Friday, August 29, 2008

The Mane Event (anthology, book) by Shelly Laurenston

This book contains two novellas, "Christmas Pride" and "Shaw's Tail." I'm calling it an anthology because I don't think either of these novellas were ever released on their own. The back of the book calls this a paranormal romance, but I think it would more accurately be called a paranormal erotic romance - in the first novella sex is more important than romance (whatever Laurenston may try to claim), and in the second novella sex is nearly as important as romance. I was a bit disappointed, since I hadn't been expecting that - I was browsing the shelves of new books at my public library, saw "paranormal romance" on the spine, and assumed I'd get something like Sherrilyn Kenyon's books. No such luck. While lion shapeshifters are fun, and while I found Laurenston's attempts to combine human behavior and lion/wolf behavior in her shapeshifter characters interesting, I tend to like my romance with more romance - no matter what some might think, sex is not romance.

As far as the read-alikes go, I'll be listing them all the way at the bottom of this post, since I didn't feel the two novellas were different enough that they would each need their own read-alike lists.

"Christmas Pride":

Mace Llewellyn, a lion shapshifter, has just come back to his Pride after being in the Navy. He plans to break things off with his Pride and go off on his own - male lion shifters in the Pride are expected to have sex with all the women and get as many of them pregnant as possible, but Mace is unusual in that he would like to settle down with one woman. Specifically, he'd like to settle down with Dez, an Irish-Puerto Rican woman he was friends with as a kid and who he hasn't seen since. When Mace gets home, he discovers that one of the Pride's males has been killed, his sister, the head of the Pride, is one of the suspects, and Dez is part of the investigating team. Mace isn't particularly upset about the murder, and he hates his sister, so, rather than get worked up about the murder investigation, he flirts heavily with Dez. Mace's sisters have made it clear that they don't consider Dez to be worthy of Mace, but Mace is determined to convince Dez that they're perfect for each other. Soon, however, Mace finds himself having to show Dez what he is - she's a little freaked out at first, but it isn't long before the two of them are having sex. Dez's objectivity is blown, so she can no longer work on the murder case, but she finds herself getting involved in it anyway. She and Mace have to deal with the danger this puts her in.

I disliked parts of this novella so much that I almost quit reading it at several points. I'm not very good with erotic romance - I don't like it when the main characters of a story use the word "f**k" when they talk about having sex with each other, and I want main characters of a romantic story to actually engage in activities that show that they like each other and have more in common than sex. If I remember right, Mace and Dez don't actually have sex until at least half way through the novella, but they think about sex all the time. Mace frequently says that his feelings for Dez are about more than sex, but there's little proof of that. When he's around her, all he can think about is her breasts and having sex with her. Dez feels pretty much the same way when she's around Mace. The only things they do around each other than don't involve sex or thinking about sex are talking about the murder or about their past or the bit where Mace finds Dez watching Cops.

Speaking of Dez's breasts... They were mentioned a lot, and apparently they are huge. Like, porn star huge. Laurenston couldn't seem to decide whether to make Dez shy about her body (a little chubby; she was self-conscious when she was a girl because she developed early) or really bold (wearing a leather corset for Mace, tricks with her breasts, etc.), so she tried to do both, and it didn't really work. Laurenston wrote about Dez as though she were making sure that potential male readers would have something to drool over, and, who knows, maybe she does have a lot of male readers. That would explain the emphasis on sex over romance.

The most romantic parts of this book were the bits where Mace or Dez thought about their relationship when they were younger. Their relationship sounded really sweet. Mace was the funny, skinny boy with the wild hair whom Dez befriended. If Laurenston had spent more time on those parts and used them to develop scenes where Dez and Mace get to know each other again (after all, it's been a long time since they've last seen each other - 17 years?), I think I would've liked this novella much more.

I don't really know for sure, but I felt like Laurenston went a little over the top when she wrote about Dez and dogs. When Dez was in the military (yes, she was in the military, too), she trained dogs. Her dog was so vicious that it scared even her, but she managed to get the dog under control. When the dog was given to a different handler, however, it apparently took the handler's hand off. Tell me, if Dez was such a good trainer, wouldn't a dog she'd trained be able to handle being with another trainer? I don't really know for sure, but it seems to me like that would be the case.

"Shaw's Tail":

Brendon Shaw, a lion shifter and wealthy hotel owner, got into trouble during the events of the previous novella. A wolf shifter named Ronnie makes sure he stays safe while he recovers from his wounds and a fever, and she is both amused and dismayed when the feverish Brendon acts attracted to her. Wolves and lions don't generally mix, and, besides, Ronnie is trying to clean up her act and be a good girl - she's spent years as a wild child, doing dangerous things, getting banned from whole countries, and sleeping with anything attractive and male. She's decided that she should be a proper female wolf shifter and find another wolf shifter to settle down with. Things don't go as planned, though, because Brendon is still interested in her, even after he gets over his fever, and Ronnie is attracted to him, too. Brendon has to convince her they'd make a good couple, and they both have to overcome the objections of their family members.

After the previous novella, I was afraid of what I was going to have to deal with in this one, but I enjoyed this novella much more than the previous one. That doesn't mean I thought it was great, but it certainly was a quicker and more enjoyable read.

Brendon and Ronnie actually manage to have fun with each other and get to know each other a little. Granted, during a good portion of the "getting to know each other" part, Brendon was delirious with fever - I loved how goofy the fever made him, and I actually liked Brendon better in his lion form than in his human form sometimes. Later on, after Brendon has recovered from his fever and after he and Ronnie have begun something of a relationship, Brendon takes Ronnie to meet his children. I enjoyed that scene, and it wasn't as weird and tense as it could have been, since the mothers of Brendon's children weren't upset that he had a new woman and Ronnie wasn't jealous and upset that Brendon had had children. It was just understood that these children were part of the life Brendon had to lead as part of his agreement with the Pride - he didn't like having to be a breeder, and was getting out of that life, but he loved his children. In addition to Ronnie meeting Brendon's kids, Brendon gets to meet Ronnie's family. Unlike in the previous novella, where Mace and Dez can barely keep themselves from pawing each other when her family is over for Christmas dinner, Brendon and Ronnie behave themselves when they're around her family (for the most part), and I liked that.

