Who’s afraid of any big, bad wolfsbane, pentagrams, gypsy curses, or silver bullets? Today’s werewolf is handsome and athletic, living out, proud, and barking loud — and he doesn’t need any special lunar phase to do it, either. Such is the premise of Queerwolf, the latest sexy thrill-ride of a novel from Rob Rosen, just in time for some hairy, horny, “Howl-oween” reading.
Rosen, who is also the author of Sparkle, Divas Las Vegas and Hot Lava, continues to establish himself as the premier writer of comic erotic fiction with more than a dash of screwball travelogue thrown in for good measure. Here he uses a similar style while taking readers on a completely different kind of adventure — one guaranteed to leave them panting!
He immediately introduces us to the story’s hero (and our narrator), Blake, a likable gay every-guy living a more-or-less everyday existence in San Francisco, as he wakes up somewhere on the city’s docks, naked and in a pool of blood, with no idea how he got there. As Blake desperately tries to figure out what happened, he gains a new ally (not to mention love interest) in the person of his studly upstairs neighbor, Ted.
Blake quickly learns that his lycanthropic roots go way back, but because they’ve been known to occasionally skip a generation, when he didn’t change many moons earlier, his folks simply didn’t bother to tell him.
Once it has finally happened though, he soon finds himself at odds with the Bay Area’s chief ruling pack, an über-masculine bunch of brutes who look like they met at an Abercrombie & Fitch photo shoot and who are as potentially deadly as they are easy on the eyes. Their leader is alpha male Steven, the hottest of them all, and we discover that a chance encounter that Blake had with him while on a date with someone else activated our hapless hero’s werewolf genes in the first place. Now the only way Blake can protect himself is to find a pack of his own, which takes him on a wild and woolly journey, spanning from San Francisco to Salt Lake City to Las Vegas and back again.
Along the way, author Rosen introduces us to a group of equally isolated … uh … lone wolves who, like his protagonist, either hadn’t yet managed to get in touch with their more primal natures or, in one case, was actually prevented from it. They include such surprisingly lovable characters as Mack, a female impersonator (Barbra Streisand is his specialty); Casey, a little ol’ Southern cutie (when she’s in her human form, that is); Joseph, an equally wholesome, all-American boy, who not only happens to be a reluctant wolf-man, but a Mormon one at that; and Ralph, the only one among them who did manage to transform, but then forgot how to change back.
Rosen says, “I’ve always split my time, writing mostly erotica for gay audiences and speculative fiction for more general ones. Queerwolf allowed me to merge my two passions into one zany, sexy, fun book — and since the werewolf genre is so hugely popular right now, it seemed the logical choice.”
Rosen’s fans may rest assured that he still includes the kinds of sensually descriptive passages that would challenge any other masters of the homoerotic yarn to top. In fact, one of the not-so-annoying side effects of Blake’s “hyper-adrenalism” (the condition, we‘re told, that allows him to sprout fangs, claws and all-over body hair) is a constant state of arousal in that most intimate of areas, which he affectionately refers to as “the beast.”
Rosen says that although the creatures he presents are decidedly a new breed, “I think I’ve created one more in tune with our community.”
He has also invented his own brand of mythology and science pertaining to this fresh type of lycanthropy. (For instance, adding to their differences from the more traditional shape-shifters, Blake’s crew doesn’t need a full moon to change — which makes them all the more threatening to the reigning pack.) H uses these differences to tell a deeper, more metaphorical tale that can effectively entertain any horror buffs out there, while underscoring the need for acceptance from others and acceptance of oneself.
This may be the finest work Rosen has released to date, and it certainly is his most original. Sure, it has all the elements that made his previous endeavors so popular, including a bright, breezy, conversational style peppered with winking self-commentary on the action, and main characters who always find a reason to hit the road — in drag. (Once, in fleeing their rivals, they are forced to head out across the desert in Mack’s RV decked out in pink chiffon and sequins!)
Ultimately though, what makes Rosen’s work so memorable is that over and above any wacky mysteries to be solved, the cross-dressing chases and numerous (numerous!) sexcapades, at its heart, there’s a touching romance to see them (and us) through. Happily, the one between Blake and his neighbor-turned-boyfriend, Ted, gives the entire piece the emotional center required to make it just believable enough. Then again, Rosen has previously noted that one virtue he values in his writing is romance. (“When boy meets boy, boy should end up with boy!” he declares.)
Queerwolf is well worth the time spent within its chapters. Published by MLR Press, the book is now available both in paperback and ebook and can be bought through all major distributors and bookstores, or directly through the publisher’s website, www.mlrbooks.com. For more information, go to www.therobrosen.com.