Sensual Reads Guest Blog: The Allure of Shapeshifters By Teresa Noelle Roberts

Werewolves. Cat shifters. Kitsune—Japanese fox-shifters, featured in my new release, Foxes’ Den. Romance readers can’t seem to get enough to get enough of part-time furry heroes and heroines. I love both reading their stories and writing them. The books I’m currently reading include one of Lori Handeland’s Nightcreature series and one of Kate Douglas’s very sexy Wolf Tales. The duals in my Duals and Donovans series (so far, Lions’ Pride and Foxes’ Den) are shifters who aren’t linked to the moon. They’re a species separate from humans, mostly unable to work magic themselves, yet exceedingly attractive to witches because they can augment certain powers, especially sex magic. I’m having a marvelous time with this series because there are so many animal possibilities. So far I’ve done lions, cougars and foxes, and I’m considering a water witch and an otter dual hooking up. Then I happened to stumble upon a story about the birth of twin male clouded leopards and I immediately thought, “Twin heroes! How fun is that?” Little is known about this rare and reclusive Asian species, which would give me a lot of room to play.

As long as people are willing to read about shapeshifters, I’m happy to write about them. And readers still seem to eat up those fierce heroes.

The funny thing about shapeshifters is that the archetype itself has shifted. Remember when the werewolf was a staple of horror movies, not sexy romances? Most traditions involving animal-human hybrids are frightening monster stories, or perhaps ambiguous and sad, like several Native American stories in which a human falls in love with a shapeshifter who is eventually hunted and killed by his/her family because “people shouldn’t marry animals.” Then there are fairy tales in which a human, usually a man, is cursed to animal form and only the heroine’s love redeems him, “Beauty and the Beast” being a classic example. More romantic than a rampaging beast that eats the heroine, but you only reach the HEA by transforming the shifted man back to his human form.

These days, we seem to like the beast.

I’ve been wondering why this change occurred and I think I have a theory. Actually, I came up with this theory doing research for Foxes’ Den. Kitsune are ambiguous figures in Japanese culture. In some stories, they’re avatars of Inari, god of rice, and thus protectors of the all-important rice harvest. In others, they’re mischievous, possibly dangerous creatures who transform into beautiful women to disrupt the lives of human men. (Oddly, there are either no male kitsune or human women aren’t dumb enough to fall for a man with no family, no visible means of support—and a tail.)  It seems that the two-sided nature of the kitsune has to do with the ambiguous nature of humans’ relations with foxes. On the one hand, foxes eat rodents which might otherwise eat rice. On the other hand, about five minutes after a human domesticated chickens, some fox developed the concept of the all-you-can-eat buffet. It’s a love-hate thing.

In recent years, our relationship with large, potentially dangerous animals has changed. Wolves and other large predators easily become monsters when you have to worry about them eating your livestock—or, if they’re really hungry, you. Nature can be pretty terrifying when you see it up close all the time and have to find ways to protect yourself from it while maintaining some kind of balance. In the modern Western world, most of us see predators only in the zoo and on the Discovery channel. We can appreciate their fierce beauty, their important role in the balance of nature and their more appealing anthropomorphic moments—wolves’ loyalty to their pack and mates, lions playing with their cubs—from a safe distance. We understand predators play an important part in the food chain and that attempts to wipe them out have screwed up nature’s balance, explaining, among other things, why New England is overrun with deer that eat our shrubs and wreck our cars. (A much more real threat to most of us than a wolf attack!) This modern perspective makes it easier to see a shapeshifter as magnificent, powerful, yet threatened by the foolishness of ordinary humans. From there, it’s a short jump to sexy.

Even when we don’t have the luxury of distance, we don’t have that same kill-or-be-killed terror, that feeling that the animal is malicious.  I read an account not too long ago of some farmers in British Columbia hunting a mountain lion that had been preying on their livestock. The hunt was conducted with respect and sorrow. They had to do it. The big cat had gotten too accustomed to humans, no longer fearing to enter their territory. Thus it was endangering their livelihood—and possibly their kids, since to a mountain lion, a calf and a ten-year-old could be equally snack-size. But the hunters were clear it wasn’t a “bad” animal. It was simply doing what mountain lions do—unfortunately in the wrong place.

I’m willing to bet, though, that none of those farmers picked up Lions’ Pride, with its cougar-dual hero. Maybe Foxes’ Den would be more to their taste. As long as they’re not chicken farmers, that is.

