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WOLVES & TIGERS & DRAGONS OH MY!: A Guest Post by Piper Vaughn

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Hi, all! Thanks to Leah for having me today! It’s no secret I’m a big fan of shifters and paranormal romance. I eat them up like candy—or maybe like Pringles, “Once you pop, you can’t stop!” (I’m showing my age here, aren’t I?) I just love the idea of being able to shift into a completely different creature, and I’m always interested to see how the traits of the animalistic side might carry over into the human side, and also how the author portrays things like pack/pride/sleuth/clan dynamics, depending on the shifter type. And on a baser level, well, I do adore fated mates and biting/marking and possessive declarations of “mine!” But, of course, I have some definite favorite (mostly queer) series, and today, I’m here to talk about a few of those. Let’s jump right in!

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First up, R. Cooper’s BEING(S) IN LOVE series. Now, if you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen me rave about this gorgeous urban fantasy series once or twice (or more, ahem). The pining, y’all. THE PINING. R. Cooper is a master at super slow-burn, unresolved sexual tension, and it hurts so very good! With a cast that includes fairies, elves, and other fantasy creatures (Trolls! Demons!), the series isn’t strictly shifters, but several of the titles feature shifter characters. There are werewolves and then there are dragons, who shift in a magical way as opposed to their bodies physically rearranging themselves.

25311303My absolute favorite book in the Beings universe is LITTLE WOLF, which features one of my favorite characters ever, Nathaniel Neri. Let me just put it out there—this is a hot alpha werewolf I would gladly submit too… if Tim wouldn’t scratch my eyes out for touching his man, that is. The pining in this story is particularly excruciating, but, wow, is it worth it in the end, and Tim and Nathaniel are sexy as hell together. But what I love most is watching Tim, who was half human, find himself and his place in the town of Wolf’s Paw after essentially spending the majority of his life locked away with only his uncle and his uncle’s pack (wolves kept around for security) for company. He doesn’t really know how to people, and he’s just about as clueless a werewolf as they come because he never learned how to trust or interpret his instincts or even what different scents mean. It was wonderful watching him grow and soften and fall in love, despite his perception of the world being seriously skewed due to his upbringing.

Next up is a series I’ve been following for about a third of my life! Whoa. Let me take that in for a moment…

435045Phew. So, if you’re into paranormal romance, you’ve most likely heard of Kresley Cole’s IMMORTALS AFTER DARK. Again, this isn’t a series strictly about shifters. The characters run the gamut from vampires to demons to Valkyrie and lots of stuff in between. But! It does include a few of my favorite Lykae who I just can’t leave off this list! There’s poor tormented Bowen from WICKED DEEDS ON A WINTER’S NIGHT, who lost his mate years ago, but now finds himself drawn to a beautiful young witch. Then there’s Garreth from PLEASURE OF A DARK PRINCE, who’s recognized the lovely huntress Lucia as his mate, but she won’t stop running from him, and he, with his strong protective instincts, can’t stop chasing her. The entire series is so much fun, but I love how over-the-top possessive and growly the werewolves are. That is my catnip, y’all, and I often go back to reread just so I can roll around in it. If you haven’t tried this series yet, give it a whirl! It’s still unfinished, and I’m still a loyal follower 12 years after the first title released. That’s saying something!

Then we have Jordan L. Hawk’s HEXWORLD series. This is a historical, urban fantasy mystery series. Each book consists of a witch and their shifter familiar, though the animals they shift into vary, and while the familiars and their witches don’t always become romantically involved in this universe, these books are all romances too. I’ve 29505845loved every title so far, and I’d have a hard time picking a favorite. Hawk’s writing and world-building are awesome, and I adore her quirky characters and how different they all are. This series is 100% worth checking out, as is all of Hawk’s other work.

In the first full-length title, HEXBREAKER, you have a cop named Tom, who is hiding his former affiliation with a gang, and Cicero, a cat shifter, who is investigating the disappearance of a friend and the death of another one. Cicero recognizes Tom as his witch, but these two men are complete opposites and don’t seem very suited to each other. At least not at first. Of course, as the story progresses, they find out just how well they work together, and getting there is most of the fun!

Now let’s get to some series that are all shifters, all the time.

36218248If you enjoy a British setting, I highly recommend Annabelle Jacobs’s REGENT’S PARK PACK series! I mean, talk about possessive werewolves. Damn. These guys (and girls!) growl and lick fangs and struggle to keep their hands off each other, and I LOVE EVERY SECOND. My favorite is BITTEN BY DESIRE, which features pack beta Alec falling for a wolf from their rival pack, and these two guys burn up the sheets, let me tell you. I’ve reread the entire series—and I really do suggest reading them in order for the most enjoyable experience—but this is the book I’ve reread the most. I just loved Alec and Mark. It’s a case of “let’s have sex to blow off some steam,” which of course leads to catching feelings, and when it comes to werewolves, those feelings are amplified times a hundred. Read it, love it, come tell me about it on Twitter so we can squee together.

In terms of dark romance, Joel Abernathy’s FLESH AND BONE series simply rocks my world. Don’t take the label of dark romance lightly because things do get intense, but at 39678549the same time, I don’t think it was nearly as dark as I was expecting. But if you’re into enemies-to-lovers, EXHALE might be exactly what you need to whet your appetite. We have Jack, whose daughter has been kidnapped, and Nicolae, a badass alpha wolf who, as Jack discovers, is the rightful mate to Jack’s late wife and who now considers Jack’s daughter as rightfully his. Problem is, Jack had no clue his wife was a werewolf, and now, to try to save his daughter, he’s thrust into a world he never expected and forced to enter into a tentative alliance with a werewolf who seems to hate his guts.

