Paranormal Romance has been at or near the top of the genre’s popularity for a while now; romance seems to be mostly composed of Contemporary, Historical, and the Paranormal catch-all. Of course, we can also break P-Rom down into its sub-genres – vampires, weres/shifters, magics, angels/demons, time travel, zombies, fae, goblins, gods and goddesses, elementals, ghosts, and well, any number of mythos and magical creatures you can think of. Pretty awesome, and largely the hub of Common Grounds around these parts.
This week, we’re looking at weres and shifters, and various interpretations of them. What works, what doesn’t, and why. Of course, much of that is subjective. Some readers and bloggers take issue with storyverses that fail to really address pack dynamic in werewolf societies. Are they meant to mirror real wolf-pack behavior? If not, then does the story establish its canon of pack behavior?
There’s also been criticism of stories that depict big cat shifters, because they usually have them mating for life, and/or living in packs, which is contrary to many real-life big cat mating patterns. It’s enough of an issue that some authors address that inconsistency within the story (Ellen Connor’s Midnight is a good example).
Then, of course, there are the more creative animals authors have chosen as were or shifter material: Felicia Day’s Vaginal Fantasy group is evidently reading a story about dinosaur shifters this month (What about those tiny T-Rex arms??). And there’s so much more than that out there (cuttlefish, anyone? Yes, it exists. Instead, though, have a link to a story that involves pseudo-merman-dolphin shifters.)
The popularity of shifters begs the question, though – why? What draws us in? Is it the ‘one true mate’ trope (although, there are shifter stories that don’t go there, thankfully)? Is it the pack mentality and badassery that comes from the more formidable animals? Maybe it’s the more literal take on the ‘alpha’ male characters (although, I love me some female alphas – thank you, Nalini Singh). Or, dare I ask – is there a darker sort of appeal that touches on fantasies and suggestions that are far more taboo? (Hey, there is nothing wrong with furry fantasies as long as they’re just that – fantasies. Recommendation: Nancy Friday’s books on the topic of women and sexual fantasies.)
So far, this is a pretty heteronormative line of discussion, so by all means, open the floor for wider topics in romance and erotica. Shifters are plenty popular in m/m paranormal (*cough*cuttlefish*cough*), and there is the whole business with adult male cheetahs living in pairs. But there’s also the machismo that is implied in the alpha trope, and that makes for great plotting and conflict when brought against the unfortunately-still-present stigma against homosexuality. But, these are still unfamiliar grounds for me-the-bloggess personally, and I would be at risk of making an ass of myself if I went much further. If you’re out there, however, and you have recs and/or discussion on gay, lesbian and bisexual were and shifter romances, by all means – bring it to the comments!
In the meantime, to everyone: what are some of your favorite were and/or shifter p-roms, and why?
I’m a big fan of Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series, which melds shifters and sci-fi and politics and intrigue all together. I’ve really enjoyed Ellen Connor‘s previously mentioned Dark Age Dawning series so far, although more for the post-apocalyptic world-building than the shifter elements. Again, even with shifters, Eve Langlais is kind of a go-to for me, when I’m looking for a good time, an easy, sassy read, and a hot romp. I especially loved The Geek Job, which had a female alpha-type were and a nerdy guy. Ilona Andrews and Shelly Laurenston are both givens, even if I’ve personally only read a few books between them – I tend to save the really good stuff for when I’m hard-up.
Finally, although it’s not p-rom, I have to have to have to rec Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar. The characters in this book are just too much fun. TOO MUCH FUN.
Leave your recs below!