Thursday, August 16, 2018

Sarah's Review: Hot and Badgered

Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston
Publisher: Kensington (March 27, 2018)
Series: Honey Badgers Chronicles, 1
Genre: Paranormal Romance

It’s not every day that a beautiful naked woman falls out of the sky and lands face-first on grizzly shifter Berg Dunn’s hotel balcony. Definitely they don’t usually hop up and demand his best gun. Berg gives the lady a grizzly-sized t-shirt and his cell phone, too, just on style points. And then she’s gone, taking his XXXL heart with her. By the time he figures out she’s a honey badger shifter, it’s too late.

Honey badgers are survivors. Brutal, vicious, ill-tempered survivors. Or maybe Charlie Taylor-MacKilligan is just pissed that her useless father is trying to get them all killed again, and won’t even tell her how. Protecting her little sisters has always been her job, and she’s not about to let some pesky giant grizzly protection specialist with a network of every shifter in Manhattan get in her way. Wait. He’s trying to help? Why would he want to do that? He’s cute enough that she just might let him tag along—that is, if he can keep up . . . 

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Sarah's Review:

In Shelly Laurenston’s Hot and Badgered (2018) we meet Charlie MacKilligan, the oldest of a trio of sisters and a woman just trying to hold it all together. Her father is a good-for-nothing scoundrel, her baby sister Stevie is a genius, her middle sister Max is a maniac, and Charlie bakes to relieve the stress her family heaps on her. To top it off, she is a honey badger/wolf shifter hybrid who can’t shift, but can heal from bullet wounds that would kill a mere mortal.

I first encountered Laurentson’s writing with her dragon shifter series, Dragon Kin, (written under G.A. Aiken) and my ABSOLUTE favorite of hers is the Call of Crows series that mixes bird shifting with Nordic mythology and badass sisterhood in all the best ways. She is a sharp, witty, laugh-out-loud writer whose books center strength and caring for each other in ways I haven’t found with other writers. Her heroines are strong, but honest about their weaknesses. In Hot and Badgered the sisters are up front about not being able to see without their glasses, they have had mental issues like a panic disorder and general anxiety disorder diagnosed, and we see them taking meds and meditating to keep the symptoms under control. I really appreciate Laureston’s attention to these kinds of details.  Much like our characters need to talk to each other about (and use) condoms and other forms of birth control, things like glasses, anxiety medicines, and carving out time for self-care are parts of what make us human. We need to see that in what we read.

Hot and Badgered opens with Charlie falling naked and unarmed onto a hotel balcony. Hot on her heels are guys wielding guns and Berg, our hero, throws Charlie a shirt and a gun as she fights her way out of the hotel and towards her sisters. Berg next sees Charlie when she needs a place to stay for a while as she tries to figure out what her father has stolen and where he is. Because she didn’t have her glasses on when she fell onto his balcony, she didn’t even know he was the guy who gave her the clothes and the weapon. With a little persuasion from her sisters, she accepts Berg’s offer of a safe house in a bear shifter neighborhood. In hoping to lay low from her family, Charlie gets dragged into being part of her cousin’s wedding security, international shifter politics, and her father’s bungled attempt at stealing 100 million sterling from his own brother! In an attempt to stay calm, Charlie bakes. And in baking, she endears the whole bear neighborhood to her and her sisters.

While this book is fast paced and entertaining, there are so many subplots it gets to be convoluted.  You are also introduced to a large cast of characters in rapid succession. Charlie and her two sisters; Berg is a triplet; and we quickly meet best friends, cousins, an artist and his panda bodyguard, Tiny, and the Smith wolfpack... It is overwhelming. It took me a few chapters to finally understand which sister was which and cement that Charlie was the main character.

Understandably, as the oldest sister charged with keeping it all together for her family, romance is pretty far down on Charlie’s list. There is an immediate attraction between her and Berg, but Charlie is convinced that she is cursed and no one will put up with her life just to spend time with her. As a triplet, Berg understands better than most that sibling dynamics are hard and important. He likes Charlie just as she is and is chill enough to back off and let her handle things rather than try to solve problems for her. Max, the middle sister, suggests he “stray dog it”- in the sense that he just keep coming around until he was part of her pack. As a woman I can appreciate this tactic- back off, be my friend, and help me when I need it. And Berg, as a man confident enough to back off yet stay around, was great. He respected Charlie’s skills and boundaries. He stepped in to help her when she really needed it. And supported her, and her sisters, as they tried to make a new life in a new town. It was a nuanced look at letting people be themselves and backing off to ultimately be the lover that Charlie needs. However, as a romance story the “slow burn” was frustrating, but filled with humor and sarcasm. When Charlie and Berg finally decide to make a go of having a relationship she tells him,

“Of course I love’ve chosen to fall in love with a Mackilligan, after everything you’ve seen...then that is on you.  I will not take responsibility for your continued poor decision making.”

There was so much of the story devoted to establishing the sisters that building Charlie and Berg’s relationship was short changed for the action involved in all the subplots. They didn’t even go out for a date until 75% of the way through the book and the sex scenes were hot but rushed. As an action book or as a book about sisters and family, this was a romance I was left wanting more and I know from her other books that Laurenston can give us action, women’s friendships, and romance but it just didn’t come together here. Though the book was so well written and entertaining that I find it hard to say it was an outstanding romance. I give Hot and Badgered 3.5 stars and implore you to read her Call of Crows series.

3 1/2 STARS! 

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Source: Bought

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Thanks for the review, Sarah! I tend to feel this way with her books as well (the few I've read, that is!). They can be fun and campy with lots of action, kickass heroines, and great friendships....but the romance leaves me underwhelmed.


Until Next Time,

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