Rating: 3.75 stars
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Bear shifter Ray Hooker is a trusted and well respected member of the small town of Bear Cove, Maine. As the owner of the local hardware store and the resident handyman, he usually hears all the gossip. So when someone buys a six-acre plot with designs to build an intellectual think tank, Ray goes to investigate. It’s there that he first lays eyes on Dr. Eric Ridgeway.
Eric has been given his inheritance early so that he can fund his own environmental research and give our research grants. His father is a prominent politician and wants Eric out of the way. Not because he’s gay, but because he wants to save the environment, which is at odds with his father’s agenda. He chooses Bear Cove for his think tank on the recommendation of a former professor. But Bear Cove is a tight-knit community, not in the least because they are protecting the secret that most of the town’s population are bear shifters.
Just as the men are starting to connect, misunderstandings lead to a fight. But despite the fact that he and Eric are at odds, Ray wants nothing more than to protect the smaller man when his building is vandalized. It seems some of the residents of the town don’t want a bunch of scientists poking into their business, and are afraid of what that would mean for them if anyone finds out they can shift. When Eric discovers by accident that Ray is a bear shifter, hurt feelings and a lack of trust may end up separating the men before they can really get their relationship off the ground.
Okay, the good stuff first. The premise of this story was really cute. Eric is a geek through and through. He has grand dreams of coming up with solutions to keep big companies from polluting the planet. He’s highly intelligent, and though he can make small talk with the best of them—he is, after all, a politician’s son—he is afraid of being awkward and shy in a dating situation. And Ray has a heart of gold, wanting to get to know Eric for who he is and still protect the town and its secrets. These two men were great characters. In fact, all the characters here were quirky and endearing.
The primary focus of the story is Ray and Eric’s love affair. They meet and are instantly attracted to each other, but everything progresses rather quickly. And it’s not because Eric is Ray’s fated mate. I actually really liked this as we all too often see that as the reason for characters falling in love too fast. This was just a story of two men who want each other from the get go. They do have chemistry, and when they get into bed—or over a conference table—it’s hot and satisfying. But I didn’t always feel the connection between these two men. There was a lot of telling going on here, and not enough showing. That kept me from being completely invested in their relationship.
I definitely got a better sense of Ray than of Eric. He’s the first one to tell his fellow shifters to wait and see what’s going on with the genius in the woods and not to jump to conclusions. Everyone obviously respects and cares for Ray, and he really does wear his heart on his sleeve. Eric, on the other hand, talks and thinks a lot about his personality, but we don’t see it. We have to take his word for it. And sometimes, he acts in contradiction to what he’s told us about himself. He says that he’s shy and awkward, that he doesn’t know how to flirt, but hardly exhibits those characteristics when he’s with Ray. I would have liked to see a bit more fumbling and nervousness from him to back up what he’d said was true about himself.
I had a couple of personal quibbles with the story. I would have liked to know a bit more about the shifters in general. The town is populated with them, but we never learn much about their history, the whys or the hows, or if the shifters have a hierarchy of any sort. While the story wasn’t lacking by missing this, it would have been nice to get a little information about it. I would have also liked to see Eric referred to as something other than a “geek” or a “genius.” This got incredibly repetitive after a while, and a bit tiresome. As I said, this is a personal preference and these things might not bother you.
My other issue here was the pacing. Everything moved really fast, not only Ray and Eric’s relationship, but also the escalation of the vandalism to the think tank. And then there were time jumps where we were told what had happened in the meantime. This didn’t always work here, as it made me feel like I was missing out on some essential information that was being related after the fact. It definitely caused a bit of disconnection for me. I think if Dragon had given just a bit more detail, it would have worked better.
Ultimately, I liked it, even if there were a few things kept me from really loving it. It is the first in a series, though, and I’m definitely interested in seeing what happens next. If you’re looking for a quick, cute, and low angst read, then you should consider picking this one up.