I recently taught a class where the subject of the Twilight novels was broached. Several members of the class were huge fans. Others were less enthusiastic. My favourite quote from the whole lesson came when one student said the books were simply: one girl’s choice between necrophilia and bestiality.
But it got us onto discussing werewolves and vampires and how, in the current trend for paranormal fiction, vampires seem to be winning the battle for popularity. This is understandable when you realise that vampires are cool, vampires are sexy (and sometimes sparkly) and vampires are immortal. But it overlooks the appeal of werewolves.
You’ll have to forgive a personal bias here but I genuinely feared werewolves when I was a small child. I was young, impressionable, and had been listening to adults with twisted senses of humour. They convinced me werewolves were real and I spent several sleepless nights each full moon petrified that I was going to be devoured by an extra from The Howling. Fortunately, thanks to medication and the work of a good therapist, I’m almost over that fear now.
This is not to say that I think werewolves should replace vampires. (Buffy the Werewolf Fighter would sound plain stupid as the title for a TV show). But I do think they are undervalued as a genuinely scary theme for paranormal fiction.
Take Pack of Lies as an example. Written by the extremely talented Vanessa Vaughn, and published by Ravenous Romance, Pack of Lies is a well-paced tale of wily werewolves. It smolders on every page. Vaughn makes the tension in this story as tight as can be suffered, creating characters who appear realistic even when the subject matter is paranormal creatures that mutate from human to werewolf beneath the light of a full moon.
The suspension of disbelief in any paranormal story is a hard trick to navigate. The writer has to make the world believable and unbelievable in the same moment.
Vaughn manages this with aplomb.
Similarly, trying to make the unbelievably believable story erotic, whilst maintaining some semblance of a plot, means the writer needs to play a balancing act akin to spinning plates on a pole, onboard a pitching and yawing boat, during a thunderstorm.
Vaughan does this with sufficient style as to make it look effortless.
If I sound like I’m going overboard with the praise (and the nautical similes) then you’ll have to bear with me. As a reviewer I’m not just exposed to good books. I’m also forced to read some pretty dire wastes of paper. This means I’ve seen the shipwrecks that have been sound ideas, piloted by some of the writing world’s less-talented captains. I’ve read through the flotsam and jetsam of spurious crap that make you weep for the future of humanity.
Vaughan doesn’t fall into that category.
Pack of Lies is marketed as m/m paranormal romance. The story begins with a werewolf orgy that blends m/m relationships with hetero scenes and the rough and ready passion of understandable animal instincts. The characters are introduced as complex in media res creations that live their life beyond the confines of the narrative. When the story’s central human character is introduced, accidentally running over a werewolf, the excitement moves up a notch, the plot’s complexities kick into overdrive, and the pace never lets go.
For anyone who enjoys being gripped by werewolves, Pack of Lies is the erotic download you need to read. Well-paced, well-written and well worth the investment of time and money. Don’t wait for the next full moon to have your fun with this one.