Ronnie wasn't always presented in such a nice way as Brendon - she of the Tennessee accent came across as a bit of a hick sometimes, and she frequently thinks about her mother and others calling her a whore because of her tendency to sleep with lots of men. Laurenston had already established in the previous volume that female wolf shifters tend to have big feet, and she continues that with Ronnie. I found the references to her big feet somewhat distracting, but at least it wasn't as annoying as Dez's breasts.

As with the previous novella, Laurenston went a little over the top with some things, particularly in her presentation of Ronnie's "wildness." Ronnie tells Brendon that her behavior has gotten her banned from several countries. Laurenston later continues the joke by having Brendon complain about the list of places he can't take Ronnie to, because she's been banned. While I'm sure it's possible to be banned from a country, it's a little over the top for Laurenston to act like Ronnie has managed to get herself banned from a long list of places.

Oh, as an added note, in case you are interested in the sex in this book, the second novella has something that I don't think I've ever seen before in erotic romance (or any other romance, for that matter): role play. A couple times during the story, Ronnie pretends to be an inexperienced schoolgirl who's come over to tutor Brendon, who's role playing as a bad boy jock. It was a bit weird, and it wasn't really something that interested me, but it's worth mentioning. Bondage comes up a lot in erotic romance; role playing does not.

Although I hated the first novella, I liked the second novella enough that I might give Laurenston another chance and try something else by her. In a final note, unrelated to the content, the copy of this book that I read had a publishing error - pages 329-360 were repeated. It's not too big a deal, because no pages were actually left out, but it confused me a bit at first.


  • Megan's Mark (book) by Lora Leigh - This is the first book in Leigh's Breeds series. Megan Fields is a Sherrif's Deputy in the deserts of New Mexico. She'd prefer to work in a more populated area, but her empathic abilities make this impossible. She rarely has to deal with real trouble, until the day she comes across two dead Breeds (Breeds are genetically engineered blends of human and animal DNA). When someone starts shooting at Megan, her rescue comes in the form of Braden Arness, a Lion Breed. Megan's not sure who to trust and is suspicious of Braden, who only wants to protect her, find out who killed the two Breeds, and discover their reasons why. Braden and Megan are attracted to each other - Braden knows that Megan is his mate, but he also knows that if he kisses her she has little choice but to be his, and he'd rather that she choose him of her own free will. Those who'd like another erotic paranormal romance featuring werelions might like this book.
  • Night Play (book) by Sherrilyn Kenyon - This is the 6th book in Kenyon's Dark-Hunter series, but I think it's her first book starring one of her world's shapeshifters. Vane Kattalakis, a shapeshifter who can change into a wolf, is alone - he can't return to his pack and his brother is in a coma. However, things start to look a little up (and become more complicated) when Vane meets Bride, a store owner who has problems believing someone as gorgeous as Vane could really be interested in her. Bride is Vane's mate, and if he can't get her to accept him he'll spend the rest of his life (many decades) alone and impotent. Unfortunately, this means Bride has to accept Vane's non-human status and survive the danger that surrounds him. Those who'd like another paranormal romance featuring shapeshifters, a mixture of humor and action, and a writing style similar to Laurenston's might like this book. Although this is not an erotic romance, there are quite a few steamy sex scenes.
  • Master of the Night (book) by Angela Knight - According to KDL What's next, this book is the first in Knight's Master series - according to, it's the second in her Mageverse series. It's been a while since I've read this, so I can't really say which website is correct. Anyway, Knight re-imagines the legend of Arthur and Merlin, combining it with vampire lore. This particular book stars Vampire Knight Reece and Erin Grayson, a woman determined to seduce Reece under the mistaken impression that this will help her get her revenge against a murderous organization. Reece and Erin are attracted to each other, but this attraction is a danger to Reece, who will be put to death by his own people if he sleeps with her three times, since this would turn her into a Maya (another kind of mortal that has a symbiotic relationship with vampires) without the permission of the Council. Those who'd like another erotic paranormal romance might enjoy this book.
  • Full Moon Rising (book) by Keri Arthur - This is the first book in the Riley Jensen Guardian series. Riley Jensen and her twin brother are half vampire, half werewolf. In Riley, the werewolf side is pretty strong, but she does have a few gifts courtesy of her vampire side. In this fast-paced book, Riley's twin goes missing and a naked vampire turns up on her doorstep. Riley and Quinn team up to find her brother and end up uncovering lots of scary stuff about clones of supernatural creatures (cloned vampires are only the tip of the iceberg). Those who'd like another story with steamy sex scenes and shapeshifters of all sorts might like this book and series.
  • Mine to Take (book) by Dara Joy - In this futuristic romance, beautiful Jenise will do anything to escape being married to her late stepfather's evil brother, Karpon. She discovers that Karpon has captured a shapeshifter named Gian Ren and makes him an offer he can't refuse - she offers him her virginity in exchange for his help in escaping. What Jenise doesn't know is that she is Gian's mate, and he doesn't plan to let her go. The two of them journey together, fleeing Karpon and his soldiers and gradually getting to know each other. Those who'd like another romance with steamy sex scenes and feline shapeshifters that display a mix of feline and human behavior might like this book. This is not the first book in the series, although it should still be understandable overall.

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