Second Nature
by Anne Cain, paranormal (2008)
Loose Id, $5.99, ISBN 978-1-59632-680-4

Second Nature is set in the same setting as Pawprints but it can stand alone pretty well so you don't have to read Pawprints first to understand this one. Like Pawprints, this one revolves around college students that are not exactly human.

Gabe is a Wair, a being who can exist in two forms, human and dog. Unfortunately, he doesn't feel comfortable sharing his secret with his boyfriend Hayden since Hayden has cynophobia, a big word for a phobia of dogs. Curiously enough, I find that Gabe have a stronger platonic relationship here with Alex. Alex is another fellow who can exist in two forms and he has this jealousy/admiration thing for Gabe even as he tries to sort out his own personal life. Meanwhile, Hayden will realize that he's not exactly human either. Can these young men's soap opera come to a happy conclusion?

While this story has plenty of romantic elements, the romance between the main characters is pretty much fait accompli here. They are already in love, in other words, and they just have to fix up a few issues before everything is perfect. And while I find that Ms Cain has displayed stronger and more polished prose in this one compared to her previous short stories, I find the characters still on the rather underdeveloped side. Gabe is quite one-dimensional as this sweet and earnest, if rather hapless at times, fellow. Come to think of it, he's like a puppy, which could possibly be Ms Cain's intention all along. Hayden is even more poorly defined as a character. He exists as Gabe's boyfriend who discovers some hitherto secret abilities but that's pretty much it. Alex is easily the most well-developed character here in the sense that unlike Gabe and Hayden, he exhibits a little bit more vulnerabilities that feel more realistic.

In a way, this story reminds me of a cartoon, which could be very well the intention of this author. Still, I feel that Ms Cain could have done more in fleshing out the characters. All in all, Second Nature is a pleasant story about young and sometimes silly pups in love. It's not a bad read in any way, but it is unfortunately also rather forgettable due to the bland main characters in the story.

Rating: 74

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