You love the escape and fantasy of shifters—but you dislike some of the less-than-woke themes that are common to the genre. You want a kick-ass heroine, a supportive hero (who isn’t a giant jerk) and you want the gritty otherness that comes with the shifter sub-genre—but if you have to suffer through or DNF another shifter romance where the heroine is physically or emotionally harmed by the hero she eventually falls for you might scream.
I spent years trying to find shifter romances where the heroine is safe. That doesn’t mean she’s comfortable—growth is uncomfortable and I definitely want my heroine to grow over the course of the story—but I don’t want the danger and threat to come from the man (or woman) she will grow to love. I had such poor luck finding stories like this for so long that eventually I wrote a shifter series myself (more on that later) but, in the meantime, I figured out the top three things to look for in a shifter romance description to help you spot a sexy, healthy story before you ever read the first page.
- Family Ties – not pack politics.
- The family can be found, or blood relation, but it isn’t political. Not everybody has to get along, but hierarchy isn’t at the core of the conflict.
- In wolf-shifter romance, the Alpha-Beta struggle isn’t a core part of the conflict. It’s likely to be present, and probably contributes to the conflict and action, but it isn’t the primary theme. (Think Jacob Black and his drama with Sam in Breaking Dawn.)
- Othering that is acknowledged and dealt with as part of the character arc/story.
- Characters who are outside of their family/shifter construct (or simply outside of human society) where that “outside of” is part of the character arc. This leads to self-aware character development, which seems to correspond to less abusive hero-heroine relationships. (See Binding Shadows by Jasmine Silvera for an excellent example of this.)
- Characters who come into their own under their own agency, whether by realizing their power or recognizing their limitations.
- Not “saved by love alone.”
- For examples of confident characters who recognize their limits (usually via the relationship with their partner), see the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. (Not shifters, but same idea.)
There you have it! There are tons of other things to look for, so comment and share your ideas.
In other news, I’ll be making an announcement about my Shift Series later this month! The Shift Series has been on hiatus since the end of 2020 while it received some TLC and I can’t wait to get it back into readers’ hands with fresh new covers that better represent the series. Sign up for my newsletter to see the new covers and hear the news first (and to receive a steamy, sex-positive scene delivered to your inbox every month. 😉)