Here’s a taste of Foxes’ Den:

Love has a trick up its sleeve…
Duals and Donovans: The Different, Book 2
Some guys just don’t take rejection well. Sure, Akane’s affair with an uptight sorcerer’s boy toy backfired, but two hundred years locked in a mortal body is cruel and unusual punishment for a Trickster avatar. To free her fox form, she needs sex magic with a male of her own kind. Except none exist.
Adorable Trickster-touched fox dual Taggart Ross-Donovan is the closest she’s found. Even better, he’s married to Paul Donovan, whose red magic sizzles the air around him. One night with them will generate the extraordinary power needed to set her free.
The last thing Tag and Paul expect to find under a sorcerer’s curse is a kitsune, a beautiful one who gets under their skin without even trying. Tag is more than ready to take the risk she needs. Paul has reservations, but it’s nothing Tag can’t overcome with a little sensual persuasion.
No one goes into the ritual with more hope than Akane…or more fear. Failure will leave her forever entrapped. Worse, she’s falling for two mortals. And there’s only one thing that can kill a kitsune—unrequited love.
Warning: Contains sly fox men (with tails), foxy fox women (with multiple tails), sexy witches chasing tail, Trickster magic, cranky sorcerers, and enough gay, het and MMF sex to torch your Kindle.
“She’s the one, Tag—the one from my dreams.” Paul’s discreet gesture might have been imperceptible to someone else, but Taggart followed it with the ease of a long-time partner.
The small Asian woman Paul pointed out was dressed in a style somewhere between scruffy undergraduate and street person: faded, over-long jeans worn to shreds at the hem from dragging on the ground, a shabby rust-colored sweatshirt, hiking boots. Somehow, though, she managed to look elegant in that drab outfit. The shirt’s color accented her clear ivory skin and the wild russet streaks in her sleek black hair. Her face was stunning, and she carried herself as if she wore silk and cashmere instead of rags.
Or maybe as if she was wearing nothing at all. She wasn’t showing a lot of skin and everything looked too big for her, disguising her slender figure, but Tag had no problem at all imagining her naked.
Naked and riding him while he sucked Paul’s cock. Naked and sandwiched between the two of them, taking them both at once.  Naked and companionably snuggling, even, because it seemed to Tag that if the Powers were going to all the trouble of pointing out an incredibly hot woman in need of help that could come only from red magic—sex-magic—They might have more in mind than an arcane quick fix.
He shivered sensually. Damn, he had to stop fantasizing about these scenarios before he really started. He wouldn’t get to assist his husband with this tempting piece of red magic, because his husband wouldn’t be doing it. Husband was the key word. Paul was the true-dreamer who’d seen the cursed being in need of powerful red magic to lift her curse, but one of his single relatives would have to lift it.  The Donovans, Paul’s powerful clan, were sticklers for monogamy once you married.
More’s the pity. He and Tag were both bi; in their pasts, they’d each enjoyed threesomes with the right combination of girl and guy. But once Paul’s magic danced for Tag, proving he was the right partner on a magical level as well as all others, Paul was cut off from other lovers.
And by extension, so was Tag. He’d always been happily poly, as fox duals were inclined to be, but Paul was worth the sacrifice. A red witch who loved you made everyone else seem dull in comparison—and besides, he loved Paul more than he’d ever imagined loving anyone, and if it took monogamy to keep him, so be it.
Still, a fox could daydream, and this lady was worth dreaming about.
Instinctively, his nostrils flared—sniffing the air, letting his fox-self get an impression of the woman.
They were across the street from her, walking casually hand in hand—Powers bless Portland, Oregon’s artsy little heart!—but the wind was in his favor. He sniffed the air, trying to sort her fragrance out from the myriad smells of a side street in the city.
Tag’s heart sank. Damn, they’d be stuck in Portland awhile longer, and while Portland wasn’t bad as cities went, he wanted to be home. “She’s not the one you dreamed about,” he whispered. “She’s human.”
Paul stopped him, drew him in as if to kiss him, but making sure the woman stayed in Tag’s line of sight. “See it my way,” he whispered, and pulled Tag in through the connection Tag thought of as being mated and Paul, in his witchy way, called a silvery etheric cord linking their souls.
That was one of Paul’s gifts, a gift rare enough that his witch family didn’t even know what to call it, and those damn Donovans had names for everything: he could share his witch-sight with his partner.
The world went wonky. Colors shifted as if Tag was seeing through a night scope. Details of the 21st century faded—parked cars became transparent unless they had living beings inside them—but things previously invisible before leaped into focus. A ghost-child in 19th-century clothes played jacks on the stoop of a brownstone, oblivious to the modern inhabitant grabbing her mail, and a tiny pixie-like being waved from a curb planting in front of a store. Auras surrounded anything living, though Tag couldn’t have said what they meant.
The Asian hottie’s silver and russet aura was blotched with black and a sickly fuchsia. The ugly blotches must be the curse Paul had foreseen, the curse she needed red magic to lift.
She had a fox tail.
No, make that three fox tails.
Tag blinked, trying not to be visibly astonished at something passers-by couldn’t see. “Trickster’s balls and boobies,” he muttered under his breath.
What was she? She wasn’t human, but she sure as powers wasn’t dual, not with three tails, not smelling the almost-human way she did.
“She’s a kitsune, a Japanese fox spirit,” Paul whispered, answering his question before he asked it. He supposed his puzzlement had been obvious, but it didn’t hurt that Paul was a minor telepath. “Very old, very powerful—I don’t think they’re mortal. Only she’s damaged somehow.”

You can catch more of my rambles at
www.teresanoelleroberts.blogspot.com or friend me on Facebook. I’m there as Teresa Noelle Roberts. My website is www.teresanoelleroberts.com, but I’ll warn you it’s perpetually under construction.

Donna

I am a retired teacher and the review coordinator for CataNetwork. I love reading and interacting with authors and other reviewers.

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