Melissa reviews Silver Moon by Catherine Lundoff

When a novel begins with the line, “Her first hot flash came on suddenly and unexpectedly, super-heating Becca Thornton’s body from head to toe until she was drenched with sweat,” you know you’re about to read something you’ve never read before. In this case it’s the first line of Catherine Lundoff’s Silver Moon and our first encounter with Becca Thornton, a menopausal woman discovering that the ‘change of life’ has changed her into a werewolf. It’s a really novel take on the werewolf legend that so often is used as a metaphor for menstruation and/or the ‘animal’ nature of us dirty women. It’s also something you rarely see in romance: a lesbian romance featuring two women who aren’t twenty-somethings looking for love. Also, they’re kickass werewolves. Also also, it’s amazing to read about a strong, super-powered woman who isn’t a twenty-something woman with washboard abs, violet eyes and perfect hair.

It’s also refreshing to read polished, professional prose with a well-edited story. Although the pacing isn’t perfect, Silver Moon far exceeded my expectations in terms of plot and handling of genre elements. I’ve gotten so used to ‘lesbian novels’ that are not only poorly edited, but in desperate need of a proofreader that reading Silver Moonwas an enormous relief. That isn’t to say that this novel is perfect or the werewolf/genre equivalent of a Sarah Waters novel, but it was a treat to read and I didn’t notice a single typo or malaprop. It shouldn’t come as any surprise to those who’ve read and loved Dayna Ingram’s zombie thriller Eat Your Heart Out, that Silver Moon was also published by Lethe Press. I just hope they continue to publish novels with lesbian protagonists. They’re doing it right.

Okay, so that’s the pros, but there are cons. The first is the ‘reluctant hero’ thing that got old with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I realize that many of us would be a bit put off by turning into a werewolf every month, but the idea that an aging, menopausal woman who’s just been dumped on repeatedly by life would find gaining a pack and superpowers instead of osteoporosis such a terrible hardship got a bit old. I think Becca’s misgivings could have been handled quickly rather than stretching almost half the book.

The overall story arc revolves around Becca’s introduction to the pack who turn out to be the historic protectors of the town and valley (Wolf Valley) she lives in. All of the pack’s members are post-menopausal women, which is kind of cool, but the way the pack (mis)handles newest member Becca is pretty uncool. Becca is immediately tossed with little to no preparation into a confrontation with a group of werewolf hunters, which she screws up royally, endangering her pack mates and nearly getting the love interest killed.

I’m also really tired of the ‘alpha’ dog hierarchy (that has been pretty much debunked by researchers who specialize in studies of wolves) that has infected every werewolf story I’ve ever read. Could someone please write a werewolf story without this trope? To be fair, Lundoff’s Becca displays some pretty rogue behavior throughout the novel. Becca constantly makes decisions (including lying and withholding information) and takes actions that could endanger the entire pack without any input from her alpha or any other pack members. Lundoff explains this by having the pack’s alpha away quite a bit taking care of her sick mother, but it feels a bit staged since it leaves beta Erin, who happens to be our love interest for Becca, in charge and unwilling or simply unable to curb Becca’s rogue tendencies. This weird tension — is there an alpha pack hierarchy, obeyed by the pack or isn’t there? Is Becca a doormat for her ex-husband and everyone else or is she the take charge woman — persists through the story.

Despite the problems (seriously, what book doesn’t have issues?), this is a highly rewarding story and a joy to read. Just a warning for those who prefer their lesbian novels to be weighted toward the romance rather than the story, this is not a ‘romance.’ Becca slowly admits to her developing attraction to Erin after telling herself it’s just some side effect of menopause and/or the werewolf thing. It takes a long time and I think Lundoff could have actually done a bit more with the romance, particularly in explaining Erin’s behavior, but that’s easier said than done. This seems to be a common issue for paranormal and/or SF/F lesbian novels: getting the balance of romance and plot right. I’m not sure this ‘balance’ is possible since everyone’s preference on this spectrum is probably different. This one just leans toward the paranormal plot rather than the romantic one. Still, lesbian main characters who are werewolves in love with other lesbian werewolves FTW!!

Jasper reviews Silver Moon by Catherine Lundoff

I’m not usually a werewolf (or vampire) novel reader, because I’m not usually a paranormal romance reader, and it’s rare I don’t see the one being synonymous for the other. Alphas falling for mortals, mortals falling for alphas, vampires falling for werewolves, new wolves learning to run a pack and being courted by multiple stunningly attractive romantic interests…it’s not my thing. So I very much appreciated the new twist on the concept of werewolves in Silver Moon! In Lundoff’s novel, (some) women become werewolves when they hit menopause in the idyllic town of Wolf’s Point. They then serve as protectors of the town until the town’s magic releases them and new protectors are chosen. The novel deals mostly with their work of protection and the “coming out” of the main character, Becca, a middle-aged, menopausal, divorced woman who knew nothing about the town’s legacy, as a werewolf. There’s a very slowly developed romantic subplot between Becca and Erin, another Wolf’s Point werewolf (and an out lesbian), but it never takes center stage, nor does it ever get steamy (I do like a good sex scene, so that’s a little disappointing–but sudden, explicit, passionate sex wouldn’t have fit well in the story, so I don’t mind its omission).

The concept is the strongest part of the novel. Becca has friends and a job at a hardware shop, but she doesn’t really see her life going anywhere new, now that she’s divorced with no children. The novel’s menopause-equals-werewolf conceit makes it clear that each new stage of a person’s life opens up the opportunity to discover new things and reinvent ourselves, to a degree–and form new relationships! As a 28-year-old who already worries that, at 30, I’ll be Too Old (to do what, I’m not sure, but there’s definitely the feeling–too old to have kids? To have questions about life? To not have taken over the world yet?), I found it reassuring to read about an older woman, childless and divorced (that is, without the nuclear family structure developed that society tells me is one form of “success”), still having time and room to learn heroic (and romantic) things about herself. The strong friendships of the women, who come from a variety of backgrounds and have different sorts of families, were also a pleasure to see in a novel (as were men who were decent folks, too–I wondered if the wolves would be protecting the town exclusively from male threats, since that seems to be a trend in lesbian SFF: keep evil men in check–but no, they protect the town from all threats, gender-equitably).

On the negative side, the plot fails to live up to the premise. The later half of the novel blurs by in a combination of vague action scenes and long plot lulls. The villains, who the characters treat as a dire threat to the safety of Wolf’s Point, keep leaving windows of opportunity open to the protagonists that only the chronically incompetent would leave open. They make warning after warning, leave powerful protagonists alone with vital supplies and very little guard, and drop without much of a fight, despite the narrative and protagonists talking up how tough the villains are, how seriously they need to be taken, and what they might have done in the past. Speaking of which, what *did* the main villain do in the past? The novel hints at it, but it’s never fully explained.

Worth buying and reading if you’re interested in and want to support alternatives to the usual heterosexual paranormal romance take on werewolves. Pass it up if you’re not a devoted werewolf reader.