Singh, Nalini - Visions of Heat
Wow, that was a lot of information.
I picked this up in a used bookstore after reading magicnoire's rec of Singh's first book. I couldn't tell if the heroine of this one is multiracial or not (ditto with the hero), but in general, the book has a lot of side characters who just happen to be Asian or Caribbean or etc., which is promising.
This had pretty much everything I am sick of in romances -- the clear signs of a series, including way too much information about the couple from the previous book and a bazillion alpha males, each more alpha than the last; Very Special eyes -- all cardinal Psys have eyes like the night sky, completely black with spots of white and occasional lightning depending on mood; instant lust; extreme and literal alpha maleness complete with almost biologically ordained protectiveness; and psychic mating.
On the other hand, what made me keep reading was how it differed from paranormals I've read in the past. First, the psychic mating is an optional life-long bond, unlike most forced soulmate bonds. And even though the heroine from the first book was an empath, Faith is icy cold. Her breaking away from emotionless Silence went a little too fast for me to entirely believe it, but I like that she still retains her brain for logic and strategy. I rolled my eyes at the hero's Angsty Past and his jaguar-ness and growling, but it was a pleasant surprise to discover that the bulk of the book was about Faith -- I think we get one or two mentions of the hero's Angsty Past, and the rest is all about Faith breaking away from the only society she's known and avenging herself on her sister's killer. I approve!
And while the power dynamic is still a little too imbalanced for me to like, particularly the focus on male physical strength and sexuality, I was happily surprised when the very alpha Vaughn actually lets Faith go off on her own and explicitly says he trusts her strength enough to just watch her back for her instead of jumping in himself. And! Giant bonus points for finally tying the guy up during sex, even though he's still too commanding for it to be totally trope-breaking.
I also wish there were less about jaguar-ness and cat-ness and other such animalistic descriptions, though at least they're literal. Also also, I wanted more female Changelings and more male Psys, as the story structure and social set up of the Psys basically calls for alpha Changelings and Psys learning to get in touch with their feelings. Still, I'm glad that there's a divorce between physical strength/sexual charisma and emotional vulnerability in that the men seem to be much more primed to fall in love than the women.
I've also grown very interested in the world; it's much deeper and richer than past paranormals I've read, and it has psychics running corporations and forming psychic webs! Much of my dislike of the male-Changeling/female-Psy pairings and potential essentialism is also diffused by getting a broader look at Psy society, though Changeling society still feels largely male.
Plus, the next book has psychically wounded female wolf Changeling who reacts to psychic damage by getting more violent + ex-assassin Psy guy, and it is now on hold at the library.
Verdict so far: not completely a fan yet, but Singh's doing enough interesting and different things for me to overlook the tropes I dislike.
ETA: OMG! I totally didn't comment on this at first because I didn't realize. But, people, the couple from the first book? The woman is not pregnant! There are no adorable children running around at their feet! This book does not end with Faith pregnant!