ARC Review: Bears Behaving Badly (BeWere My Heart #1) by MaryJanice Davidson

I received this book for free via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own. Amazon links are affiliated, meaning if you purchase through them I may receive a small commission, though you should feel no pressure to purchase via these links


I’m not a huge fan of this cover, it makes it seem like erotica rather than the urban fantasy/romance that it is

These social worker bear shifters give the term “mama bear” a whole new meaning! Bestselling author MaryJanice Davidson is back with this brand-new paranormal romance series featuring a foster care system for at-risk shifter babies and teens.

Werebear shifter Annette Garsea is a caseworker for the Interspecies Placement Agency. When a selectively mute and freakishly strong teen werewolf is put in her custody, Annette has to uncover the young girl’s secrets if she’s to have any hopes of helping her. And not even the growling of a scruffy private investigator can distract her from her mission…

Bear shifter David Auberon appreciates Annette’s work with at-risk teen shifters, but he’s not sure if her latest charge is so much a vulnerable teen as a predator who should be locked up. All that changes when he, Annette, and her motley band of juveniles find themselves dodging multiple murder attempts and uncovering a trafficking cartel that doesn’t just threaten the kids, but risks discovery of the shifters by the wider world of homo sapiens.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. It’s a solid book, and to be honest the only complaints I have are small ones—more personal preference than an actual plot hole/failing of the book. I may as well lead with the complaints, rather than blundering through an explanation of what I mean with no examples.

The most annoying thing (in my opinion alone, etc etc) was the fourth wall breaks of the characters commenting on the tropes they were fulfilling—matchmaking roommate/friend, flirting under fire, constant miscommunications and more. While the tropes themselves are fine and to be expected in a book of this type (urban fantasy/paranormal romance), the incessant commentary on it by the characters spoiled the fun and made it seem cheesy. Again, I realise that this sort of thing is entirely up to personal preference, but it became a bit tiresome. In a similar vein, the characters being amused to the point of commentary every time another character said something witty, or acted irrationally, irritated me a little. It almost read like a laugh track for the novel, and I enjoyed the book less for it.

Other than that, I did enjoy Bears Behaving Badly.  Annette has great chemistry with every character and I appreciated that her and David were both fully fledged people and that neither of them were diminished by their budding romance. The world of Stables and Shifters was well-developed, and the idea of a social worker for shifter children is a great concept to introduce readers to a new world.

Bears Behaving Badly has a well-developed cast of characters, and the various social groups surrounding Annette and David did a great job of naturally revealing facets of their personality.  Nadia and even Bob added little touches of realism to the book. Likewise, Dev’s reactions to Annette (and his nickname for her) showed her character without the need for boring exposition. Dev was one of my favourite side-characters in the book, and I loved the interplay he had with adults in the book. I look forward to reading future books with him in it, and presumably seeing him grow up alongside Carla, with Mama Mac, Annette and David weighing in.

Oz’s backstory was fascinating, but I wish it had been included a little earlier in the book. The plot was interesting, if a little oddly paced, and while the mystery was intriguing, I think it was solved very quickly at the end of the book, leaving Annette and David just wandering from place to place for the majority of the book. I have no issue with that, and likely enjoyed it less than normal only because of the complaints that I have already mentioned, that resulted in the banter that drives this novel not being to my taste.

Pat was interesting, and I was glad of the representation he brought to the book. There were several instances of the book being respectful of various, less represented identities (Annette even mentions grey-A people, and asexual people of any type are rarely mentioned in fiction).  I also appreciated the representation of various kinds of family—adopted, found and otherwise—within the book.

Overall, Bears Behaving Badly was a solid book, with an interesting world and a great cast of characters. The tone wasn’t to my taste, but it did remind me of books that I thoroughly enjoy (the earlier Hollows books by Kim Harrison and Shelly Laurenston’s Pride series most notably), so I’m confident that this is something that could well change in future, and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for future BeWere My Heart books to see if this is the case. I think this book would be a good match for fans of Molly Harpers Naked Werewolf series or Shelly Laurenston’s Pride and Pack books, and anyone interested can read Bears Behaving Badly when it releases on March 31st, 2020.

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