Meljean: Last week on Twitter, a few of us were waxing nostalgic about Silhouette Shadows books — the category paranormal line that came out in the early- and mid-1990s — and it reminded me that I’ve been drafting this post for … well, almost a year now.
Missy: Wait, wait! 1990s? As in … you were in your mid- to late-teens?
Missy: And you’re not Missy anymore.
Meljean: Nope. And it’s too bad you missed out on the Shadows line, because the books were awesome. Especially the two I’m going to write about today and (maybe) next week.
Missy: Jeez, thanks. I hate you. I’ve been waiting for romances like this my whole life–
Meljean: Actually, only since you were eight. And the first couple of years, you were too enraptured with rubbing thighs to think about combining your love of vampires and werewolves and things that go bump in the night with … well, things that go bump in the night.
Missy: –and I spent tons and tons of time reading Nancy Garden and Bunnicula and haunting the 398.4 section of the library, yet all I had to do was wait a few more years and I’d have vampire romance???
Meljean: Not just vampire romance. Sexy vampire romance.
Missy: … I hate you.
Meljean: Well, if it makes you feel better, the first one doesn’t really have a sex scene at all … and that’s probably a good thing.
Missy: That doesn’t make me feel better, so suck on it.
Meljean: You’re such a little snot. In any case, now that I’ve thought about it for two seconds, I’ve realized that you wouldn’t have liked them.
Missy: Vampires. Werewolves. Duh! Of course I would. What books are they, anyway?
Meljean: The first is a werewolf novel, WOLF IN WAITING by Rebecca Flanders, and is the second in her Heart of the Wolf series. Flanders has written a ton for Silhouette and Harlequin, but werewolf fans might actually know her best from her Donna Boyd novels, THE PASSION and its sequel, THE PROMISE (the Devoncroix dynasty series.) Those aren’t romances, but they are dang good books (and highly recommended.) And, for those familiar with the Boyd books, you’ll find many similarities in the worldbuilding in the Heart of the Wolf series — the uber-rich pack, the Alaskan seat, the werewolf disdain for humans.
Missy: Blah, blah. What’s it about?
Meljean: I don’t remember you being this annoying before.
Missy: I’ve been stuck in a closet for two freaking years! And you bring me out to tease me about books I’ve never read! I hate you!
Meljean: You’re so cute when you’re angry and your nose scrunches up like that. Okay, so here’s the back cover copy:
He was the standard against which all others were measured — the strongest, the smartest, the sexiest and the most noble of his kind: Noel Duprey, whose birthright forbade him even to look Victoria St. Clare’s way, for his destiny would never allow him to take her as his bride.
Furthermore, Noel believed she was a traitor, out to destroy his legacy — out to destroy him. But all she was really after was his heart . . .
Missy: … and you think I won’t like this?
Meljean: Well, for one — it’s in alternating first person POV.
Missy: *I* don’t have a problem with first person.
Meljean: But … Oh.
Missy: Yeah, genius. That’s you. I was going along just fine until you got that stupid preference for third person in your big fat head.
Meljean: Well that’s just weird. I wonder when it happened. It was before this book, btw — because I actually put off reading it for a little while when I saw the POV.
Missy: A little while? Like … a day?
Meljean: Hey, that was a huge effort when I was seventeen. Anyway, it didn’t matter — the voices are distinct, and each time I get in either of their heads, I like being there.
Missy: Whatever, loser. So he’s gorgeous, rich, and a werewolf. Why can’t he marry her?
Meljean: Because she’s an anthromorph — a werewolf who can’t change shape. And if Noel is going to be king one day (which he never intended to be, btw — his cousin gave up the throne in the first book) he can’t have an anthromorph for a queen.
Missy: Well, he can just give up his throne, too. Duh.
Meljean: No, he can’t.
Meljean: A) it’s not in his character, B) the pack would go to hell.
Meljean: Do you see a capital letter in hell? So, anyway, Victoria is the pack outcast, despite being super-gorgeous and talented.
Missy: And he thinks she’s a traitor?
Meljean: Well, yeah. There’s this ad campaign, and bits and pieces of it are being leaked to rival companies. So he’s like, “Are you screwing with the pack?” and she’s like, “Go fuck off, you sexy beast! And I should screw the pack, because all you shape-shifters are assholes!”
Meljean: What? That’s kind of what happens. Anyway, it’s really awesome.
