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Reviewed by Michelle Randall for Readers' Favorite
The year is 2175 and so much has changed in the world as we know it. North America is ruled by an arch-demon called The Director, his brother rules Northern Europe. There are clans of werewolves and vampires everywhere, and humans are surviving in the slums, but just barely. Another class has emerged called Thetas; they are born of two human parents and have psychic abilities, but they are controlled completely by The Director. They are grouped into troupes of actors and they perform virtual shows for their audiences - the thing is they have so many more capabilities than anyone believes, they just haven't learned them yet. Playing with Passion follows a specific Ingrid - all the lead females are called Ingrid - and her desire for something more, her desire to break free. When she is placed in the Hudson New York Troupe, where everyone actually takes care of each other, she finds a place where maybe there are people willing to learn what they are capable of and break free. Author Gayle Parness mixes romance, fantasy, science fiction, class struggle and slavery into an engaging tale.
Playing with Passion not only alludes to the idea of the troupe of actors in the book, but also that the virtual performances they create for the audiences give them a passionate, euphoric feeling. It also hints at the dynamics between the characters, including a forbidden romance between an actress and a stage manager. Gayle Parness does a wonderful job drawing you into this story, building the characters, and slowly letting history and background on each come out, just as in a real relationship, so that you feel you are becoming friends with them as you read. You want to help them, you understand the issues and want to see them fight, but at the same time you know it is dangerous. This is a wonderfully engaging read. I definitely recommend it more for the adult reader as there are some sexual scenes and some references to past sexual abuses.