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Friday, April 13, 2012

How Not To Date a Bear by Stephanie Burke

How Not To Date a Bear by Stephanie Burke
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (75 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Declan Batalova is a bear unlike any other. After brokering a deal that will keep his people safe in their new country, the Russian shifter goes for relaxation in a new club that caters to bears.

Cosmetologist Gillian Leekey is a woman on a mission. She loves big, muscular, hairy men, and Declan is perfect in every way.

But after one night of passion, the Bear Shifter Mafia is declaring war at her front door! When did life get so complicated? But that's what happens when you decide to date a bear.

Readers should not eat or drink while reading this short because it’s an extremely hilarious, knee slapping, laugh-until-your-sides-ache kind of story. Definitely don’t start How Not to Date a Bear if you have to rush out the door any time soon. This is one paranormal romance that truly was impossible to put down. Once this little beauty started rolling the only time I stopped reading was to grab a tissue because my eyes were watering from laughing so much. I couldn’t flip the pages fast enough to see what else the hapless heroine would do to the unsuspecting hero.

I’ve always been partial to shifter stories and I’m delighted that more and more bears are showing up. Wolves and cats are fine but bears have that certain something that usually we reserve for the cute and small, like kittens and puppies. This book cemented my affections.

One thing I have to make sure the author knows is that I am totally awed by her writing. It’s a very hard thing to write humor effectively. The timing and dialogue are hard enough but descriptions and details can break a scene by muffling or diffusing the intent. Ms. Burke got it perfect. When she referenced Yogi Bear was the first time I had tears in my eyes from extreme giggles. When the hero, Declan, finally had to reveal the truth behind the missed meeting is when I almost fell out of my chair. My husband even got worried at one point. There I was in my room all alone making these strange burbling noises and he couldn’t figure out if I was crying or what. Imagine his bemused expression when all I could do was look at him, giggle and point to the book. I can’t remember that ever happening.

Here’s the thing. Gillian, the heroine, likes well groomed furry guys and she thought it was just her natural inclination and one of the reasons why she’s such a good hair stylist. The author surprised me with the real answer which was not only shocking but really cool. A warning about Gillian is to expect to read about a woman who literally grabs onto her man. It moves pretty fast and for a change that kind of sexual momentum is the only way to go. It’s great. It's in line with what I later learned about the heroine and it starts the fun right away. Usually I prefer some kind of build up to a relationship but Ms. Burke handled things the way she did for a reason. It works, I’m thrilled and I’m still grinning. I adored the whole ‘hop on and don’t let go’ thing that Gillian had going on. In fact, it was one of the things that made me blink and really take a good look at what I was reading. It was perfect. I admired how the author walked the line of kink without being heavy handed.

Despite what Declan said early on, Gillian is the one calling the shots amidst the sheets. Again, there’s a reason for that but I’m not telling why. I was entertained by the physical descriptions of the hero but was later blown away by what happened to the guy afterwards. Wait until readers get a load of his grooming fiasco – to say someone got carried away is an understatement! It made perfect sense, while it was happening but later on, the ramifications were quite tumultuous.

The reason why this story rates so high for me isn’t only because it had me grinning from ear to ear most the way through but because there was just the right amount of drama and reality to engage the part of me that enjoys conflicts that have to be overcome. It enabled me to see what both the hero and heroine are made of and I’m jazzed about the results. There was the right amount of tension and worry about a potential war to keep me fascinated and yet the focus remained on Declan and Gillian and their reactions and choices regarding the conflict. That is until Declan is forced to make a split second decision that changed the course of all their lives. It was awesome, well written and one of the best parts of the book.

I even applaud the author in how she wrapped up the story. I’m assured that there is the requisite happily ever after but she also ended it with a huge dose of kinky cute. I can’t think of another way to describe it. It was saucy and yet the words Ms. Burke chose were so delightful and perky, I got the biggest charge out of them.
How Not to Date a Bear has my vote as being one of the best and most fun paranormal romances that has been my pleasure to read in ages. I cannot stress enough to readers just how fun and exciting I found this story to be. It might be short on length but the romance is so sweet, the humor so large and the writing done so well, it seems bigger than it is. What can I say? This story left me feeling happy and upbeat, bouncy and chipper. Certainly the sexy romps and bed bouncing antics between Declan and Gillian were entertaining and fun. If this is Ms. Burke’s style of writing then she can count me in as a new fan. I’m over the moon about this.

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