NB- I received an ARC copy of In a Badger Way to review via Netgalley, all opinions are nevertheless my own
I’ve been a fan of Shelly Laurenston’s books for years, so I jumped at the chance to get an ARC of In a Badger Way, and I’m glad I did. This book was hugely funny, well written and featured pop-in appearances of countless previously featured characters from Shelly Laurenston’s other books. I should probably have re-read Hot and Badgered (The first Honey Badger Chronicles book) before I jumped straight into this book, but I didn’t want to wait, and as I read, pertinent details came back to me. If you can, though, I recommend reading the previous book about Charlie before you read Stevie’s story In a Badger Way.
Pretty standard cover, it gives the general tone of the book, even if I wish the humour aspect was as on-show as Shen’s abs
Petite, kind, brilliant, and young, Stevie is nothing like the usual women bodyguard Shen Li is interested in. Even more surprising, the youngest of the lethal, ball-busting, and beautiful MacKilligan sisters is terrified of bears. But she’s not terrified of pandas. She loves pandas.
Which means that whether Shen wants her to or not, she simply won’t stop cuddling him. He isn’t some stuffed Giant Panda, ya know! He is a Giant Panda shifter. He deserves respect and personal space. Something that little hybrid is completely ignoring.
But Stevie has a way of finding trouble. Like going undercover to take down a scientist experimenting on other shifters. For what, Shen doesn’t want to know, but they’d better find out. And fast. Stevie might be the least violent of the honey badger sisters, but she’s the most dangerous to Shen’s peace of mind. Because she has absolutely no idea how much trouble they’re in . . . or just how damn adorable she is.
In a Badger Way actually covers some pretty serious issues without making light of them, while remaining an entertaining read. It takes skills to write a book with lines like
“Medication should never be given without therapy.” She suddenly looked at him. “And if you ever go to a doctor who tries to tell you otherwise… get another doctor.”
—and them combine them with…
“All three of you ladies are half-sisters because your father is, to use your words, Ms. MacKilligan, ‘a whore that can’t stop fucking anything that moves.’.”
Stevie is a smart woman living with a number of mental health issues. Despite this, Stevie is a multi-dimensional character, with relationships with a wide cast of characters, and although she lives with anxiety and a panic disorder, her role in the book is never reduced to ‘person with anxiety’. It was great to see a character with mental illness seek treatment, use medication in a healthy way, and surround herself with supportive people that didn’t infantilize her. Stevie’s sisters are protective of her, but they are nothing but encouraging when she makes her own decisions and mistakes.
Shen is cool, and a nice foil for Stevie. Her relationship with Shen develops slowly throughout the book (after being hinted at in previous ones), but as with Shelly Laurenston’s previous novels, things play out in an ever-entertaining, thoroughly unexpected fashion. Shen’s sisters were great, and the sheer potential for sequels in the world Shelly Laurenston has created is outstanding. I can think of about ten characters off the top of my head1 that I would love to see take centre-stage in future books, and I have no doubt I will.
A strength of Shelly Laurenston’s writing is the distinct voices and manner of interacting that she gives to each character, without typecasting them. It gives a true lifelike quality when Stevie’s ‘voice’ alters when she’s speaking to Charlie as opposed to Shen, or Irene instead of Kyle. It truly gives a sense of the varying relationships Stevie has with other characters, and is especially impressive when the number of other characters and novels is considered—because it’s not just Stevie that gets this treatment. Kyle’s interactions with Oriana were a highlight of this book, the phrase “her raw and unappetizing sexuality” made me snort so hard I hurt my throat.
I was glad that several of the Jean-Louise Parker children feature in this book, with their complex and hilarious quirks on full display. I was interested by the depth brought to both Kyle and Oriana by their interactions with Stevie. Kyle in particular was humanised2 in this novel, and his dialogue with Stevie was hilarious to read.
“Stevie,” Kyle said, voice strong, “look at me. Focus on me. Because I’m fascinating.”
“I’m not a princess.” She felt the need to point out again.
“Of course you’re not. I wouldn’t be friends with a princess unless she was a lot richer than you are.”
Stevie nodded. “Thanks, Kyle. That makes me feel so much better.”
Anyone who has read Shelly Laurenston’s work before knows that she doesn’t cop out when it comes to writing family for her main characters—In a Badger Way is no exception. Stevie’s family play a big role in her life and the novel—not just her sisters, either. The intricacies of honey badger meet-ups and business dealings (ie. crime) are showcased in this novel, and I am intrigued. Several interesting threads were introduced over the course of In a Badger Way, and I fully expect a book featuring Max to pick up where this book left off.
In A Badger Way is a hilarious read, with witty dialogue, sympathetic characters and non-stop action. The world Shelly Laurenston created with her varying breeds of shifters, hybrids and underground science, sports and society continues to entertain, and fans of the previous books in the series will thoroughly enjoy this book. For those who haven’t read the previous books—you should—but this book will probably be to your taste if you like urban fantasy/paranormal romance with a healthy dose of comedy, similar in the relationships between characters to Ilona Andrew’s The Edge and Hidden Legacy novels, though with a less intensively developed magic and political system.
1For those who are interested—Dutch, Zhen Li (Shen’s sister), Kyle, Coop, Oriana, Uncle Will, Berg’s siblings, Stevie’s therapist and Max (of course)