It's springtime! Days are warming and flowers are bursting into bloom. If you're like me, the signs of spring engender a desire to get the gardening tools out of storage and break out the heavy-duty allergy medication. My fuzzier neighbors, however, are dealing with desires of a different sort. All over my backyard, critters are chasing through the underbrush in pursuit of their romantic destinies. Last week I could barely go out the back door without getting dive-bombed by a love-crazed songbird. They're all doing it-- the birds, the bees, the rabbits, the skunks (ugh!), the werejaguars.... hold on. WEREJAGUARS? That's right, it's mating season in romantic fiction, too! (Okay, okay... technically, It's always mating season in romantic fiction.) Given the, ahem, effusion of Nature going on all around us, I thought this would be the perfect time to talk about a specific category of supernatural romance: shapeshifters. If you're ready for a real walk on the wild side, read on!
Shapeshifter romances feature heroes and heroines who are a bit more "back to nature" than most of us. Because of their supernatural heritage (or curse), they are able to shift form between human and beast. Depending on the author's interpretation, some can control their changes; others change beneath the full moon, or when their emotions get the better of them. Werewolves, werecats, weredragons, werelemmings (I'm kidding on that last one)-- all of these are shapeshifters. In supernatural romance, shapeshifters are often set up as rivals or enemies to vampires (and I can assure you, this tradition goes back a lot farther than Team Edward and Team Jacob).
Why do people find shapeshifters attractive as romantic heroes? Lots of reasons. Since the dawn of time, humans have admired-- and often longed for-- the traits of animals: the lithe speed of a cat, the strength of a bear, the keen senses and fierce cunning of a wolf. We stare into those golden eyes, and we see a beauty beyond human. But those gifts come with a price: an instinct for violence and a wildness we can never fully domesticate. Now imagine if a human took that beauty and wildness into himself. What might he-- or she-- be like? Could he master it and bend it to his will? Or would it rule him, making him violent and uncontrollable? This struggle to tame the beast within, to find a balance between primal instinct and rational thought, is often a key element of 'shifter plots. It represents a basic conflict in human nature that many of us have faced ourselves.
Philosophy aside, the characters have strong appeal in themselves. As a blend of human and animal, there's a touch of the superhero about them-- they're faster, stronger, keener, less vulnerable to wounds or the ravages of time. As romantic leads, shapeshifters tend to be strongly "alpha"-- dominant, physical, protective, confident, and fierce. The beast that shares their soul is generally reflected in their personality (both in and out of the bedroom, rowr!). While they can live in the world as normal people most of the time, there remains something primitive and untamed about them. Even when they're in control, the beast is there, waiting to be unleashed. And of course, when 'shifters mate, they do so with all the unrestrained passion of the animal selves... and just like those beasts, they mate for life.
So, are you ready for a hero who will make you howl... or purr? Look no further-- check out one of these shapeshifter romances!
The Smoke Thief by Shana Abe (Fiction Abe)
Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews (Pbk-Fantasy Andrews)
Bitten by Kelley Armstrong (Horror Armstrong)
The Silver Wolf by Alice Borchardt (Fantasy Borchardt)
The Passion by Donna Boyd (Fiction Boyd)
The Wolf Hunt by Gillian Bradshaw (Fantasy Bradshaw)
Preying for Mercy by Patricia Briggs (Fantasy Briggs)
On the Prowl by Patricia Briggs, Eileen Wilks, Karen Chance, and Sunny (Fantasy On)
Soulless by Gail Carriger (Pbk-Fantasy Carriger)
Pleasure of a Dark Prince by Kresley Cole (Pbk-Romance Cole)
Kiss of Fire by Deborah Cooke (Pbk-Romance Cooke)
A Certain Wolfish Charm by Lydia Dare (Pbk-Romance Dare)
Undead and Unwelcome by MaryJanice Davidson (Fiction Davidson)
Eternal Hunter by Cynthia Eden (Pbk-Romance Eden)
Masked by Moonlight by Nancy Gideon (Pbk-Romance Gideon)
Micah by Laurell K. Hamilton (Pbk-Horror Hamilton)
Darkness Everlasting by Alexandra Ivy (Pbk-Romance Ivy)
Shifting Plains by Jean Johnson (Pbk-Romance Johnson)
Dark Side of the Moon by Sherrilyn Kenyon (Fantasy Kenyon)
Beast Behaving Badly by Shelly Laurenston (Pbk-Romance Laurenston)
Mercury's War by Lora Leigh (Pbk-Romance Leigh)
Heart of the Dragon by Gena Showalter (Pbk-Romance Showalter)
Play of Passion by Nalini Singh (Pbk-Romance Singh)
Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn (Fantasy Vaughn)
She's No Faerie Princess by Christine Warren (Pbk-Romance Warren)
(Note: Because of the dual nature of this material (pun intended), you'll find just as many 'shifter titles in the Speculative Fiction collection as in Romance.)