Oh, Cheryl. You, my friend whom I consider the Queen of Historical Romance, you are responsible for my glomming J.D. Robb's In Death series because you were willing to break out of your comfort zone. Yet you don't understand the allure of werewolves. If I can't convince you otherwise, perhaps I can convince others who—at least right now—don't think wolves could possibly be sexy or romantic because they pee to mark their territory.
Personally, I'm more of a werewolf girl and less in the thrall (yes, a pun) of vampires because, well, they're dead—or undead. But authors like Angela Knight, MaryJanice Davidson, and J.R. Ward (among others) have sucked me into their vampire universes. Werewolves, on the other hand, almost always do it for me. I imagine many readers object to werewolves because they envision I Was a Teenage Werewolf hybrids who are half man, half wolf. Most werewolves in romance and/or dark fantasy, though, are not simultaneously man and wolf (although Angela Knight's wolves in Dire Kind mode are, which messes with the illusion). Instead, they exist in either human form or wolf form. If you've ever seen a photograph of wolves, you will recognize their majesty, mystery, and power. In the animal kingdom they are handsome or even—dare I say it?—hot.
Wolf sociology also fascinates me. No matter how many articles one reads on alpha and beta heroes, experiencing the alpha, beta, and omega wolf in a well-written novel delineates their differences in a way books featuring human beings do not. Okay, I realize not every reader wants to read about pack behavior, but if you’ve read a historical romance series featuring comrades in arms, extended family, or even club members, you’ve already experienced, in a limited way, some of the same types of characters who populate packs.
That doesn’t explain the romance, though, so I’ll just get down and dirty: Werewolves are romantic and sexy, at least to me, because of their animalism. Some types of wolves mate for life, which translates in romance/dark fantasy fiction to a werewolf’s ability to scent his mate. Wolves have highly developed senses of taste and smell, which explains why the werewolf’s beast comes out at the scent of the female. It probably also explains why werewolves seem to love oral sex. From this reader’s perspective, what’s the problem with that?
It’s not all about sex, though. Several years ago, MaryJanice Davidson’s Derik’s Bane was published. Stories previous to it were published in Secrets anthologies, with correspondingly high erotic quotients. Derik’s Bane, on the other hand, was mainstream-published, and a comedy to boot. The hero’s “dogginess” was a big part of his appeal; a friend of mine found him adorable because he was like a “big dopey dog.”
That appealing “dogginess” extends beyond the humorous. Reading a well-written scene about a werewolf in wolf form running in the wild allows me to experience a wonderful sense of freedom and connection with nature; if the werewolf is running as part of a pack, I can feel the camaraderie.
The paranormal world in general appeals to me because human limitations on behavior, ethics, and mores do not apply. It’s not socially acceptable in the 21st century for heroes to behave like dogs in the manger where heroines are concerned. But dogs are simply domesticated wolves, and arrogant and possessive behavior is appropriate for them. The werewolf as hero, therefore, is not old-fashioned and lacking in currency. Add in a strong 21st century heroine, and voila, a wonderful pull between hero and heroine is created.
Recently, though, I’ve noticed I need another dimension to my dark fantasy, one that the introduction of Biblical and mythological elements adds. There’s nothing like the threat of a good apocalypse to up the ante . . . but let’s save that for another day.
But getting back to you, Cheryl, I’d like to recommend a book I handsold like mad at the Barnes and Noble I worked in for a couple of years: Gail Carriger’s Soulless. It has the requisite werewolf and vampire, but it also features some of the crispest and wittiest dialogue I’ve read outside of traditional Regencies and some of my favorite Regency-set historicals. It’s the first in a series of books that gets progressively more steampunk as it goes along, but Soulless is a terrific romance, and I converted a number of non-paranormal readers with it.
Wolf image courtesy of Fremlin via Flickr
Laurie Gold cannot stop reading and writing about romance—she's been blabbing online for years. She remains a work in progress. Be one of the few who visits her at Toe in the Water or follow her may-be-too-political-for-you tweets at @laurie_gold.