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Last week, I posted an “If You Like” query looking for good werewolf romances. I commented that the Urban Fantasy genre is replete with werewolves but that the werewolf is much rarer in mass market romances. Indeed, in the comments, many a reader referenced popular urban fantasy series like those from Patricia Briggs and Carrie Vaughn were mentioned, but there really weren’t many romance authors mentioned. Given that there are hundreds of published romance authors and paranormal romances are one of the more popular sub genres, I figured that there were dozens of series devoted to werewolves. Alas there is not. There are the odd scattering of werewolves amongst larger paranormal groups but few series devoted solely to the werewolf.
There is even a debate about the wolf shifter v the werewolf:
IMO, a werewolf is a person who has no ability to shift into the wolf mode at will. A person involuntarily shifts into the wolf mode because of, say, the moon or an extreme emotion, which means he or she has no control over his or her ability to shift. Examples: Guy Endore’s The Werewolf of Paris, Oz from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, etc.
A wolf shifter is a person who has an ability to shift into the wolf mode whenever he or she wants, which means they have the full or some control over their ability to shift. Examples: Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten series and Annette Curtis Klause’s Blood and Chocolate.
I admit to not thinking about this division but I think its an interesting one because it connects to a larger issue of why I think there aren’t as many werewolf stories. joanne asked:
Does werewolf equal wolf shifter? I think of werewolves (not so much) as people "infected’ or affected by something that makes them change into a wolfish looking human. Wolf shifters change completely into wolves. I think of one as frightening and one as a romantic. Does any of this matter to anyone but me?
Kresley Cole’s Lykae do not shift into wolves, but instead transform into man beasts. Lora Leigh’s Breed men are not shifters. Instead, they are genetically engineered to have beast-like traits and do not shift as Mireya notes. Some readers have problems with the werewolf story because of beastiality. Others because they have dogs and the things that dogs do are disgusting.
I emailed some editors and asked why there weren’t many romances featuring the werewolf. Cindy Hwang, Executive Editor for Berkley, disagreed with my assertion that there was a paucity of werewolf books, just that the werewolf was part of a larger group of paranormal beings:
I think there are a lot of werewolf heroes–but there aren’t a lot of werewolf only books. Most of the books currently published feature werewolves as a part of a bigger paranormal universe, so werewolves exist with vampires, dragons,
fairies, demons, angels, etc. For instance, we have werewolves in Angela Knight’s Mageverse, and a werewolf hero in MASTER OF WOLVES, but they’re not the only paranormal creatures roaming around.
Even authors who started writing exclusively about werewolves have started to expand their universe–MaryJanice started her paranormal career with stories about the Wyndham Werewolves and also did a single title romance DERIK’S BANE featuring one of them as the hero, but they exist in the same universe as her Undead books about Vampire Queen Betsy Taylor, and Davidson started bringing more and more of her werewolves into her vampire books, culminating with UNDEAD AND UNWELCOME when Betsy actually visits the Wyndham werewolves on their home turf. We see this mingling of paranormals again and again–THE ACCIDENTAL WEREWOLF by Dakota Cassidy has the heroine bitten by the furry hero and turned into a werewolf, but in the next book her friend gets turned into a vampire.
Of course there are still some books that the werewolf is the primary focus–MOON AWAKENING by Lucy Monroe and and AWAITING THE MOON by Donna Lea Simpson were both werewolf romances, and both historical, interestingly enough.
And don’t forget Lora Leigh–her Breeds aren’t shifters in the traditional sense, but the appeal is the same. And most of her current books are about the feline Breeds, but she does have books about the canine breeds too–both wolf and coyote (see COYOTE’S MATE). And these are just Berkley examples–I’m sure there are many more from other publishers.
I do think that some authors and readers may not be comfortable with any kind of shifter romance, because of the possible bestiality aspect, and some books definitely graze the line deliberately. And some readers may not like werewolves for many other reasons. But I do think there’s a real primal, raw appeal to werewolves that’s very sexy–werewolves are all about violence, power, strength and unbridled lust–what’s not to love?
Tara Gavin, Senior Executive Editor at Harlequin, informed me that there were many a werewolf book in the Silhouette Nocturne series:
We have many stories which focus on the werewolf myth. Karen Whiddon has written a multi-year miniseries entitled The Pact, which Nocturne readers love. Karen continues to grow and develop the series, and she gains many new fans each time a book is published. In addition, Vivi Anna has written books with werewolves and vampires in them, as have Bonnie Vanak, Linda O. Johnston, Doranna Durgin, Lori DeVoti (though Lori calls them Hellhounds). Rhyannon Byrd also has written a very popular werewolf series for Nocturne called Bloodrunners.
This upcoming February and March 2010, we have a duo by Linda Thomas-Sundstrom entitled WOLF MOONS. The first book, RED WOLF, contains a bonus story for readers-‘Linda’s initial story of the miniseries, published in 2009 year as a Nocturne Bite e-story. A bonus story is also featured in Linda’s second book, WOLF TRAP, which we are publishing in March. The bonus story is called WOLF BAIT, which was published as a 2009 Nocturne Bite e-story, as well.
I love the werewolf theme because of the many facets the twist can exhibit. I see the werewolf as a protector, and also as very sexy. The alpha element-‘the strong alpha male-‘is contained in the werewolf fantasy. The werewolf hero is stronger than the human male, and can protect the heroine when in danger. The werewolf has a flaw, too-‘containing the beast within. In addition, there is the beauty and the beast archetype that an author can use with the werewolf fantasy-‘and readers enjoy that as well.
Werewolves are very popular in Nocturne, and I think are coming more into their own as the paranormal romance arena grows. A werewolf played a role in the Stephanie Meyers series, and that leads to one more aspect of werewolves that I feel readers find attractive-‘the sense of community. There is always a pack, or some larger type of group in which the werewolf theme plays out.
I think the bestiality issue is an interesting one. I have my own lines in werewolf books. I’ll be the first to admit that I only want the animal part to go so far. In other words, I want zero animal sex. No hairy wolf on wolf sex. No demon tail action. No barbed penises. None of that. It all makes me shudder and not in a good way.
But as Cindy Hwang said, there is a primal, raw appeal to the story. In Bitten, the hero, Clay, bites the narrator, Elena, to make her into a wolf so that they can truly be together. He’s always been more animal than human, having had little parental guidance in his formative years and allowed to roam the swamps without any interference. Even Elena, though, has an edge to her. In fact, the entire story of Bitten centers around Elena giving up her dream for normalcy and embracing her beast.
In Tempting Danger, Eileen Wilks presents a fascinating structure for her werewolves including a regional political system whereby the werewolves are divided by clans and a distinct hierarchy. The leader of a clan is called the Rho and the heir is called Lu Nuncio. There are mate bonds wherein the mated pair cannot be separated by any significant distance. This book more closely resembles the stories in urban fantasy with its interspecies politics and emphasis on strong worldbuilding but centered around a romance.
I love the werewolf romance when they involve the raw primal appeal but also when the Pack plays an important role. I love to read about the sense of family created by the Pack and how the parties navigate within it. I would love to see more of these. To me, it’s not so much about the beast and sex, but about the complicated dynamic of the beast and the Pack itself.
I ask you, the reader, if you like werewolf romances and if so, what you like about it. If not, what don’t you like. Share your opinion in the comments.