A wave of hate crimes targeting shifters has local doctor Royce Buchanan on high alert in his hospital’s Emergency Room. A report of a stray dog has animal rescue volunteer Joanie arguing with a crazy man waving a wand in an alley. It’s witches versus bitches, and the advantage isn’t with our heroes.
Man has dream, woman has mission
Waking Up Wolf‘s male lead, Dr Royce Buchanan, is looking for his mate. Not just a girlfriend and not just a wife; Dr Royce is looking for romance on a grand scale, a universal scale, a trans-dimensional scale. He wants a primal perfection that he will never doubt and can never deny.
If Dr Royce was a female character in a historical novel, he is going to catch a fever, realize his dreams are unrealistic, and marry the guy his mother chose. Thank his furry stars this is a paranormal romance. Fate is looking out for him, in the shape of author Erzabet Bishop.
Female lead Joanie is not on the market for supernatural connections with fluffygrumps. Her dreams are much more relatable: leave an abusive ex behind her, hang out with her cat, live surrounded by books. At no point does she get the chance to opt out of the disruption and violence of Waking Up Wolf, but Joanie is more adaptable than I will ever be.
There’s no suggestion that Joanie is too naive or stupid to defend her existence as an independent person whose body is her own. She’s not weak or passive. Joanie simply decides that the compensation package is worth the cost, and who am I to tell her that she’s wrong?
When werewolf novels exist in werewolf novels
Joanie has had years of pop-culture training before things get real weird for her. She knows the difference between a romance novel werewolf and An American Werewolf in London. So watching her grapple with the collision of what she knows is make-believe, what she thinks is reality, and what actually turns out to be reality is a joy.
“That didn’t sound crazy from a guy playing Harry Potter in an alley, not at all… Judging from all angles, he was nuts. But then again, there was a naked woman standing in an alley where there had been a wolf dog so, there you go.”
There you go, indeed.
The paranormal elements in Waking Up Wolf feel integrated and believable. How would a hospital emergency room handle an injured werewolf? (Isolation room, naturally. If you are ever struggling to be admitted to hospital, try telling them you are a werewolf.) How would a sympathetic member of the community describe shape-shifters politely? (“Dual-natured,” which is elegantly sufficient. Are all werewolves born under Gemini?) In a dominance stare-off between a werewolf and a ginger tabby cat, who wins? (Buy the novella and find out for yourself.)
The only thing in Waking Up Wolf that I couldn’t believe in was Joanie’s 1996-era cell phone belt holster. Credit where credit is due: Generation X killed the belt-clip cell phone case long before Millennials got their murderous hands on it. Maybe Joanie wears it ironically?
Defeating hatred, someday
The backdrop this world plays against is a nice piece of contemporary allegory: the horror of racially-targeted violence, the creeping evil of a movement based on hatred and exclusion, the hypocrisy of bigotry. It brings real emotional weight and stakes to Waking Up Wolf when it could have been nothing more than a sexy trifle. There is nothing wrong with sexy trifles, but if an author can do more, she should. Author Erzabet Bishop does more, and mostly carries it off.
Waking Up Wolf moves fast. A slow burn this isn’t. And no matter how fast it moves, there aren’t enough pages to cover all the story it wants to cover. The tormentor has barely begun to torment, female lead Joanie has barely begun to wrestle with the accumulating revelations, Royce has hardly questioned his goals for his life, and then it’s over. Waking Up Wolf is still adding story as it’s ending, which has to make you wonder why the heck it’s ending where it is. Waking Up Wolf is half of a wonderful book, and has everything it needs except words.❤