Review: Wolf Country
, by Mar Delaney
is a short lesbian shifter romance by Mar Delaney, a
pen name for Layla Lawlor (who is also one of the writers behind the
shared pen name Zoe Chant).
Dasha Volkova is a werewolf, a member of a tribe of werewolves who keep to
themselves deep in the wilds of Alaska. She's just become an adult and is
wandering, curious and exploring, seeing what's in the world outside of
her sheltered childhood. A wild chase after a hare, purely for the fun of
it, is sufficiently distracting that she doesn't notice the snare before
she steps in it going full speed.
Laney Rosen is not a werewolf. She's a landscape painter who lives a
quiet and self-contained life in an isolated cabin in the wilderness.
She only stumbles across Dasha because she got lost on the snowmobile
tracks taking photographs. Laney assumes Dasha is a dog caught in a
poacher's trap, and is quite surprised when the pain of getting her out of
the snare causes Dasha to shapeshift into a naked woman.
This short book is precisely what it sounds like, which I appreciate in a
romance novel. Woman meets wolf and discovers her secret accidentally,
woman is of course entirely trustworthy although wolf can't know that,
attraction at first sight, they have to pitch a tent in the wilderness and
there's only one sleeping bag, etc. Nothing here is going to surprise
you, but it's gentle and kind and fulfills the romance contract of a happy
ending. It's not particularly steamy; the focus is on the relationship
and the mutual attraction rather than on the sex.
The best part of this book is probably the backdrop. Delaney lives in
Alaska, and it shows in both the attention to the details of survival and
heat and in the landscape descriptions (and the descriptions of Laney's
landscapes). Dasha's love of Laney's paintings is one of the most
heart-warming parts of the book. Laney has retinitis pigmentosa and is
slowly losing her vision, which I thought was handled gracefully and well
in the story. It creates real problems and limitations for her, but it
also doesn't define her or become central to her character.
Both Dasha and Laney are viewpoint characters and roughly alternate tight
third-person viewpoint chapters. There are a few twists: potential
parental disapproval on Dasha's part and some real physical danger from
the person who set the trap, but most of the story is the two woman
getting to know each other and getting past the early hesitancy to name
what they're feeling. Laney feels a bit older than Dasha just because
she's out on her own and Dasha was homeschooled and very sheltered, but
both of them feel very young. This is Dasha's first serious relationship.
Delaney does use the fated lover trope, which seems worth a warning in
case you're not in the mood for that. Werewolves apparently know when
they've found their fated mate and don't have a lot of choice in the
matter. This is a common paranormal and fantasy romance trope that I find
disturbing if I think about it too hard. Thankfully, here it's not much
of a distraction. Dasha is such an impulsive, think-with-her-heart sort
of character that the immediate conclusion that Laney is her fated mate
felt in character even without the werewolf lore.
I read this based on a random recommendation from Yoon Ha Lee when I was
in the mood for something light and kind and uncomplicated, and I got
exactly what I expected and was in the mood for. The writing isn't the
best, but the landscape descriptions aren't bad and the characterization
is reasonably good if you're in the mood for brightly curious but not
particularly wise. Recommended if you're looking for this sort of thing.
Rating: 7 out of 10