Nathan, a sentinel of the DarkRiver leopard pack, and Tamsyn, their pack healer, have know for four years that they are fated mates. Tamsyn has loved Nate for nearly that long, but Nate has been fighting it, feeling that the innocent Tamsyn is too young for the demands of the mating bond. He watched his own mother self-destruct after mating too young and having it all fall apart, and he wants to make sure that Tamsyn is ready so that the same thing won't happen to her. What he doesn't realize is that Tamsyn has been ready since the beginning and being thrust into the role of healer at the tender age of seventeen has only prepared her even more. Now nineteen, she can no longer fight against the desires of her beast, but can she convince Nate that she values him and their bond more than her freedom?
I started reading the Psy-Changeling series slightly out of order, chronologically speaking. I began last year with Slave to Sensation, along with the two free short extras connected to that book that are available at Nalini Singh's website. Then I realized that she'd later added a couple of novellas that precede it in the series chronology. So I backtracked to pick up Nate and Tamsyn's story "Beat of Temptation." Of course, I had already met these two characters in Slave to Sensation, where Tamsyn was the healer of the DarkRiver leopard pack and Nate was leader of the sentinels and basically Lucas's right hand man. At that point, they're already happily mated with twin cubs, so this novella goes back to show us the beginning of their relationship.
As the story opens, Nate and Tamsyn have known that they're fated mates for four years, but when they first became aware of the mate bond, Tamsyn was only fifteen. Since Nate is ten years her senior, he kept his distance, waiting for her to come of age, but now that she's nineteen, it's becoming more and more difficult for them to wait. Nate's parents had a terrible mating that ended with his mother's suicide, and he believes that it was all because she mated his father too young. He doesn't want to tie Tamsyn down too soon and have the same thing happen to her, so he keeps stubbornly insisting that she explore her freedom first. Tamsyn is having none of it. She was already thrust into the role of pack healer at the age of seventeen, so she's very mature for her age and more than ready to mate Nate. But he keeps refusing her at every turn.
Nate skated perilously close to being a little too alpha for my taste. He's definitely one of those clueless heroes who doesn't really understand how his actions are affecting his heroine and seems to think he knows what's best for her instead of letting her make up her own mind. It could be a tad irritating, but I mostly understood where he was coming from. He also won me over a little more with a sweet romantic gesture he made after he finally gave into the mating bond. I liked Tamsyn a lot. She has the gentle heart of a healer, but at the same time, she's a very strong heroine. She tries everything she can to get Nate to take notice of her and make their mating real and not just something their inner beasts want. She's pretty tenacious, but even she has a breaking point that was totally understandable. She also has some vulnerabilities, too, believing that Nate doesn't truly want her when he continues to hold her at arm's length.
The story is mostly about Nate fighting the mating bond and Tamsyn working to get him to give in, but there is a minor sub-plot involving a Psy who is trying to encroach on DarkRiver land. I thought he was going to end up being more of a threat, but very little comes of his presence. That being the case, I can't say that this part really added much to the story. To me, it seemed like the author felt an obligatory need to include a Psy character because the series is about both Psy and Changelings, but I would have been just as happy without it. Even with this little weakness in the story and Nate rubbing me the wrong way a bit, I was still planning on giving it at least 4.5 stars until I got to the only love scene in the story and it was fade to black. The entire novella is about the incredibly intense sexual tension between Nate and Tamsyn that you know is leading up to their mating. When we get to that point, there's some equally intense foreplay, then nothing more than a couple of lines indicating they did the deed. At this point, I was screaming in my head, "Are you kidding me? I've been waiting through the whole novella for a steamy love scene and this is all I get?" Needless to say, it was seriously disappointing, especially since I know from reading Slave to Sensation first that Nalini Singh can write these types of scenes very well. If she was constrained by word count, I think it would have been a better story to take out the Psy sub-plot, or even pare off a little of the back and forth between Nate and Tamsyn in exchange for at least one detailed love scene. Writing it the way she did was like dangling a delicious treat in front of a starving person and then cruelly yanking it away. Other than my frustration with this part of the story, "Beat of Temptation" was admittedly well-written, and I enjoyed it, particularly the Christmas theme since it's so rarely seen in paranormal romance. I just wish the author or her editor or whoever it was hadn't cheated readers out of the payoff to all that sexual tension. "Beat of Temptation" was originally published in the multi-author anthology, An Enchanted Season, and was later reprinted in the single-author anthology, Wild Invitation, along with three other novellas set in the Psy-Changeling world.
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