Friday, August 5, 2011

Frat Boyz R Us: Shelly Laurenston's Paranormal Furballs

I think it's pretty apparent why shapeshifters and romance became a successful genre. There is something inherently sexy and domineering and elemental about a wild beast. Strip away the humanity, and what you have left is a being who thinks about eating and survival and sex and protecting his pack and loved ones. There is nothing sexier than an intense, mysterious werewolf claiming its mate (oh, how I love you Vane Kattalakis).

I love serious, intense shapeshifters (Sherrilyn Kenyon). I love funny shapeshifters (Molly Harper). I love steampunky shapeshifters (Gail Carriger). And I especially love Scottish shapeshifters tortured by vampires (Kresley Cole). But for some strange reason, I am not getting the whole Shelly Laurenston thing.

I know folks who absolutely adore this author, but I couldn't stand the first two books I read by her. Beast Behaving Badly was a bad introduction to the Pride series. I thought Blayne was a horrible heroine--irritating and hyper. There were too many confusing characters and I didn't get the humor.  Pack Challenge (Magnus Pack series) was even worse. I hated the hero, the heroine, and all of their friends. I didn't find cussing, slapping, and constant insults funny, nor did I find it sexy or romantic.

I just finished reading The Mane Squeeze (Pride series #4) and I really enjoyed this story. (I will get back to that review in a moment.) But it finally dawned on me what is totally bizarre about these books.

In a nutshell, it's Animal House. With real animals.

All of the characters act like drunken fraternity brothers. The guys. The girls. Their parents. Their grandparents. And I'm not talking about one of those geeky fraternities where the guys wear glasses and are computer geniuses. I'm talking about John Belushi-style fraternity boys, waking up in a pile of their own vomit and drool, and wearing underwear on their head. The animals in Laurenston's books act like a bunch of immature, idiotic fraternity boys. They party. They slap each other around. They cuss and insult each other. They resort to violence in short order. And the girls are actually worse than the guys! Even the parents act like imbeciles. Honestly, I think Laurenston is giving the animal kingdom a bad rap. Real animals behave better than most of these losers.

Now, it could be funny I suppose. Some folks find these very humorous. But I keep waiting for a real grown-up to show up. They never do.

I think one of the reasons I really enjoyed The Mane Squeeze is that it has a lot more subtlety than the other two I read. The hero is a sweet beta bear, and the heroine is not as unlikable as the other heroines. The over-the-top antics are still here, but slightly toned back, and the humor was perfect. I did laugh out loud more than once.

Strangely, I loved Blayne in this story. She is still hyper and weird, but also charming and sweetly loyal to her friend. Too bad those qualities didn't dominate her own book. However, I still found the number of characters overwhelming, the complicated family structures confusing, and the politics of all the different packs difficult to understand. On the plus side, I love that Laurenston has Asian characters and black characters and hybrid characters, and deals with the bigotry and intolerance they experience.

I'm glad I finally read a Laurenston book I liked, but I think I'm done with her series. I can only take Animal House in small doses, and I like my shapeshifters a bit more dignified and sexy. (Playing with one's toes is cute and goofy, but not so high up on the sexy meter.) I'm sure the Shelly Laurenston fans are going to let me have it. Bring it on. I can take it. I already got slammed by a JD Robb fanatic at Bertucci's and I lived to tell the tale.

Struggling with a strange urge to do a beer bong,