A side-effect of writing a werewolf romance novel is one becomes addicted to the concept and craves more. Zahabi's Never Date Werewolves scratched that itch well and good. Contrary to the title, I can and will date all the werewolves.
The player character in Never Date Werewolves is a single mother with a "litter" of six children. There are three possible love interests: your next-door neighbor (he/him cishet), your children's summer school teacher (gender variable), or your boss in the dress shop (she/her cis queer). Romance is the easiest part of the game, however, because children's school projects, choosing & preparing an alpha for the pack's first hunt, and getting to work on time are much harder to balance.
Never Date Werewolves was at its weakest when it strayed from the happy, low-stakes path suggested in the blurb. A dark undercurrent of the game is an ongoing prejudice against werewolves in the world. Think homophobia or racism today, where werewolves are "naturally" violent predators. A tertiary thread of the game is navigating discrimination, and one of the love interests is against werewolf rights. It was a bit bizarre, in a game otherwise about completing art projects and enjoying spaghetti bologna ice cream, to be given the option to wish your children weren't werewolves, ban the inner Beast of a character, and condemn werewolves as shameful blights on society. The real-world parallels were uncomfortably easy to connect. At least you can also tell the bigots to buzz off.
Overall, however, the game was like the reading equivalent of being burrito-ed in comfiest blanket after a hot shower and a cup of hot chocolate. The kiddos were adorable and distinct, and the adorbz was well-balanced by the real struggles of being a parent. The descriptions of Lyon, France were gorgeous. It was refreshing to read a story where Masquerade was already broken. I've played three times now (once for beta; twice for free with adverts), and each time has been a sweet joy. Alix all the way!
If you're in the mood for a sweet summer romance with a wolfish twist, check out Never Date Werewolves!
After enjoying Never Date Werewolves, I decided to play other titles in the Heart's Choice app, and Melissa Scott's A Player's Heart caught my eye because lesbians.
In this world a step in the past away from ours, Tristendesande is a pulsing, cultural powerhouse of art, and the theaters are the gems in that crown. The player character has dreamed of the Opera, an all-women performance company, all her life. When she arrives, you choose a specialty: do you want to be a deva (play woman roles), a dragon (play male roles), or an artifex (a theater technician). I was surprised and pleased when, after meeting various characters and getting your bearings at the Opera, there was a time skip. Seven years later, the player character is in the prime of her skill, and the story gets down to the real business of balancing art's ability to challenge the hegemony and the practical necessity of not getting shut down by said hegemony.
Each and every love interest dazzled me. There's the big, butch Myrr, with her steadfast loyalty, purity of feeling, and quiet, devastating artifex art. The femme deva Celeine and the player character exchange glittering banter and have a homoerotic sword duel (which left me quite flustered!!!!). Lady Jasquillyn Isalis defies aristocratic convention to put stars in your eyes, with beauty, social savvy, and graceful wit. Since I stayed with the Opera, I saw little of the androgynous Mervelles, but her daring nature, political passion, and sensual dance impressed me all the same.
Perhaps because of the length of this game, it felt like there really was enough time to get to know each of the love interests individually before deciding who to date. In other titles, I feel rushed, like there's a sense that if I fail to flirt immediately, I will not have any hope of arriving at a HEA with them. Not here. Scott took her time describing each character and filling in the world. The imagery of the theater is especially fantastical and vivid. I don't know much about theater myself, but my partner does, and I feel comfortable saying she will be impressed when she comes around to playing.
If I had one quibble, it would be that there didn't seem a realistic way to not be political. Perhaps that's intentional: burying one's head in the sand is a surefire way to get screwed by the hegemony. However, the story was framed like there was a way to be neutral and survive. I'm curious to play again and see what happens if my character is very political or aggressively oblivious.
A Player's Heart is an engaging, addictive read. I found myself eagerly awaiting for the two hour cool off period to end. If you're a fan of historical lesbian romances, definitely download Heart's Choice and click play!