The idea evolved. That crime lord became a woman -- fine, we can flip to mother -- and then a lion-folk. . . .
Not only is our heroine a woman, she's a sorceress. In fact, so is the crime lord. The vast incompatibility of their spell sets would have cured her of that notion if the race didn't.
Which has me pondering the question of interbreeding. In this world, the lionfolk and indeed every other intelligent species not stemming from uncanny magic was human in origin, and the handiwork of powerful wizard.
Yes -- even the dragons.
And the dragons certainly can not interbreed with humans. (There are, I think, dragon folk. Wizards made them too.) But can the others? It would be trivial to accidentally make it impossible.
It would certainly powerfully change social dynamics if two intelligent species are intrinsically and essentially distinct, forever, in society.
Also, there is the little matter of populations, since I have lionfolk and hyenafolk, and bearfolk, and hint at more. If they can only interbreed within their populations, why, they need to have a breeding population.
Fortunately, none of them get married in this story.