This series has alpha-beta-omega dynamics, which means there is very much a shifter hierarchy in place, and the omegas have heats, so fair warning if that’s not your bag, but if you like fated mates, magic, knotting, and interesting secondary characters, get on this series ASAP.

Of course, I have to give a shout-out to Charlie Cochet’s amazing THIRDS series too. This starts with HELL & HIGH WATER. Detective Dex Daley helps send his partner away from murder and subsequently puts himself in the crosshairs of people who are very pissed off about that fact. As a result, his adoptive father gets him recruited to THIRDS (Therian22267616 Human Intelligence Recon Defense Squadron ). The series takes place in an alternate universe in which some people have become shifters as a result of biological warfare/a virus. That was in the past, and by the start of this series, THIRDs has long been an established law enforcement agency. In the squadron, humans are paired with Therians (the cat shifters) and work together to pursue justice for all species and to handle any threats or crimes relating to Therians.

The THIRDS series is filled with action-adventure, romance, and humor, and if you’re a fan of shifters and read M/M, it’s likely you’ve already heard of it, but if you somehow haven’t and you enjoy stories about cops or military men, you simply must check it out!

Another series I have to mention, although it’s not really romance so much as UF/mystery, is the INFECTED series by Andrea Speed. I’m including it because there are some romantic subplots, but mostly because Roan is a shifter and probably one of my favorite characters ever. (I mean, I have a tattoo in his honor.)  Much like in THIRDS, the cat shifters in this universe came about due to a virus. Roan is a private detective, but unlike most people who are infected, he was born with the werecat virus and he’s the only virus child to survive into adulthood.

What to even say about Roan? He’s a character unlike any other. A smart, tough, cynical, book-loving, serial monogamist, who is interesting and snarky and just a wonderfully drawn, vivid character who I still think about often years later.

23420502In the Infected universe, when shifters turn into their animal counterparts, they have no sense of self and don’t recognize friend or foe and won’t remember their actions once they shift back—think horror movie types of werewolves who go on killing sprees and then wake up naked somewhere with nary a clue about what naughty things they’ve been up to, like chomping down Rover from next door. This means when Roan, or his boyfriend, is forced to shift, he has to be locked up in a cage to avoid causing harm to others.

Aside from my enduring love for Roan and the other characters, this was a solid mystery series with excellent world-building. If you don’t mind mystery heavy reads with just a little dash of romance, I’d suggest giving the series a shot! Also worth mentioning—there is no on-page sex in this series at all. Everything is fade to black.

Now I know MPREG can be a controversial topic, but I do read and enjoy it, and I feel it’d be remiss of me if I didn’t mention a couple of the series that I really love for fellow fans, so I’m going to close out this post by discussing those series. If MPREG isn’t your cuppa, I’ll say goodbye to you now, but I hope you’ll check out some of the books I mentioned above!

My favorite MPREG shifter series is Ann-Katrin Byrde’s MERCY HILLS PACK. This series has it all. Wonderful writing and great world-building, found family, second chances, kind alphas and the strong, sometimes sweet, sometimes fierce, omegas they fall in love with.

As is the case with many series with ABO dynamics, whether they include MPREG or not, 29635743in this world, most packs consider omegas second-class citizens and they are often treated poorly. Some of the omegas in this series do have abuse in their pasts, but Byrde handles it with sensitivity and never includes anything simply to be gratuitous. Beyond that, I really like the way she depicts characters who are struggling to overcome prior traumas. Byrde does this with a deft hand and kindness, which I love. And Mercy Hills is definitely an exception among the packs in this universe, as omegas there are allowed the same freedoms as everyone else and the pack becomes a sort of haven for runaway omegas.

In MATING THE OMEGA, Jason is an omega wolf who’s been on the run for years because he didn’t want to be forced to mate the cruel alpha of his former pack. When his old pack finally tracks him down and injures his father, he escapes to Mercy Hills to ask for sanctuary and falls for Mac, the pack’s Head of Security. It’s the second book, ABEL’S OMEGA, that is my favorite of the bunch, but this is another series I recommend reading in order as there are overarching plot threads being carried across all of the books, in addition to the individual romances.

30195677Lastly, there’s THE MOUNTAIN SHIFTERS by LC Davis. For those who don’t know, Joel Abernathy is a secondary pseudonym for Davis, though the Abernathy series does not include MPREG. This is a long series at about 13 books, and I’ve read and enjoyed them all. Again, I’d recommend starting at book one if you want to dip your toes into this series, although my favorites are in the middle. But the coolest thing about this series, in my opinion, is the inclusion of a trans omega (FTM), Mel, who is a total badass and a big figure throughout the series. Heed the warnings, though, because there are omegas in this universe with trauma in their pasts. But Davis is another author who handles those elements with sensitivity and care. They’re also great at creating big found families and tough alphas who fall really hard for their omegas (and betas!), and that’s always something I enjoy!

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That’s all from me for now. There are some standalone shifter titles I could mention, but since this post is already pretty long, I’ll save those for another time.

What is your favorite shifter series, queer or otherwise? I’m always looking for recs, so feel free to comment below!

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