her believing that her captor did something to alter her mind and that she might be going crazy. These episodes have a tendency to leave her extremely agitated and the only person who seems to be able to calm her is Judd. She's deeply attracted to him on a physical level, but with the cold, emotionless Psy existence brought about by the Silence Protocol ruling his life, she'll have her work cut out for her convincing her Psy protector that they're meant to be together. Brenna is a very strong young woman who had a promising career ahead of her in the technical field. She has a genius-level mind that proves extremely helpful in sending a message to the Psy after they attack defenseless changelings. She's still affected by the things done to her during her kidnapping ordeal, but she's determined to put it all behind her and live the fullest life she can, which I found very admirable. She's often the pursuer in her relationship with Judd and refuses to give up on him finding a way for them be together.
Judd was trained as an Arrow, one of the elite Psy soldiers, from a very young age. Ever since taking refuge with the SnowDancers, he's been working as a freelance operative, making hits on Psy targets under instructions from the Ghost, a mysterious person with high-level intelligence who is trying to dismantle some Psy structures. The SnowDancers also sometimes use him for certain purposes, but haven't yet fully integrated him into pack life. Judd has a powerful telekinetic gift that makes him a lethal killer. In fact, before Silence, those with his talents always ended up accidentally killing someone they cared about. Under Silence, he's able to keep himself in check, but it also means that every time he gets close to Brenna, his own body rebels against him, causing him great pain that will eventually kill him if he maintains his course. He soon realizes that being without Brenna isn't really a choice, but he isn't sure if it's possible to undo the extensive programming of his mind to make a relationship work. Judd may be a hardened soldier, but he has a sexy intensity that I like in my alphas. Although he has the typical cold, robotic, Psy veneer on the outside, I could sense a gentler heart beating inside. For quite a while, he braves a significant amount of pain to be with Brenna, which IMHO, showed how much he loves and cares for her. His virginal status brings a small touch of sweetness to his character, but he's no slouch in the bedroom, using that logical Psy brain of his to plan an incredibly sexy seduction for their first time together while giving freely and generously of himself during their love scenes which again showed his tender side.
As with seemingly all the Psy-Changeling books, Caressed by Ice boasts a plethora of supporting characters to make things interesting, so many that it's sometimes hard to keep track of them all. There are the members of the Psy council working in the background in an effort to maintain what they see as order, but which is usually damaging to society as a whole. Some of them get their own short POV scenes, including Kaleb, who I'm starting to have suspicions about. I'm eager to see how his part in the greater story-arc plays out, and to eventually see him as the hero of book #12, Heart of Obsidian. Then we have lots of changelings from both the SnowDancer and DarkRiver packs. On the cat side, we have Lucas and Sascha (Slave to Sensation), Dorian (Hostage to Pleasure), and Faith (Vision of Heat). Since this is primarily a wolf story, there are lots of wolves present, including Brenna's brothers, Riley, who ends up paired with DarkRiver lieutenant, Mercy, in book #6, Branded by Fire, and Drew, who'll be coupled with SnowDancer lieutenant, Indigo, in book #9, Play of Passion. Then there's Hawke, the SnowDancer alpha, who will get a romance with Judd's niece, Sienna, in book #10, Kiss of Snow. I felt a little tension between these two even though Sienna is still just a teenager, so I'm pleased to see this future pairing. And finally, Judd's brother, Walker, will find love with SnowDancer healer, Lara, in the novella, "Texture of Intimacy," from Wild Invitation. I very much look forward to eventually reading all these characters' stories.
Overall, Caressed by Ice was a wonderful read. There were a couple of tiny things that made me waver just a bit on my rating, but in the end, I had to give it the full five stars. Judd and Brenna play off of each other so well, and have a tendency to electrify the pages whenever they're together, making me love this pairing. There's also lots of intrigue going on in the background, as we learn more about the overarching Psy agenda that I hope will eventually be dismantled, as well as who killed one of the SnowDancers and why. This part was nicely tied in to events both in this book and a past story. This was a book that really kept me on my toes, trying to keep up with everything that was going on, but at the same time, it didn't really skimp on the romance which was a major plus. Everything put together makes this book a highly recommended read from my perspective, and really makes me look forward to both the next book and the rest of the series.
The Hope Chest Reviews on Facebook