Missy: And you’re leaving it at that?
Meljean: Well, yeah. I’ve got work — and any more might be spoilers.
Missy: Then I’ll read it.
Meljean: Uh, but you weren’t actually old enough —
Missy: I’M READING THIS FREAKING BOOK, FATHEAD! You explaining it like this is stupid.
Meljean: But —
Missy: Shut up. Go write, and I’ll read.
ONE. YEAR. LATER.
Meljean: So … ?
Missy: So, what?
Meljean: There weren’t any horsies in it.
Missy: Up yours.
Meljean: Or any virgins.
Missy: Well, actually, it’s hard to tell, considering that the first time they —
Meljean: We won’t go there. Flanders didn’t, and she handled it just right. So, uh — weren’t you going to give the readers a blow-by-blow account?
Missy: *kicks rock* I don’t really want to spoil it for anyone. It’s … different.
Meljean: In a bad way?
Missy: A good one. First, there’s Victoria. I want to be Victoria! I want her hair and her apartment —
Meljean: Yep, here we go.
Missy: Shut up, loser! She’s awesome! Everybody in the pack hates her and she doesn’t really fit in with humans, either, but she doesn’t sit around crying. She’s kind of happy with her life, even though she’s lonely. And she’s smart! And you can tell she’s a werewolf! She has totally different ways of looking at things than most heroines do. She really thinks she’s superior to humans — smarter, stronger, better suited to everything. All of the werewolves do.
Meljean: The werewolves actually remind me of most romance-novel vampires in many respects: cultured, rich, viciously manipulative. This is a scene where, while trying to sniff out the traitor, Noel takes her to a party and everyone insults Victoria to her face. Noel begins to leave, the hostess begs him not to … and
I realized they had no idea they had done anything wrong. In fact, no one in the room saw anything wrong with the way they had reacted to Victoria, not even Victoria herself. That in itself infuriated me, and I might have left, anyway, but for the steadying pressure of Victoria’s fingers on my arm […]
I said in quiet, polite French, but distinctly enough for everyone to hear, “It is not my wish to make anyone uncomfortable. Please remember, however, that when you insult my guest, you insult me.”
Stillman avoided my eyes, clearly confused. His wife tugged at her necklace in increasing distress. “Sir, I don’t understand what you mean. Of course–”
And then, to my surprise as much as anyone’s, Victoria spoke up. Her voice was cool and clear and held only the slightest tinge of impatience, nothing more. “What he means,” she said, “is that he is the heir designé. If he brought a trained monkey to dinner with him, he would expect it to be seated at the table. Is that really such a difficult concept?”
“Oh.” The faces around me cleared. “Oh, yes, of course.” Avril Stillman bowed deeply, as did her husband. “Our pardon, sir. We intended no offense.”
I turned again to Victoria, raising an inquisitive eyebrow as I offered her my arm.
She lifted a dismissive shoulder and murmured, “You just have to put it in terms they can understand.”
Missy: Oh, and the bathtub scene.
Meljean: Yeah, that scene, too. Sexy, yet at the same time underscoring not only the differences in werewolf culture, but the problems Noel and Victoria have to overcome. It’s just a fantastic scene … and, ew, that I’m talking about it with you. What about Noel?
Missy: Who cares???? Victoria! Victoria!
Meljean: I actually like him. It took me a while to warm up to him, but once I looked at everything like Victoria did — that, to her werewolf sensibilities (and in many respects, human ones), it was honorable and heroic to sacrifice his personal happiness for the sake of the pack, which translated to the sake of the world — I appreciated his character much, much more.
I said simply, gazing into the dark woods, “I cannot rule alone. But for me there will never be another queen but Victoria.”
And that was the essence of it, the summation of all my despair. For the love of a woman an empire was lost? Not quite. Only the heart of its ruler. And I was sure this was not the first time in history, human or werewolf, that has happened.
Meljean: He really turned my head around when it came to thinking about different types of heroes. Plus, he’s got a good character arc in this story. And although I’m not completely sold on the traitor’s identity and how that came about … it fits the category length, and is appropriate to the internal conflicts of the characters. Really, despite the traitor plot that puts the events in motion — this book is all about the characters. And at the time, I’d never read a character like Victoria.
Missy: Blah, blah, shut up! Victoria! Victoria!
Missy: Whatever! Victoria!
Meljean: … Next up, Maggie Shayne’s TWILIGHT MEMORIES.