The Mane Squeeze
Yay! I’ve found a new author to read! But I never would have, outside of my reviewing capacity – because the title is cheesy and the Fabio For the Twenty-First Century on the cover is overdone. But I’m glad my judgment of the book by its cover is the opposite of my judgment of the actual book. The Mane Squeeze is very funny, but never cheesy; and though it is a paranormal featuring shape shifting animals, the set-up is like none I’ve read before, and definitely not overdone.
Gwen O’Neill is a tigon shifter, a mix of tiger and lion. She lives with her lion mother and her mother’s pride in Philadelphia and though she knows they love her, her hybrid nature still sets her apart.
Lachlan “Lock” MacRyrie is a pure bear shifter and in this world, bears are feared by everyone. In fact, Lock knocks around more than two Alpha lion males in the course of the story without expending much energy. He’s seven feet tall in human form and over 300 pounds so just being himself sets him apart.
This Philly girl and Jersey boy meet at a wedding and then later at a family gathering, and the attraction between tough-talk from one side and logical calm from the other, is obvious. Lock is happy to realize this and is interested in a relationship, but Gwen plays hard to get for a while. She has only recently moved away from her mother’s pride to join her best friend in a business partnership in New York, and she needs to prove her self-sufficiency – an opportunity which she fears an over-protective bear will deny her.
The Mane Squeeze features many humorous family scenes from lions, bears and wild dogs, but I got lost a few times with all the new-to-me characters who I suspect have already had their stories told in previous books. Because this is my first Laurenston, their presence wasn’t annoying, just a bit too much at times. However, if I had already read their romances, I think their almost constant presence would have gotten to me and this in large part is what prevented a higher grade for the novel.
The scenes between Gwen and her two brothers are great and hilariously realistic, even given the ages of the characters. You never cross thirteen when it comes to sibling interaction do you? In general, I like Laurenston’s writing style. It’s heavy on dialogue (sometimes too heavy as it veers into snappy one-liner territory with witty talking heads) but most of the time she manages to have the characters reveal themselves through the dialogue while making you laugh, so it’s not just empty jokes.
Something I should highlight though: Gwen and much of her extended family and friends…and enemies…have dirty mouths. I found the use of language amusing but if you think swear words are the province of the illiterate, then this book may not be for you.
What’s new about the paranormal world here? It’s not dark. It’s not intense and deep and serious. And it’s not a secret. No one needs to be saved from themselves – least of all the hero Lock who is more well-adjusted than the average human male – and in general, I read all the characters as more human than shape-shifting. This is not to say that the paranormal aspect to the novel is given light touch because it would be impossible to forget that these are shifters as they’re referred to by their animal designation often (She-wolf, wild dog, She-lion etc). However, the issues which push the external story along, though directly linked to the world of shifters, are stand-ins for human issues and foibles. And the romance is simply one of opposites attracting. In this way, I find The Mane Squeeze to be more of a contemporary romance set in an paranormal world, than a paranormal story which features a romance. It’s a very lighthearted book which I read in one sitting without making any reviewer notes. That’s the sign of a good book for me, and I recommend it to those who may think themselves burned out on paranormals as well as to those who enjoy funny contemporary romances.