This SOUNDS like it's a romance novel. It's not too romantic, really. But when you look at the back cover, it kind of sounds like it might be. One of those novels where the hero and heroine are psychically bonded and Must Be Together No Matter What! Nope, not so much. In a way, it reminds me of that series by Lisanne Norman that I read a few books of before I got really bloody irritated by how their world operates. Two different species can suddenly have biological children? The lead couple suddenly becoming a triad? Bonded pairs can only have babies with each other? Yeah, RIGHT.
But that series, while being an example of the "OMG BONDED PSYCHICALLY 4EVA!" genre (not that I'm 100% against reading books like this, obviously), also did talk about the bad side of pairings. I specifically remember one female Sholan being unexpectedly psychically bonded to a human guy who didn't like aliens much, nor did he want to settle down with a wife. Plus, she had a nice Sholan boyfriend. But with the OMG PSYCHIC BONDING, they had to have sex every four days and she could only get pregnant with the human dude's children. Yuck-o-fucking-rama. Okay, so that irritated me too, but the book did discuss a bad aspect of that sort of thing.
Resenting the Hero has a somewhat similar bonding premise, but does deal more with the not-so-great aspects of forced pairings. And it's fascinating and I had a very hard time putting this book down in order to do other stuff. I loved it. I can't wait for the next book to come out.
The setup: Humans have colonized a world where random, sudden, and massive weather disasters happen often. Two sorts of people have evolved to help deal with this. Sources can sense the onset of weather and channel the power of the storms and whatnot away, but doing this will kill them. Shields are people who can save the life of Sources by keeping their bodies from going into a frenzy. Young Shields and Sources are put into separate training academies and kept out of the "real world" until they graduate and get paired off. But the thing is, they don't get any choice as to who they pair with. At first sight, you get bonded to whomever, and it's for life. You can't work with anyone else (supposedly), you're stuck spending the rest of your life with this person. Regardless of sexual/gender preference, btw, as one is NOT supposed to sleep with their partner. And this is whether or not you like them. You may very well end up hating them, but there's nothing you can do about it.
That leads us to our narrator, Shield Dunleavy Mallorough. (Note: since most characters are referred to by their last names in this book, I'm just going to go with that.) She's a quiet chick who wants a peaceful life, with no drama, no standing out, and no showboats. So she's quite disappointed to end up bonded with Lord Shintaro Karish, who's not only second-son nobility, not only cute, not only talented, not only incredibly charming, but is known as the "Stallion of the Triple S" (Triple S being the organization in charge of Sources and Shields) for his way with the ladies. He's actually a polite and nice fellow with a few extra talents he doesn't let on about, but Mallorough is thoroughly annoyed to be saddled with the world's biggest showboat for life.
They get assigned to work in a city that's so beset by disasters that they already have six Pairs working the site. Unfortunately, soon after their arrival a different kind of weather disaster occurs, one that kills or incapacitates almost all of the town's Pairs. Kalish and Mallorough go through bouts of agonizing pain, but don't die, and thus are stuck in charge of the place until help comes in. And if that wasn't bad enough, Kalish's brother, the duke of Westsea, dies. Kalish's family hates his guts, but now they want him to step in and be the duke. And if he does that, he'll put Mallorough out of a job. And then on top of that, people start trying to harm Karish...and if he dies, so does Mallorough.
A big part of the plot here is, what happens to the poor schmuck who's a good person, but paired with an evil, corrupt, incompetent, or unable to work partner? And is there anything that can be done to save them from the person that they're tied to for life? And why DO people bond like this, anyway? Can it be stopped? This is horrifying and fascinating to think about.
Four stars from me. A really cool book!